Sunday, January 11, 2015

It Was Worth All the While

Kerplunk, just like that it was 1994 again, except thankfully without Celine Dion and "The Lion King."

For the second night in a row, I was at Hardywood, this time for the Cover to Cover series where they play an entire album live start to finish. Somehow when I wasn't looking, 21 years have passed since Green Day's "Dookie" was released, so that was to be the featured album tonight.

Like every teen-aged boy in the country, I'd bought "Dookie" when it came out in '94 because even with estrogen, I couldn't resist their pop punk hooks and whiny, stoner lyrics. But even then I understood who that album belonged to.

Walking in, I ran into Brian, tonight's bass player, whom I'd just seen play bass last night with Snowy Owls. Even better, he's playing tomorrow at Hardywood with yet another band, that one a jazz group. Versatile guy doing shoegaze, punk and jazz in a matter of 48 hours.

Hardywood had a big crowd for the show tonight, whether for beer or a trip down middle school memory lane, I couldn't say. A couple of (male) friends joined me near the front, no doubt there because they were 12 and 14 years old when it came out.

Although the show was supposed to start at 7:30, it didn't, so the crowd kept growing until finally ringleader Matt Shofner (in a short-sleeved black shirt and bow tie) took the stage with the crack Cover to Cover band, saying, "Punctuality isn't punk." You know, he had a point.

Matt wasn't the only one looking the part. When I'd seen bassist Brian earlier, his long hair had been up, but now he'd released his waist-length locks, looking ready to rock.

Explaining that "Dookie" had been released on February 1, 1994, he reminded us that it had arrived in an era of chain wallets (the chain on his pants could have secured a bank vault) and burgeoning eye liner usage. As they launched into "Burnout," the crowd began "clinking" beer cups together as the familiar strains washed over them.

Matt and his fellow vocalists - Maggie (who did triple duty also dancing and playing tambourine), Evan (black shirt, skinny tie) and occasionally the other Maggie (hilariously insisting on applause to make it worth her while)- even had the rowdy crowd sing "Happy Birthday" to the album in Green Day style ("not dirge-like").

The night really got rolling when they did "Basket Case." As Matt sang, "I am one of those melodramatic fools," a melodramatic bearded fool in the crowd exploded in front of the stage, singing along, pumping his fist, briefly jumping on stage and generally unleashing his inner 14-year old. It was a beautiful thing to see.

One thing the crowd picked up on quickly was how well the band - Brian, Bentley and Grant - were executing the songs, nailing every lick and drum fill. A girl in front of me kept yelling, "You're amazing!" at them.

Of course everyone went berserk singling along and jumping around to "When I Come Around," causing Evan to observe, "It's great to see so many of you singing along. It means you listened to this music when you were kids."

I wheeled around to raise an eyebrow at my friend, the former 12-year old Green Day lover, and he looked sheepish. "Kids!" he repeated.

Someone shouted out a toast to Tres Cool, Green Day's drummer, only appropriate.

After the last song, "F.O.D.," Matt held up his phone set to a timer and told us to be patient. He reminded the crowd that it was last call. Only when a minute and 17 seconds had passed did they launch into the hidden track, "All by Myself" accompanied only by acoustic guitar.

It's now standard procedure at the end of every Cover to Cover show for the band to encore with a few greatest hits and they did. My friends didn't bother waiting around so I told them good-night and stayed put.

"American Idiot" made everyone go crazy, even more so when Matt sang the line, "Well, maybe I'm the faggot America," pointing at himself and the crowd roared. After all, who wants to be part of  the redneck agenda?

"Brain Stew" only fed the fire and after that, he announced, "Okay, get out your lighters," which for this age group means cell phones with the flashlight feature on and sang "Time of Your Life." The room sang along at the top of our voices.

So take the photographs and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time

After one last full-throttle rocking, the band was introduced and we were thanked by Matt, but the band had other ideas. They began playing "Welcome to Paradise" for the second time tonight and the space in front of the stage, sloppy with spilled beer, finally turned into a mosh pit with bodies flying as they sang along.

It was very 1994. Like then, I stayed out of the fray but enjoyed watching every minute of it. Green Day calls that "Having a Blast." Me, too.

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