When this decade began, Green Day were touring 21st Century Breakdown. I remember watching my knockoff DVD of their Fox Theatre performance every few days after school. Attending one of those secret club shows in the Bay Area seemed a distant dream. I wore a shirt from the Uptown show until the print faded. Those eBay purchases were the closest many fans thought they’d ever get. The shows were rare, tickets were in insanely high demand and travelling cheaply wasn’t so easy.
So, as I boarded my flight, I couldn’t stop thinking about when I saw Green Day for the first time in a crowd of 15,000 – and how I wouldn’t have believed I’d ever be on the plane to see The Longshot in a tiny dive bar on New Year's Eve. When my mum and I met fellow English fans Michelle and Sarah at Rudy’s, none of us could take it in!
Fans from around the world came and went from the line. Old friends were reunited and new friends made. Bundles of balloons wheeled by. Staff hauled in tables. Kevin, David and Jeff arrived, waving and greeting fans. Midnight in England passed, so us six English fans whooped 'happy new year!' to baffled looks from Americans.
Doors opened around 7:30pm. Fans gathered around the tiny stage, where metallic 2020 balloons hung over the Prima Donna drum kit. There were few casual fans present. Everyone knew each other. James Fiatarone, the son of Billie Joe’s music teacher Marie Louise, stood stageside to see Billie play for the first time ever. I was so excited for him!
It was still surreal. I couldn’t imagine Kevin, let alone Billie Joe, taking that microphone just centimetres from me. Yet soon Kevin did. Prima Donna opened with Soul Stripper – just like when they opened for Green Day in 2009, when I wouldn’t have believed I’d ever be stood there at the Golden Bull.
Kevin jumped around the stage, kicking his legs high and dropping to the floor. He pointed out how many Europeans he recognised. They played their Cruel Summer cover, then ‘now we’ve got a summer song out of the way,’ asked if they could play Gimme Christmas... the only Christmas song I want to hear after working retail. The set ended with I Don’t Want You To Love Me and Kevin’s famous windmills. He joked ‘the next band up is called The Longshot.’ Setlists were taped to amps.
The Longshot’s entrance was so casual I had to do a double take. It was them. It really was The Longshot right there, on New Year’s Eve, in Oakland. Billie Joe asked if we were having a good time. Everyone roared ‘yes!’ Smiling, he replied ‘good, good, good.’ A countdown to midnight was placed on a music stand. Billie, surveying the setlist, joked ‘I just hope we’ll play all this before midnight.’ Then suddenly the thumping intro to Kill Your Friends began. I was smiling uncontrollably!
We all clapped along to Devil’s Kind. The front row was splayed over amps. I tried not to whack Billie’s guitar neck dancing but couldn’t help one knock! We were that close. It was wonderful to glance back and see friends dancing all around. My voice was already hoarse. 'Oh my God, I keep looking at that clock!' Billie laughed, 'It's like... it's like you're in algebra class and you're waiting for the clock to tick down! If you know anything about algebra...' Before Taxi Driver, he told us not to take an Uber or Lyft home and support local taxi drivers. He smiled as the crowd raucously echoed ‘taxi driver!’
Having introduced David on the drums, he announced ‘you need to get some happiness in your life.’ They began Happiness. He started to sing ‘lonely avenue,’ then crammed in ‘Telegraph Avenue’ – one of Oakland’s most famous streets and partial namesake of Stuart and the Ave. – instead, followed by ‘my wheels are spinning on the Oakland bridge!’
My voice was already hoarse. Even though the bar wasn’t full, people danced so fiercely we were repeatedly flung almost face down onto the stage. It was amazing! Rockaway Beach burst right into Soul Surrender. Billie quietly sang a line on Money Money 2020, before announcing 'I hate that band! Fuck that band! Fuck them!'
'You know what the worst country in the world is?' Billie asked, 'Switzerland! Fuck them. Fucking Switzerland. Who eats fondue anyway?'
'Tell them how you feel about Pence!' Kevin yelled.
'Pant? Who the fuck is Pant?'
That day was also Paul Westerberg’s birthday, so Billie briefly paid tribute to him before Bastards of Young – a cover I’ll never get tired of hearing. Billie’s love of The Replacements shines through. Afterwards, he told us 'I think about that last bit all the time - "the ones who love us best are the ones we'll lay to rest, we visit their graves on holidays at best. The ones who love us the least are the ones we'll die to please." Probably need a little bit of love themselves, you know what I'm saying?'
Champagne was passed through the crowd after Neat Neat Neat. While waiting for it to reach the stage, the band began As Tears Go By. It arrived during the chorus. Billie passed the bottle to the front row. As more arrived, he poured it into outstretched glasses.
'What's my resolution?' Billie asked, 'I dunno. Survive for the next 10 years. Stay alive.'
He continued pouring champagne, assuring us 'I'm doing the best I can!' With three minutes left until midnight, Billie checked the setlist and decided to play Cult Hero. Meanwhile, techs and bar staff prepared more champagne. Jeff tripped over one of them. 'We played Cult Hero twice as fast!' Kevin said. Billie asked 'we did?' Then the countdown began.
'Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Happy new year! 2020!'
Bar staff released the balloons above. They bounced from the crowd onto the stage. Band, staff and families hugged. 'Go home now!' Kevin yelled, 'It's over!' They broke into a brief, mostly instrumental cover of Auld Lang Syne.
Rolling drums preceded I Fought the Law. Balloons flew all around. Techs began to pop them. The front row did its best to grab and throw them back out, but they kept coming back! As Fell For You began with My Boyfriend's Back, there was no room left on the stage.
'What's with all these balloons on stage?' Billie asked, 'We don't care about them!' They still kept landing on his head. 'Happy new year, you crazy fucks!' Pop! Pop! Pop! The stage was covered in balloon wreckage. Love is for Losers - without a doubt one of the best live Longshot songs - was next.
They counted down again, but instead of 'happy new year!' Billie said 'it's too late! We're already fucked!' Kevin announced '2021! They say that's the real new decade!' He swapped places with Billie to sing Born to Lose. In Stay the Night, Billie sang 'and we can watch the stars to night, under the 2020 sky!' He turned the mic to the crowd for us to echo 'hey-ohhhhhh!' For the last chorus his guitar sound went out, but it actually sounded great! Still, they played that again with another bridge.
'This song's called Chasing a Ghost!'
Hands on hips, eyes squeezed shut, Billie sang 'piss stains and cigarettes, this party's getting dull...'
I was so happy in that moment, screaming along to one of my favourite songs with so many familiar faces, I could've cried. That might have been the show's last sane moment. As only drums continued into the bridge, the band sang parts of I Wanna Be Sedated together. They stopped abruptly and went into another countdown. Billie passed lyrics to Sarah to hold up and instead of ending Chasing a Ghost, they played Kids In America.
'We can play Love is for Losers 10 more times!' Kevin said, to which I roared 'yeeeeaaaaaaaah!' which either scared or amused Billie. I'm not sure. 'Wait a second so I can have a fucking cigarette.' he said. Max Dunn, who'd been watching and filming from the stairs, hopped down with a packet of cigarettes. Billie lit his with a lighter from the crowd.
'We can't smoke in here, can we?!' someone yelled. 'No!' another person replied. It didn't stop Billie.
He moved back so Max could sing Beat My Guest while he smoked, rejoining him to scream into the mic together. I was impressed by his ability to play and sing while smoking!
'Hey! Ho! Let's go!' I couldn't believe it - I never thought I'd see any Green Day member actually play their opening song! I was splayed again over the amp as the crowd echoed 'hey! ho!' For the last chorus, Billie took the mic back. As if this wasn't already surreal!
Walking Out On Love forever reminded me of American Idiot on Broadway, since Billie played it for cast members when they left and Green Day played it on the closing night. I'm sure most of us who saw that echoing through the St. James Theatre never expected to see it in a dive bar on New Year's Eve! Billie said Ziggy Stardust was their last song - ending with Kevin singing 'Billie played guitar' - but of course, it wasn't. Billie told his usual pre-Kiss Me Deadly story of being introduced to Generation X by a girl named April he made fun of for loving Billy Idol. This time, though, he talked as the crowd shouted over him about a picture her sister Margaret drew of Sid Vicious and how he'd never seen anything like it. Then he enlightened us that their youngest sister, Anna, 'was the first person I ever had sex with and she was really into the Beastie Boys.'
'Yeah... I'm getting to that point I can't fucking play anymore,' Billie said after Kiss Me Deadly, 'I gotta piss, so let's play this song! The Last Time!'
I was thrilled to see one more Longshot song. Max returned for the very last song, Teenage Kicks - another flashback to those beginning of the decade shows, when Green Day played it in the Shout medley. Billie patted Max on the back. 'You did a good job.' What struck me, as he faced the crowd, was that this didn't feel like a private party fans were allowed into. It felt like a party for fans.
'Hey, that was fun. Thank you guys so much. I love you guys so much. I love you guys.'
The band hugged and grasped fans' hands. They trudged offstage. Then it was over - really over. The DJ's selection returned over speakers. Staff ushered people out. It was too surreal then to take in then. I couldn't process it. Now, watching videos, I see my passion for this band coming full circle. Someone please tell 14 year-old me she won't just make it to 2020 - she'll ring in the new decade with The Longshot.
This article originally appeared on Green Day Authority.