A year since the tour was initially put on hold and something like 18 months since quarantine began and our lives and our relationship to art—whatever that might mean to us, how we consume it—was forever altered and The Hella Mega Tour is officially on the road. Hitting vaguely close to my neck of the woods, my friend and I traveled from Maine to Boston, Massachusetts to huddle under gray skies as I made a poor attempt to shield myself from the relentless weather with my too light for the weather jacket. With a decent view of the stage though and it being our first concert back since the mess of COVID-19 it could’ve been snowing for all we cared. Instead, the rain ended up clearing a little after the first set featuring the ska-punk band The Interrupters. And while Fall Out Boy was unable to perform due to a member of their team testing positive for Covid, Weezer set the stage nicely for the rest of the night as our clothes continued to dry while we stood and by the time Green Day took the stage, any discomfort was forgotten.
There was a clear message throughout the night that Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong made sure to stress—we were all here. It’s the unifying feeling that comes from attending a concert at any other given time—be it an intimate and seats only concert hall, a lively crowd at a punk show or a folk concert with a waterfront view. We are all here because of something we love, because of music that we love and that becomes a bonding force in the moment, especially at a show like this where the crowd was amassed with a wide array of faces.
While it seems too soon to celebrate considering spikes in cases due to the Delta variant and individuals’ persistent refusal to listen to reason when it comes to getting vaccinated, there was a clear sense of relief and camaraderie amongst the crowd—many masked, many not. To our left sat two college boys who made jokes with us about our inability to clap in rhythm to the opener’s demands. To our right were an adult son and his mother. In front was a husband and wife and their two teen daughters and, behind us, girls decked in all black with safety pits jutting from their masks. There were people my age who likely discovered the band when I was attending with children under ten, wandering the grounds of Fenway Parks as the bass reverberated and the sky leaked.
The first and last time I’d seen Green Day in concert was twelve years ago when I was 17-years-old. I’d become a fan of the band a few years prior when I was weathering aggressive hormones with a heaping dose of teenage angst and their seminal album American Idiot was taking the scene by storm. I was, at that point, part of the “new” wave of fans of the bands—ones who weren’t introduced to the band when they were still snarling East Bay punks or when they made it big through MTV with their third studio album Dookie. Hell, we weren’t even aware of them when their song “Good Riddance” became the Seinfeld finale song and wore itself thin as graduation songs everywhere.
Still, this band in their 30s spoke to 14-year-old me and soon I was adopting their smudged on eyeliner, consuming a steady diet of Fuse and listening to every song of their then back catalog. It was an obsessive adoration—one that held my hand through my formative years and teenage heartache. As a mutual love for music tends to do, the band also managed to link me with two of my closest friends, each of us squeezing together at track meets and the bus rides home to talk about our favorite songs, the performances we watched repeatedly, and progress made in trying to learn their songs on guitar.
Now, nearly 30, I got to attend my second concert of theirs with the friend I attended my first concert with along with the majority of the concerts I’d attend in our later years of High School when we’d huddle in the cold in Cambridge in hopes of spotting a band member. The catharsis of live music was immediate and it, like it often is, was a chance to let go and just be in the moment, singing myself hoarse to songs whose lyrics I couldn’t possibly begin to forget due to the constant replays they all gained from ripped copies off the internet.
Emotions aside—of which there were many—the concert was an enlivened, enthusiastic affair. While The Interrupters didn’t offer much by way of variety in songwriting, their presence was infectious, particularly their lead singer Aimee Interrupter, donned with a sleek leather jacket and perfectly cool shades even under the many clouds.
Weezer was similarly engaged, even if Rivers Cuomo’s vocals began thin. While they played several new songs it was their classics that elicited the greatest response, with “My Name is Jonas,” “Buddy Holly ” and “Say it Ain’t So” being their strongest of the night. A sweet, unexpected gesture came when Cuomo led a rendition of Fall Out Boys “Sugar We’re Goin Down” to a notably thrilled stadium of fans.
That said, and perhaps it’s the fan in me, but it was Green Day that left the lasting impression due to the sheer gusto at which they attacked the night. Forgoing many of their newer songs aside from “Know Your Enemy” and the emotionally potent performance of “Still Breathing,” the band played many of the greatest hits pre-21st Century Breakdown with much of Dookie and American Idiot getting playtime. With a catalog as great as theirs the two cover songs seemed relatively unnecessary, but their impassioned performances of songs such as “St. Jimmy” or “Longview” or the melancholy they wrought with numbers “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and “When I Come Around” more than made up for it.
Frontman Armstrong, drummer Tre Cool, and bassist Mike Dirnt will celebrate the 30th anniversary of their debut album this coming September and while they are no longer the 20-year-old’s they were, their energy remains rampant. All three seemingly have come out of quarantine revved up and ready to go and approach every stage as if it might be the last one, a feeling shared by I assume much of the audience. Make the night count.
It was a tremendous show and the choice to end on the double whammy of “Jesus of Suburbia” and then “Good Riddance” was an inspired one. The vocals were strong and the stage presence immense as Armstrong puppeteered a stadium of willing participants. Beyond that though, it was the music – the live music – and the human interaction that came with it that allowed it to transcend what it ultimately was. My favorite movie, Almost Famous, directed by Cameron Crowe, has a line that’s always stuck with me and what I’m sure to be countless other fans. Legendary rock critic Lester Bangs (played to perfection by the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman) is reassuring would-be teenage music journalist William Miller (Patrick Fugit) whose been feeling adrift in his current citation, unsure where he stands with the rockstars and larger than life personalities surrounding him. He says:
“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”
I didn’t feel cool 12 years ago as I flattened all of the moisture out of my hair with an abused hair iron. I didn’t feel particularly cool as my friend and I sat on our childhood couches re-watching the Green Day concert documentary Bullet in a Bible until our parents couldn’t stand listening to another “Ayyy-Ohhh” coming from the other room. I certainly didn’t feel cool this week as my glasses fogged up and as I danced out of sync with the music and made goofy faces into my friend’s camera as we sang to the curtain riser “Bohemian Rhapsody” before the band took the stage. Maybe, in 20 years when I’m 50 and the band is pulling a Rolling Stones and still touring, I’ll feel pretty fucking cool as I attend the reunion tour of a band I loved with all of my too many feelings heart in high school. Currently, though, it doesn’t matter. Live music isn’t about feeling cool but about feeling a sense of community – of engaging in a shared passion that puts face-splitting smiles on our faces. The Hella Mega Tour, silly name and all, most certainly did that. After a year of forced solitude, of music from my shitty laptop speakers, what an absolute gift.
Please get vaccinated so I can go to my Manchester Orchestra/Foxing concert in October.