Billie Joe wears a name tag in concerts that says “Jesus,” and it’s funny and tongue-in-cheek. But how many are willing to, uh, raise their hands to testify that they indeed felt saved — or at least liberated — by the crazy circus of powerful music, hilarious antics, and generous embrace that is a Green Day concert? Or even by listening to the albums at home, screaming along to the lyrics?
Billie Joe is a humble kind of guy. He’s more likely to say something funny or self-deprecating than to become impressed with himself, but he would have to be blind not to see the devotion and love of his multitudes of fans. He’s so sweet that he deals with it by taking whole swaths of his needy and bleating sheep unto his bosom, like a pastor tending to his flock. Green Day concerts are a revivalist meeting without the guilt. There’s no fire or damnation, just a lot of goofy, slobbery love.
It can be hard to accept that Green Day has millions of fans and that no matter how much we love them or how devoted we are, we are, each one of us, a small speck in a heaving ocean. But that’s the great part too, that their love, silliness, and talent is spread so liberally and generously that it’s available to everyone. But who am I kidding, don’t we all want a little something?
When Moonbeam wrote that she was so thrilled by a smile from Billie Joe that it will last her a lifetime, I can completely understand. I would be too shy to climb up on stage even if I had the chance. And the thought of hanging out with the boys just makes me laugh. I have no such fantasy. Not even in dreams. I went to see a reading and acoustic set by Frank Portman of the Mr. T Experience not long ago. It was at a bookstore. I could easily have gone up to him to say hello, but I’m too shy even to talk to Frank Portman. I blushed when he glanced my way while he was singing.
I’m a dork, but I’m fine and happy with that. Like Moonbeam, I’m thrilled at the little tidbits I’ve had from Billie Joe, and even more thrilled, to be honest, at having been there at all, at concerts and other events, a starry-eyed audience member.
Participating in the forums has a tendency to create a kind of feeding frenzy. People are breathlessly talking about what special things they were able to do, and it creates a yearning that is destined never to be fulfilled, because someone else will always have more time, money, or freedom to travel, or more gumption, or just more luck. But trying for the brass ring becomes expected, and you’re a loser for failing and doubly a loser for not even trying. On your own, you might have gone to one concert and felt ecstatic, but if you get sucked into the superfan vortex, you start to feel like a loser for not grabbing Billie Joe’s ass when you had the chance. Or for not going to even more concerts, or not jockeying harder for a better position… It’s exhausting.
I went to see Billie Joe’s New York Times interview in 2005, but I didn’t talk to him afterward. I was completely, deliriously happy, and I didn’t want any stress over “meeting” him. I was grinning like a goofy idiot all the way home. But I had an online “friend” who was actually angry at me for not talking to him.
I could brag about my occasional superfan moments, even though I haven’t much tried to get any, but to be honest I feel like a shithead doing it. Tell me how this makes you feel: In 1994, I traveled from Texas to the University of New Hampshire for a Green Day concert. It was the only date on the tour that wasn’t sold out, because only UNH students could buy tickets. I called the university and they were so tickled that I would be traveling so far that they put me on the guest list. I was near the front but not at the barrier, in part because there was a girl who kept shoving me, and I moved back to get away from her. When Green Day left the stage at the end of their set, people started to leave. I figured the boys would come back for an encore, so I moved into a spot that had opened up at the rail.
It was December 3rd, the night before their famous appearance at Madison Square Garden. I guess Billie Joe wanted to do an, uh, un-dress rehearsal for the next night, because he came out naked, and they played “She.” I was singing along like a lunatic, as usual… Billie Joe saw me — I was toward the side — and he came over to me and sang the chorus to “She” right into my face. We were screaming the words at each other. (And he was naked, though I’m not sure if that even registered with me at that moment.) The concert was held in the gym — seriously! — so the stage was tiny and the barrier was only like a foot away from the edge. I was breathless.
And then I found a backstage pass on the floor… (That story is here. And it’s not too flattering…)
I’ll prattle on about other exhilarating/embarrassing/disappointing/conflicted moments some other time… Or maybe not.