Right you are, Ken (vespa59) wrote,
Right you are, Ken

My shadow's the only one that walks beside me

I gotta tell you... the new(ish) Green Day album - American Idiot - is just so fucking good that I can't stand it. Even though it's a huge departure from the simple punk that first hooked me on them, it's just completely amazing. It reminds me of a Queen record, but even more well held together. One would think that these nine minute epic anthems would get old after a few listens, but no. They actually get better and better. If you haven't already, make sure you check this album out.

It's weird for me to write that. I haven't given Green Day more than three or four minutes of my time since all they Dookie hype started dying down. Most of those three or four minutes were devoted to slightly raising my eyebrow in response to "Warning"'s rip off of "Picture Book" by the Kinks a few years ago. Beyond that, though, I haven't really been interested in them. I guess I'd just assumed that as they got bigger and bigger and started to grow and change and "explore the studio space", they would start to suck. Now, here it is about 8 years later, and I'm listening to a completely different band, but they still rock. That's cool as shit. I think I'll check out "Nimrod" and a couple of the other albums I missed and see how they hold up.

In honor of Green Day's triumphant record, I shall now tell you my Green Day story. I don't tell the Green Day story a lot, partially because it's an old story, and partially because it's somewhat embarassing. Plus, it's not really all that great of a story. That said, here it is:

Lollapalooza. Summer 1994. Desert Sky Pavilion. Phoenix, AZ. Green Day was the FIRST band on the bill, but by the time the tour started, they'd become huge. The last time I'd seen them, it was at the 100 person capacity Silver Dollar Club with Screeching Weasel and the Queers. They'd been first on that bill too. This time, there were thousands upon thousands of fans crammed in to the area in front of the massive stage at Desert Sky. Drenched bodies crushed against each other in the 110+ degree heat for a good hour or so before Green Day took the stage. Somehow, my best friend Coni and I were at the front center against the barricade.

Back then, Coni and I went to zillions of shows. Most shows in Phoenix were all ages, and we were seeing bands play a couple nights a week. We spent all of our money on shows and CDs and t-shirts. Coni got me in to a lot of brit pop bands and I got her in to a lot of punk and third wave ska. You could always find us pushing our way to the front, fighting with the crowd and tolerating the idiots in the mosh pit, taking hit after hit to the face from crowd surfers... all for the sake of getting close to one of our favorite bands. There were a few good bands playing that year, but Green Day was to be the highlight of the day.

Halfway through their set, Billie Joe asks the crowd, "Who wants to come up and sing a song?"

I was floored. I dreamed about shit like this happening. How many times had I rocked out in my room, pretending to be the newest member of whatever band I was in to, singing with them on stage for the first time? Answer: many. This was my big chance. I knew all their songs, forwards and backwards. Every word. Every fucking word. My arm flew up with everyone else's.

Building the suspense and excitement, B.J. pretended to scan the crowd for a suitable fourth member. This wasn't a decision to be taken lightly. According to my teenage fantasy world, this person would naturally be adopted in to the band and would, unbeknownst to them, be groomed to take over as their full-time lead singer so Billie could focus on his highly technical guitar playing. He scanned and scanned, and I started to feel the futility of my efforts as I looked around me at exactly how many hot girls were screaming, "ME!! ME!!" around me. I was certainly not a hot girl.

By now, Mike (the bassist) was assisting Billie with the screening process and was helping him scout. He looked in my direction for a minute, and walked over to Billie, shook his shoulder, and pointed towards us. I seriously almost puked. Then I remembered that my best friend Coni also happened to be a hot girl, so I figured today was her day. My disappointment turned to elation. My best friend was about to get up on stage with Green Day! This was going to be hilarious.

"You... no, not you... you! Counting Crows guy! Get on up here, Mr. Jones!"

Ok... so here's the thing: from 1992 until 1995, I had dreads. They weren't fakin' jamaican style dreads. They were chin-length dreads that had occurred naturally when I'd stopped cutting my hair. I couldn't comb it or brush it, because it'd turn in to an afro, so I just washed it a couple times a week, and it eventually tangled in to dreads. I didn't mind at all. I wanted to be Al Jorgensen. I started shaving the sides and back and let the dreads keep growing out of the top. It was pretty cool looking and it was fun to feel them flop around when I jumped up and down at concerts or when I rode my scooter.

Somewhere during this time period, the band Counting Crows hit big with "Mr. Jones" and the video was on Mtv a hundred thousand times a day. The lead singer had dreads similar to mine, and was of stocky build and dark skin. I had to admit that I did kind of look like him. For as much as I hated that band, I secretly appreciated the fact that in this bizarre twist, their singer was now responsible for getting me on stage. Crazy.

The security goons and a bunch of fans helped me over the barricade and up on to the stage. The stage at Desert Sky. The gigantic venue. The venue that was currently holding like 15,000 people. People who were now all watching me, screaming and cheering, waiting to see what I was going to do.

"Don't pee your pants. Don't pee your pants. Don't pee your pants!!"

I stepped up behind the microphone and stared at the gigantic crowd. Never in my life before than and not since had this many people been looking directly at me.

I seriously almost puked again.

After what seemed like 30 minutes, Billie leaned over and told me to tell them my name.

"What's up? My name is Steve!"


Another 30 minutes go by.

Billie says, "Are you ready, Steve?"

"Yeah! What song are you gonna play?"

No answer. They just rip right in to it. My head is spinning and I'm doing that weird in-a-tunnel, blurry faces, muffled sounds thing. All that I hear coming out of the monitors on stage is white noise. I start to realize that this isn't going to be as cool as I thought it was going to be.

I shake off the haze and focus. The sound clears up a bit. I can hear the chords and I realize that I don't recognize it. At all. It's not even close to anything I recognize. My brain starts quickly running through all of their songs, one by one, album by album. I know every song. I know every song. I know every fucking song. I don't know this song. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SONG???

Pressure, people. Pressure. I had to do something. I didn't want to be the dumbass that just stage dove when pulled up on stage by FUCKING GREEN DAY! I let out a couple of metal "YEEEEEEEEEEAHHHHH"s, but they only carried me so far. I decided to make up some words. They went like this:

"I don't know the words to this song! So I hope that you can all sing along!"

That's as far as I got before they stopped playing in that sort of uncoordinated, break-down and fall apart style. Kind of like when Elvis Costello quit playing "Less Than Zero" on Saturday Night Live in '79 so he could play "Radio Radio" instead. Tre Cool threw a drumstick at me. Billie fake booed me. Mike gave me a little hug. I swear I heard a muted trombone off in the distance do that "Waaaaaah-Waaaaaaah" thing. Billie said, "Ok... get off the stage now," and then "Let's hear it for Steve!"

As I jumped off the side of the stage and walked back in to the crowd, expecting to be lynched for being so damn lame, the crowd blew up in crazed applause and screaming.


I don't know if it was just the heat, or if thousands and thousands of people appreciated my fulfillment of the same dream we all must have shared, but people were loving me for the rest of the day... I must have signed like 100 autographs. Seriously. People were having me autograph their shit! When I got in the long line to go stand in the mist tent, some dude grabbed me and dragged me straight in.

"This is STEVE, man... Let him in. The dude is HOT!"

I got in line to buy a lemonade. Two people handed me lemonades, on them, simultaneously.

"That was awesome, Steve. You rule, dude."

Dude. Seriously... girls were hitting on me. LOTS of girls. I had a girlfriend at the time (the Jehovah's Witness) and she was with me, so I'm afraid I can't report on the full extent of what my newfound superstardom could have bought me, but damn. Like the Grinch's heart, my head grew three sizes that day. The sheer ridiculousness of the whole event didn't do much to bring me down from having the entire crowd tell me how cool I was, either. In celebration, I got my ear pierced by some dude in a skirt. This was free as well.

My fame carried on beyond that day. Every time I went dancing or to a show, someone would recognize me.

"Hey! Mr. Jones! Dude! You're the Green Day guy from Lollapalooza!"

Nobody remembered my name after the first day.

The most insane part came when Coni and I and a couple of other people went to see Green Day at the state fair a couple months later. The whole time we waited in line, people kept coming up and asking if I was THAT GUY.

"Yes. I'm him. No, I don't think I'm scheduled to perform again."

A couple months after that, I found myself having a lot of email conversations with a girl from Delaware. We decided that we really liked each other and we should meet, so she came to visit me in Arizona. As we were getting ready to go out, I told her the story and warned her that strangers usually asked me for my autograph and she shouldn't be spooked by it. She didn't believe me at all, especially given that it was now about five months after the incident. Certainly people would have forgotten by now. She teased me about my ego, but ate her words when someone begged ol' Mr. Jones for his autograph (I'd started signing "Mr. Jones" by now, by the way) about 30 seconds after we exited the car in the parking lot of the club we were going to.

"Dude! That was awesome. I was up there trying to get up on stage too, but I would have CHOKED! That was a Scorpions song, by the way."


The following week, I shaved my head under pressure from THE MAN as I prepared to interview for a promotion at work which I would not get. As the clippers fought through one matted stalk after another, it didn't occur to me that I was shaving off the signature of my fame. Not one person recognized me after that, or acknowledged that they did, and I quickly faded in to obscurity.

It'd be cool if at this point in the story, I could tell you that years later I made another stab at regaining my old notoriety by jumping up on stage with some washed out band playing at the Emerald Queen Casino or something, but it wouldn't be true. The truth is, I'm quite comfortable living life as a "normal" person, out of the public eye. Sure, I miss signing the occasional autograph or telling some kid to stay in school and eat his vitamins so that he might someday accompish greatness like I did, but really the life was bringing me down. I just wanted some privacy, you know? Some time to myself. Shaving my head was the best thing I ever did for my sanity. I don't regret it. I'm an artist. Love me for my performance.

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