Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Road Trip

The long awaited sequel to Good Riddance!

If you're one of those whose perception of Green Day is stuck in 1994 then bummer for you, man.. You might as well stop reading this right now. For the rest of you: Back in April, Umlaut got a taste of what was ahead with Green Day. IMO Green Day are The Who of their generation and Umlaut, like, totally digs them... If this loses me even more of my overrated cred with Metalheads I really don't give a shit.. 'cause I'll always have more Metal cred than you... seriously. My resume is available upon request, dude.

As soon as this tour was announced Skychick and I had decided we'd be making a road trip up to the Northwest. We arrived in Jet City 2 days early with the intent of playing tourist but, within hours of landing, real life intruded to ruin our vacation for the next 24 hours. Long story short: The dogs ran away at home (which they've NEVER done before) and the asshole, soulless housesitter COMPLETELY fucked us over. Bottom line: Casa de Umlaut is extremely fortunate to have some unbelievably compassionate and good friends and neighbors who basically worked to locate and rescue Dixie and Fredo. Epilogue: Fuck that housesitter. The thought of him walking away from his responsibilities while my dogs sat terrified and alone in the Humane Society shelter is something I'll never forgive; where's my baseball bat? Fuck.... that... housesitter.

On the afternoon we arrived, Skychick and I randomly decided to have lunch at The Pike Brewing Company which happened to be across the street from The Four Seasons. I figured the band and crew were staying there, but I hadn't checked in with Tour Manager Doug (TMD) yet. During our meal, all of the drama back at home unfolded on us via cell phone calls... but at one point I noticed a couple of dudes being seated near us and recognized one as Green Day Security. Long story short, after leaving the pub we found ourselves sitting next to TMD as he held court in the lobby of The Four Seasons with various band and crew members, which would have been more fun if we hadn't been worried sick about the dogs back home (Fuck that housesitter..).

The next morning was spent on cell phones working with our unbelievably compassionate and good friends and neighbors as they located and returned Dixie and Fredo to Casa de Umlaut. The one highlight of the morning was going to the Starbucks across the street from the hotel and witnessing the woman in front of me tip the female cashier by sticking some dollar bills in her cleavage stripper-style; it was hotter than the coffee.

That afternoon, once the dogs were safely back at home and a new housesitter was in place, Skychick and I finally did tourist shit like visit the Space Needle and Experience Music Project (EMP). The EMP's current exihibition features a history and retrospective on Nashville's Hatch Show Print, which was pretty cool and also featured the stage clothes of Country legends such as Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. The exhibition reminded me that I have a Hank Williams Hatch Print in my closet that I need to get framed (DOH!).. The EMP's Hendrix collection was interesting, but I was more interested in having my pic taken with Michael Jackson's glove on the eve of his funeral:


That night, on the way back to the hotel, some 206 kidz tried to bait me with racist heckling... Sorry, me no speaky Ching Chong, dudes. Then it was time to R-O-C-K in the U-S-A.

Green Day
Key Arena, Seattle, WA

July 3, 2009

The first date of Umlaut's Stalking Tour Manager Doug 2009-2010 World Tour was nicely packed with close to 17,000 jammed into venerable Key Arena. Prior to the show we had a lovely dinner and quality time with Umlaut Nation members Lance, Beth, and Nina who were going to The Big Rock Show with us. After dinner we few, we happy few, made our way onto The Monorail for the quick ride to the arena.

When we arrived at the venue, Will Call was a total clusterfuck as there was one line for all of the Will Call windows (Ticketbastard sales, band guest list, etc..) so literally hundreds of people stood in a single line. Maybe it was because of the hot weather, but I was a total dick and cut in front of all those hundreds of people to get my Will Call envelope. Sorry, folks...

The anticipation inside the venue was thick enough to cut with a knife and it spiked as the band's intro music went from Cheap Trick > Jacko > Queen > Ramones songs while a roadie in a Pink Bunny costume led the crowd in a cheer.. Then the houselights went down and the crowd's roar / screaming was pretty deafening.

The first 45 minutes of the set was made up of songs from the 21st Century Breakdown and American Idiot albums, with the highlight for me being 'Holiday' and the vintage WW2 archival footage that was projected on the screen behind the stage. You can't go wrong with vintage WW2 footage, man! I'm just saying.. AND another highlight was seeing vintage Gilman St. and Bay Area Punk flyers from Big Wayne's collection projected on the screen during 'Jaded'!! It was surreal and cool seeing a flyer for Neurosis projected 20 feet high during an Arena Rock show.. and even cooler knowing that the flyers were in the show because of an Old Metal connection (Big Wayne > TMD).. Umlaut's world is *this* small sometimes.

In recent years, I've become amazed how versatile Green Day are onstage; they are no longer simply that snotty MTV Punk band, but a genuine Arena Rock band in the finest tradition of the term. While their set is generally pretty scripted, there are many moments every night where their interaction with the crowd encourages spontaneity and it's cool watching how the entire band rolls with whatever comes their way. Very few bands have the confidence or balls to let that happen these days.

In Seattle, at least 6 people were pulled from the crowd at different points during the show (including Billie Joe's older sister... !) to interact with the band's show. During the encore, Billie Joe pulled a kid out of the audience who said he could play 'Jesus Of Suburbia'... and the kid played the entire 9 minutes flawlessly!! It was UNBELIEVABLE.. and TMD confirmed the kid was not a plant and it was a completely random incident. Metallica has never pulled a kid out of the crowd to play the 9 minutes of 'Master Of Puppets' with them... I'm just saying.

Backstage there was an epic Old Metal reunion with Umlaut, TMD, and K.J. Doughton all appearing in the same room together for the first time since probably 1984! Trivia: TMD and K.J. were both on Slayer's first road crew during that band's first tour and their war stories from those early times are epic and hilarious... like the time Slayer crashed at K.J.'s parents' house and his mom made the band pancakes. Oh, and K.J. once ran the official fan club for a little band called Metallica too. We may all be Green Day fans now, but we're still WAY more Metal than you'll ever be, kidz..

Ye Olde Metalheads: Umlaut, K.J., TMD..

Also backstage, K.J.'s 11-year old son lost a tooth... which was pretty Metal of him as well.. although it wasn't very cool of K.J. to punch his son like that (I'M JOKING!).

Rock Star Sightings: Duff McKagan (who wore his sunglasses indoors the entire night) and producer of the band's latest album Butch Vig.. I was impressed that Vig had a firm handshake and introduced himself ("Butch Vig") to everyone he was introduced to.. Didn't Vig produce, like, every album that mattered in the early 90's?

Who shirts = 1 (mine). If you bought one of every Green Day merch item you would have paid >$700. On the way back to the hotel, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. As we left the arena at around 12:30AM there was a MARATHON being run in the streets of Seattle that made it harder for us to return to our hotel. Who runs a MARATHON after midnight!?

Then 24 hours later it was:

Green Day
GM Place, Vancouver, Canada

July 4, 2009

The next morning, Skychick and I hopped on a "tour bus" heading North; how do you sing 'Tiny Dancer' in Canadian? OMFG, the butch Canadian border guard was a fucking bitch!! Skychick and I were grilled with questions for several minutes, including this exchange:

Ms. Border Guard: "Have you ever been to Canada?"
Me: "Yes... 15 years ago.."
Ms. Border Guard: "Fifteen years? Why haven't you been back sooner?!"

I almost snapped and said "Because it's CANADA..." but I didn't feel like having a Maple Leaf fist shoved up my ass so I simply said "There were other places to visit.."... which was actually very smart ass of me, but Ms. Border Guard just gave me a hard stare and then asked "Have you ever been convicted of a crime.."... etc. etc.. and so began our visit to the oppressive Socialist state of Canada. Green Day: Behind The Maple Leaf Curtain!

It's always interesting spending July 4th in a foreign country; it makes you realize that not everyone blows up things on the 4th day of the 7th month every year. Seeing Green Day in an oppressive Socialist society like Canada was an eye opening experience. The people are starving for anything from America (or as the Canadians call it "America, eh..") and Green Day's Rock & Roll (or as the Canadians call it "Rock And Roll, eh..") is a profound symbol of Capitalist freedom that gives the people living under their oppressive Socialist regime some hope. Canadians may rationalize that this oppression is okay because it gives them free health care, but this society also begat Celine Dion and Loverboy so it's debatable whether a greater good has come out of the "Canadian Experiment". Discuss amongst yourselves.

Getting into the venue was easier than the previous night since Skychick and I were able to flash our magic plastic and walk in the back door... but I was halfway expecting another grilling by a Canadian authority figure. When we settled in our seats I noticed that the dude next to us had a And Justice For All tattoo on his arm. Sad but true.

It's also always interesting seeing the song 'American Idiot' performed in front of a foreign audience since the crowd seems to sing the line "I don't wanna be an American Eeedeeeot!!" with an especially intense fervor. On the last tour, Umlaut witnessed this in Amsterdam and London and it was no different in Vancouver.... but after two shows I have to say my favorite song of the set was the new anthem 'The Static Age'.

As in Seattle, Billie Joe pulled a kid out of the audience who said he could play 'Jesus Of Suburbia'... but unlike the kid in Seattle this kid failed. I was watching what he was "playing" and it was obvious he had been turned down in the mix since his bullshit moves like sliding the pick down the strings was not heard over the PA. Finally, the guitar was gently taken away from him midsong and he was politely returned to the pit.. all done without the band missing a note in the song. Amazing... but an example of how Green Day's live sponteniety sometimes doesn't work.. but it still makes for a great concert experience. As TMD said afterwards "I think we got lucky on opening night.."

Another major reason why Umlaut digs Green Day is because they play arenas the way they should be played... with PYRO, PYRO, and more PYRO.

Vids by Umlaut

Green Day uses more PYRO than Metallica and AC/DC... and that's a good thing. If you're one of those whose perception of the band is stuck in 1994, then bummer for you, man.

Backstage I had a weird encounter with an "ex" from my professional life... which was a bit awkward.. but it was a good thing I had business cards with me. TMD also introduced us to the guy who designed Green Day's new stage; his past stage design clients include Beyonce (Okay, everyone at once: "That's NOT Punk!"). Celebrity Gossip: John Cusack was in town filming a new movie and was supposed to attend the show, but couldn't make it because he was picking his g/f up at the airport. Umlaut's High Fidelity moment was so close..

Yes, Umlaut is METAL at heart... but I always leave a Green Day show with a smile on my face.. and sometimes that's more important than METAL.

Vid by Umlaut

Umlaut's Inner Music Geek found it fascinating watching a major band develop its new live show from pre-album release sneak shows in clubs to the first shows of their international arena / stadium tour. Over the past 3 months I was fortunate to have seen 6 Green Day shows (3 in clubs, 1 in a theater, and 2 in arenas) and the progression was cool to witness... The first club show in April (the band's first time onstage in 3 years) was tentative and very loose, with the band displaying nervousness while playing the new songs. Fast forward to these first arena shows and the band displayed their veteran stage presence and worked the huge crowds effortlessly... and it was cool to see that the audiences at both shows was a mix of old and young fans and not exclusively the Hot Topic crowd that some people think the band draws; if you're one of those whose perception of the band is stuck in 1994, then bummer for you, man. Green Day are THE best Arena Rock band going today.

THANKS as always to Tour Manager Doug for taking care of us at The Big Rock Shows. Keep it real out there, my brutha.

Obituary shirts = 1. If you bought one of every Green Day merch item you would have paid >800 Canadian Dollars. On the way back to the hotel, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. I'll say it again: Green Day are The Who of this generation.

While I was in Vancouver I wore my Anvil - 'Metal On Metal' shirt and the only people in Canada who acknowledged it were (1) a guy who worked in a liquor store and (2) Tré Cool. Ohh... Canada.