Saturday, May 23, 2009

Green Day In The Park

Or...wound down and wound up.

About a week or so ago I noticed a new announcement from Green Day, a band which I've been listening to for awhile. They were about to release their latest album, 21st Century Breakdown, and indicated that they were going to appear on Good Morning America live on Friday, May 22nd, as part of a media blitz that included appearances on the Steven Colbert Report (Comedy Central) and the Late Show with David Letterman. Considering that Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin are long since past new releases, I've sort of gotten past the anxious excitement of midnight madness sales involving a new album release a la U2, etc.

So when the release date whipped by me I didn't even realize I'd missed it -- I've been slammed with work for the past few weeks, been generating new business as well as a shitload of work from current and past clients, and haven't had the mental energy to focus on personal shit.

Then a Facebook friend mentioned something about the new Green Day album -- four days after its release -- and I suddenly realized I needed to get a copy, which I did. And I was pretty impressed with 21st Century Breakdown.

First and foremost, their last offering, American Idiot, was far more melodic and user-friendly than anything they'd released prior. American Idiot is a more cohesive, stronger concept album addressing the problems American society faces than the two-plus minute songs they'd offered prior, and 21st Century Breakdown is even moreso, except in addition to decrying politics, organized religion and isolation and loneliness, Green Day also works the economy into the mix -- all while remaining true to the trifecta of melodic rock, catchy ballads and angry, three-chord energy.

In a nutshell -- without going song by song, which is completely unnecessary -- I had some work stuff on my plate so while enjoying the album would be a long-term activity, the short-term -- ie going to see the free show in Central Park, courtesy of Good Morning America -- would not be feasible.

I thanked my friend for reminding me to get the album and let him know I enjoyed it, and he agreed with me that it was more than just worthwhile. Then he started pushing me to go to the show with him -- in a good way -- and after some rearranging of my schedule I decided I could manage it. The only real problem was the show was -- in theory -- scheduled for 8:30AM and that the gates on 69th and 5th would be opening at an ungodly 6:30AM.

Holy shit.

Waking up at 5AM for a concert isn't usually how I roll -- in fact, the last time I woke up at 5AM was for a surgical procedure. I'd more sooner get to sleep around 5 than wake up that early.

Somehow I managed it, and I met two friends, Jon and Aaron, and we strolled with the crowd into the main pavillion where the show was to take place. A Good Morning America producer asked us if we wanted to be on TV and advised us we wouldn't miss any part of the show, and that we would be able to participate in some segment entitled "Crafts for Cash."


We milled around with a mix of families, kids, adults, punkers, stoners and Good Morning America personnel for the better part of forty-five minutes...snapping pictures of the stage and the crowd and the park, we killed some time. Then the band made their way to the stage for a soundcheck. That was pretty much the last moment we opted to participate in the Good Morning America segment. With the rest of the crowd, we pushed forward and spent the next few hours watching the band perform a half-dozen songs between the sound check, the on-air segments -- which were quasi-heavily censored -- and weather updates from a far-too-chipper Sam Champion (the weatherman).

All in all, it was a blast -- despite the ridiculous hour, it was among the better concerts I've seen. It was short and sweet -- the band only played for about an hour -- but we were maybe 20 feet from the stage and got to see one of the biggest bands in the world right now -- for free, natch -- and it was great, despite the daylight, enjoying watching them burn through a mini-set that showed them having a blast. The 100-plus photos are here, for those fans who couldn't make it to the show (or didn't hear about it until after the fact). Plenty of these pics are redundant and/or out of focus, but that pretty much -- accurately -- reflects the true flavor of being there in the first place.

Incidentally, one of the reasons why I wanted to see these guys in person was to confirm something I really knew awhile ago; essentially, they're one of the few "new" bands out there with more than just a bit of their integrity (they've been out there for 15+ years, but they haven't really hit "made it" status until the last few years). For the past week, in tandem with the release of the album has been the media discussion of the fact they refused to sell their album at Walmart. That decision wasn't a result of Walmart's reputation as screwing small businesses throughout the country in favor of crap made in Taiwan and elsewhere but for the simple reason that Green Day's music features lots of vulgarity and Walmart doesn't sell any discs with the Parental Advisory warning label thereon. The band's refusal to release a "clean" version of their latest album, or any of their prior albums, will likely cost them 50k to 100k of sales -- not in dollars, but number of albums sold -- but they'll still have their integrity. And frankly, long after they're selling out shows and recording albums, that will be far more important than another 50,000 albums sold. In that respect they remind me of Led Zeppelin's refusal to do an extended, "proper" reunion, and that in and of itself garners my respect. Further, despite the fact that yesterday's set was sponsored by Good Morning America, there was plenty of vulgarity -- both in and between tunes -- and that demonstrated to me that you can take the band out of its element but you can't take the elements out of the band. There are very few musicians/bands that fall under that umbrella: besides the aforementioned Led Zeppelin, I'd put the Foo Fighters, Tom Petty and the Rolling Stones in that category. And if you weren't aware, that's pretty good company.

Here's a link to the Facebook GMA video, if you happened to miss the actual broadcast (this link may or may not work, so if it doesn't, hit google and see if you can pull up video if you're so inclined).

A few more things: a personal thank you to Aaron and Jon for making the experience even better, and a final rhetorical request to Sam Champion for a weather update for Duluth and the humidity level for the Great Lakes region. Incidentally, doing the weather on TV is easy; doing it for a crowd of 5,000 impatient Green Day fans in Central Park, cranky from the morning hour and chanting "Fuck The Weather" on national television, well, that's probably not easy.

Sam, keep updating us on the weather in Iowa and we'll keep chanting.

Rock on ;-)

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