Updated: Feb 14, 2019
Oslo on January 25th was supposed to be my last show until Manchester on February 6th. So when I got back from Oslo, of course I sold a few things on eBay and bought a Paris ticket. I’d go, camp out, then come straight home.
Then a couple of days before the Brussels show, I saw my friend Anja selling a ticket for it. It was the day before Paris and would just work with my uni schedule… but I’d already booked my Ouibus to Paris. Did I abandon it? It was 12€ which is approximately 55 bowls of pasta… yeah, alright, another Green Day show was more important than 55 bowls of pasta.
I had a crit that morning – a group where tutors and students critique each other’s work on their project so far – and I was showing this work. They already thought I was insane. Then someone asked if I was going to more shows and I was like ‘well, yeah, I’m getting the night bus to go to Brussels tonight. I just booked it in the library.’
My mum Joy was absolutely not meant to be coming to these shows. I was meant to be going alone and not staying anywhere. She was still in a lot of pain after people pushed her over in Oslo, too. So what did we do? Booked her a bus to London and a seat on my bus to Brussels, obviously. She used to live in Brussels – it would be like a hometown show. That was my excuse for talking her into it, anyway.
Ah, so here I was – hurriedly shoving all my camping gear into a big suitcase and dragging it through Truro to catch the night bus. It was about a 12 hour journey. I might have slept half an hour until it filled up in Exeter. When I arrived in London at 6am I had become a zombie.
Two hours later, with about 15 minutes until our Megabus, my mum’s bus was still stuck in traffic. It pulled in with a few minutes to spare, but I could have lived without that metaphorically soiled underwear.
You know, boarding these buses is kind of like doors at a Green Day show. Some people take the queue very seriously and stand there for ages, others just clump around the queue to rush it when doors open and everyone is desperate to get in first. Anyway, I’d been sitting there for a good two hours, so I was not moving from the front of the line and got us the back seat. After the anticlimactic Eurotunnel (I didn’t even meet the Dark Bladers?! Do they know I’m a champion Beyblader?), we tried to spread out and sleep but we didn’t have much luck. Maybe it was the thought of those strip searches the driver told us were popular at the border.
My mum says it rained for at least five minutes every single day she lived in Brussels. To welcome her back it was a typical grey, rainy day. As the bus approached the station, the driver announced that he was parking around the corner to deter luggage thieves. He urged us all to collect our luggage immediately and to hang onto it tightly. We rushed off the bus to grab it and despite the rain, my mum commented ‘Brussels has changed.’
When we figured out the Metro system and got to the venue, it was deserted and unclear where the line should start. The area looked pretty dodgy (well, Brussels seemed dodgy). I was beyond exhausted and didn’t want to sleep on the wet ground and/or get stabbed to find a proper line elsewhere when I woke up. We went to get pizza in the Belgian equivalent of Pizza Kebap and got a few hours’ sleep before heading back in the early morning.
As the sun rose the day proved to be the warmest of the tour. We were actually able to take the blankets back early! Seriously! We weren’t wrapped in tin foil all day!
It was early afternoon when the staff yelled that they were moving us and we needed to dump our rubbish immediately. Everyone began clearing up in a panic. I couldn’t throw everything away – I had my camera and camping stuff. Our hotel was a good ten minutes away. Sara rescued me by running all our stuff to her Airbnb nearby. When we got back they were locking us into barriers where we apparently weren’t allowed to bring any food or drink. I still needed to get my ticket from Anja and pay her for it, but she wasn’t there yet and I’d had to leave my purse in the Airbnb. Fortunately she arrived just in time and we agreed I’d PayPal her later.
Something incredible happened when they transferred us to the new line. They honoured our number system! It’s never done because we expect venues to care – it’s just to help prevent line cutting and if venues do get it, that’s an added bonus. I’d never seen it happen before, though, until we joined this new line in numbered order. The line was kept in order by Magnus and a local lady who was incredibly helpful explaining how the venue worked. My mum also sent back two line cutters in French. #proud
When they let us in later they were still reasonably organised. I remember it as one of the less stressful entries of the tour. Thanks to the local lady’s directions, I ran and got our favourite spot: Mike’s corner. My mum of course got pushed aside by kids who saw she was vulnerable, but I was saving her a spot so it didn’t do them any good.
We knew most of the lyrics to The Interrupters’ set and they knew us at this point, which was both cute and hilarious. They never got boring – they were just so much fun. When Green Day came on, Magnus was the first fan on stage. Billie snatched his Danish flag and displayed a Belgian one instead (all in good fun, of course).
I’m not someone who really cares about the setlist. I wouldn’t go to so many shows if I found it dull. But when Billie began playing the intro to Troubled Times, the crowd clapping along, I must have deafened the people around me. They’d played it at the previous show in Amsterdam, but I didn’t think they’d ever play it again. It was so powerful live and I will never forget hearing it in a foreign country after impulsively making a 24 hour bus journey from Cornwall.
In Longview, the girl Billie pulled up to sing attached herself to Tré and he had to tell her ‘you’re here to sing, not make out with Tré Cool!’
Before playing Scattered, Billie announced ‘it’s Aimee from The Interrupters’ birthday today!’ before beginning a song it took me a few seconds to recognise. Then I turned to my mum and screamed ‘it’s Amy!’ and she registered it with wide eyes. It was such an incredible coincidence, because it was there in Brussels of all places, that hearing that meant the world to her. Her story in the We Are Revolution Radio book of fan stories sums up the show, really.
After the show we headed to the bus station with Tamsin and Anita from Ireland for our Megabus to Paris. The luggage thieves business unsettled us quite a bit, but the piss-scented street was deserted. I slept for an hour or so on the bus but my mum didn’t. We tumbled off the bus and into the line with our luggage at 6am.
Soon they moved us closer to the entrance and we (understandably) weren’t allowed to take our suitcases into the barriers. So I went into the line alone and held spots while the others decided what to do with all our luggage. I laid on the cold ground and tried to sleep but it was freezing and my camping gear was in the suitcase. A while later, my mum was able to dump our luggage in our hotel early and everyone joined me to begin the long wait.
At some point in the afternoon, my mum and I went to get food and when we came back, the security guy who knew us had disappeared and the new one refused to let us back in. We were told to make our way to the barrier separating our line from a later one, where Anita soon joined us when they wouldn’t let her back in either. It had begun to rain and anxiety was setting in. We’d been there for an hour or two when our security guy finally returned from lunch, laughed and let us back in.
We’d seen Green Day in Paris in 2010 but we had seated tickets, so everything I’d heard about Parisian crowds being the worst went over my head. It just felt like a fun, energetic atmosphere up in the seats. As doors grew closer the line became a tight squeeze, I got into an argument with a line cutter and people began to lose their footing. Drunk people from behind were pushing and begging us to just let them past. When security called us forward, my mum was splayed over a barrier that was toppling over in the surge, with a half-eaten camembert in her face. I don’t think anything could be more French than being shoved almost to the ground with a drunk guy’s camembert invading your personal space.
I was held up when my phone set the scanners off. It was forever until they searched me. When I finally got in, Anita was saving me a spot on the catwalk, which I was incredibly grateful for. We managed to squeeze my mum in later. The crowd was certainly the most aggressive yet, which was an experience in itself. Every few minutes I was fighting someone new out of my spot. I couldn’t breathe, but that's part of the fun. My favourite moment was probably Scattered. It was still surreal that I was hearing that song not once, but multiple times. I was also thrilled to actually see all of Still Breathing since because I preferred front row to the catwalk, it was the first time I’d seen it from that angle. Being able to see all these songs from different points of view was a luxury I was grateful for throughout the tour.
It was raining the next day as we got lost trying to find the Ouibus stop and missed our bus in the process. We ended up sitting for a while in a café where I tried to dry my socks over a radiator, and very nearly got lost again when looking for our new bus. Eventually we made it and I must say, I quite liked Ouibus. I mean, I don’t really like any coaches, but some are better than others, you know? I could write a coach comparison blog.
I joined my mum on the overnight bus to Nottingham. I would’ve had to leave as soon as I arrived if I’d gone back to Cornwall. I appreciated the few hours of sleep in my own bed before we headed to Manchester. Neither of us were going to Leeds, until Tamsin messaged me to let me know someone was selling a ticket. Being the complete twat I am, I left my stuff with my mum in our Manchester hotel and got back on the train. On the 99 Revolutions Tour she went to Leeds Festival while I stayed at home, so we were swapping places. I arrived in Leeds an hour or so before doors, legging it up and down the escalators in the station. I had a legit phobia of escalators for years and it ended there. After accidentally going the wrong way, I made it to the arena.
I ran for my life when doors opened and managed to get the end of the barrier on Jason’s side. In all honesty, I hadn’t slept for days and I was exhausted, my ribs were bruised from a crowd surfer in Paris and I was panicking way too much about the Manchester queue. The crowd initially seemed unresponsive too, until Billie roared ‘I want to hear your loud English voices!’ and it was as if we all woke up. I was no longer tired and it was a surreal experience, being back where it all began for me, in arenas in England. Because there is no experience like Green Day in England. There’s no energy like this, no atmosphere like this, anywhere else. To be one of those voices, a collective voice so loud it feels like it could shake the bowels of the earth – it’s surreal. I’m not at all patriotic, but Billie screaming ‘fuck you I’m from ENGLAND!’ at the top of his lungs in Youngblood, then thanking us for welcoming him home was something else. They also played Armatage Shanks and I may have temporarily died (of happiness, obviously).
I watched the fire raining down in Still Breathing and in my head, I could still see that similar scene during 21 Guns, back at Birmingham’s (formerly) LG Arena in 2009. I couldn’t stop myself crying as I recalled how then, the lyrics about giving up resonated with me so. Now, there I stood, as strong, happy and confident as I could ever have wished to be. I’d been so close to giving up, but I never did. I was still breathing. Partially because of this band. I have no doubt that thousands of others in that arena, screaming the words at the top of their lungs, felt the same way.
After the show I met up with Neeraja from India, who I knew through Green Day. It was her first show and I was so happy she’d finally had the chance to see them. We got lost on our way to the bus station and managed to find it after asking a nightclub’s security guy for directions.
Before I unintentionally fell asleep on the bus, I wrote with the last of my phone’s battery: ‘I am exhausted. My head hurts and my eyes don’t want to stay open. But I’m so ready for my last show.’