Sunday, May 10, 2009

Green Days

As another Green Day album is churned out to the masses and on the heels of news about a Green Day musical, I can’t stop thinking of one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. It was at the taping of the Carson Daly Show. Yes, I said the Carson Daly Show. I was there to see Green Day perform. Yes, I said I traveled from the east side to 30 Rock to see Green Day play live on the Carson Daly Show. Whatever you might think, Green Day is an amazing band to see live, and most people only think they’re cheesy because they aren’t listening very carefully or have only heard of them after Dookie was released and played on MTV incessantly. Anyway, I’m not here to argue Green Day’s worth. I’m here to talk about one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

I went to see the show in the middle of the work day. I once had a job where this was perfectly normal, and I miss it terribly. It was a job where the music nerd half of me was satisfied on a weekly basis, even if my career brought me absolutely no fulfillment. 9 to 5 was a drag, but I saw about 4 free shows a week, and a typical work lunch meant arguing the musical impact of, say, Green Day, over whatever band was the indie upstart of the week. Atypical parts of the job included getting drunk with Tony Wilson, the founder of Factory Records, and seeing acts like Devendra Banhart or Ted Leo play sets in the conference room. Those aspects of my job rocked and I missed them terribly.

And so, because of the only part of my job that kept me there for eight years, I stood in the midst of a thrilling mix of people who were actually there to see Carson Daly (maybe three in all, bedecked in fanny packs?), industry folks who had snuck in through work (like me) and an assortment of aging Green Day fans and the teens the band now attracts. As the band did their thing for television, I heard a young and incessant voice behind me. American Idiot had just been released, and this little high voice knew every word, every pause, every inflection—and every criticism of America the band leveled at their audience.

I’m ashamed to say I assumed the rabid fan behind me was a young boy. It wasn’t. It was an 11ish-year-old girl. No makeup, glasses. Pink backpack. Your typical Hannah Montana fan, but she was jumping around to punk rock like a firecracker lit twice, screaming anti-Bush lyrics as if she were the band’s lead singer or, to use a cliché, as if her life depended on it. Maybe it did. She was almost crying, and so was I.

I’m listening to “Holiday” right now, and she burns like a vigil in my memory. She was clearly much shorter than I was, and though she couldn’t see above my swelled industry, punk-rock-author head, she was having more fun than I had had at a show in years. As Green Day continued to play after their timed three minutes for fans like the girl screaming their lyrics behind me—and they played about five songs more, if I remember correctly—I asked her if she’d like to stand in front of me so she could see. She thanked me profusely and continued to do so throughout the rest of the set.

She was a sight to behold: a girl with no self-consciousness. A girl with no need to dress like the band and no need to seduce the band. A girl who raged to Green Day as I once did to the Go-Gos and Cyndi Lauper, Joan Jett and Pat Benatar. And maybe that anti-Bush sentiment settled in her like sediment. Maybe it’s a foundation on which she can build her own radical political empire, her own stories, blog, band, joy. It was gorgeous. Compelling. In the midst of a war we didn’t need to fight and the stupidity of a sycophantic media and a public swallowing lies as smoothly as a Slurpee in July, it was transcendent.

I have no brilliant or clever way to end this, except that I hope she’s playing an instrument right now. I hope she found the other, older, more obscure bands to which bands like Green Day can lead. I hope she’s living the life I didn’t until I was 18 or 20, and I hope she remembers that bright day as clearly as I do.