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I got a suitcase in my hand: flying from England to see The Longshot

Updated: Feb 14, 2019

It was my last day of training in my new job when tickets went on sale. Our trainer set us up to go for different shows: some for Washington, some for Baltimore. The biggest venue The Longshot was playing had a capacity of 750. Even with a committed team of not-so-professionals, this wasn’t going to be easy.

People must have wondered what the hell we were doing in the training room, because I was screaming and it was infectious. I had Washington. Two of us had Washington. Baltimore was gone before I could even switch tabs.

‘Sam has Baltimore!’

Sam did indeed have Baltimore. I ran to and fro with my card. I’d forgotten my Ticketfly password and had to make a new account. My heart was still pounding when it was all over. I expected something to go wrong. There’d be some reason I couldn’t keep the tickets.

I ran into the canteen to text my mum and my partner. They’d both panicked and bought Washington tickets too. It turned out it didn’t even sell out for an hour and a half. Still, there was a two ticket limit per person for every show, and the only reason ours weren’t cancelled out was that I accidentally entered the address I no longer lived at in Cornwall.

It was a week until we left when I began to feel so ill I could barely even look at my screen. When it got worse, I took the afternoon off and went to my GP. I never get sick. I once went to work photographing kids with swine flu. This was bad. The doctor debated sending me to hospital because I was so dehydrated, but eventually sent me home with a bag of medication. As I spent the evening throwing up, all I could think of was the shows. It wasn’t about the money I’d lose. It was about the opportunity I’d never have again. I absolutely adore Love is for Losers – as much as anything Green Day have released – and the thought of not making it left me feeling very angry with whoever gave me the bug.

Ryanair planes at East Midlands Airport
I got a suitcase in my hand, don’t even know just where I am 🎶

I made it to East Midlands Airport. I've done some stupid things, but getting on a plane this unwell is somewhere at the top. Still, there was no way I was giving this trip up. Landed successfully in Dublin. So far, so good.

Sleeping bag in Dublin Airport
'How do you afford to travel?'

OK, I think it’s funny now, but I’ll admit that night in Dublin was bad. I was scared I wouldn’t get out of the bathroom for long enough to check in. With my mum’s encouragement I did. Somehow we were through security. I was feeling slightly better. The next hurdle was US preclearance. We had under an hour to clear, and we knew my mum would be detained, because she always is for no apparent reason. I rushed through separately so I could speak to the gate staff.

‘What’s the purpose of your trip?’


‘I said, what’s the purpose of your trip?’

‘Oh. I’m going to see a Green Day side band, mate.’

I had never received such a glare of hatred from a Homeland Security officer until then. He stamped my passport and let me through without a word. No sign of my mum. It would probably be OK, the gate staff said. Probably.

They were late boarding. She reappeared with time to spare. We were on the plane. It was too late for them to throw me off if I suddenly got worse, but it seemed like the Dublin episode was the last of it. That was some high quality relief.

Newburgh Stewart Airport looked less like a barn miles from civilization in the sun. I watched suburbs pass where ‘VOTE’ signs sprouted from the grass, crammed into every corner until they dissolved into the open highway. In the middle of nowhere, a huge, glass-fronted hotel rose from a clearing. That’s America.

I’d never been to New York City in summer. It was reminiscent of trying to run for a bus on Falmouth High Street after 9am, when all the tourists have woken up. We walked to Nintendo World and bought caught a Blastoise. It took longer than we expected and we realised we couldn’t make it to the Megabus stop in time if we walked. We unsuccessfully flagged down yellow cabs until a minibus stopped. He got us there just in time. Of course, the Megabus was an hour late and the minibus adventure was unnecessary.

Megabus stop in New York City
You haven’t experienced America until you’ve stood on roaches, sweating 10 litres, in line for an overbooked Megabus that’s an hour late

I fell asleep at some point on an anonymous highway (on the bus, not off it). When I woke up, the sun had gone down and the bus was creeping through dimmed city lights. Clean streets were washed pink by the night-time glow. We pulled in to a strange bus station, like a parking lot, under Union Station. While my mum went for a cigarette, we made friends with a lady called Elizabeth who asked if we knew Meghan Markle or Princess Diana. Wherever we go in America, the Diana question is national.

We walked through streets of columned buildings to my mum’s first Walmart. While I stared aimlessly at cheese, probably having forgotten my own name, a guy asked where I was from and learned about The Longshot. I grabbed two packs of honey buns, some strawberry M&Ms for Sam – the hero behind our Baltimore tickets – and red velvet Oreos to take home. Finding a stupid supermarket: success.

The receptionist at our hotel thought we were a couple, and wanted to change our room so we weren’t in a double bed. Eventually he decided we looked alike and gave us the key. Mate, I’m not from Sutton-in-Ashfield.

Made it to the capital city of my favourite country

It was a hot, sticky day when we went out to wander. We scoped out the 750-capacity Black Cat, the dodgiest building on a fancy street. There was definitely no-one camping out 36 hours in advance, so we walked on to the White House.

National City Christian Church, Washington DC

Orange street in Washington DC
I’ll take the side street out of vision 🎶

Tourists outside the White House, Washington DC
The White House

The White House was well fenced off, with police patrolling the street outside. Photographing and marvelling at it was a strange bunch: indifferent tourists, students and news crews filming, and sunburnt, middle-aged men in completely non-ironic Make America Great Again hats. It was hot and crowded (and the MAGA hats looked contagious), so we didn’t hang around.

Organization of American States, Washington DC
Organization of American States

Columned buildings in Washington DC

Columned buildings in Washington DC
OK, I don’t remember what this was

National World War II Monument, Washington DC
National World War II Monument

National World War II Monument, Washington DC Atlantic
National World War II Monument

National World War II and Washington Monuments DC
National World War II and Washington Monuments

DC was more like a British city than anywhere else we’d visited in America. Like a cleaner, American London. There was something quite emotional for me about visiting the capital city of my favourite country. The first time I went to America we actually landed in DC. I was 16 and Homeland Security made me cry. They held us up so long we missed our connecting flight to Phoenix and met Cone McCaslin from Sum 41. It was quite nice to make it out of the airport, having seen the last of Homeland Security in Dublin.

It especially got me at the World War II Monument, looking up at the pillars that marked the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the names of all the states. I know it has its (huge) faults, and I’m not a stupid European who naively believes in the American dream. I will probably die getting shot in America. But from Wisconsin to New Mexico, wherever I go (except LA), it’s my favourite place in the world. One day I will make it all the way out to Hawaii. OK, I’ll go back to laughing at America now.

Lincoln Memorial DC reflection
The Lincoln Memorial. It was too hot, and I didn’t care enough, to walk up to it

Washington Memorial reflection DC
The Washington Memorial looking cute

Thomas Jefferson Memorial Washington DC

Thomas Jefferson Memorial Washington DC
Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Annabelle kept telling me how great this was. It was pretty.

Washington DC streets archway
DC streets

Street souvenir stall in Washington DC
Portable tourist trap

The last stop on our tourist expedition was the United States Capitol. Everything had long shut by the time we arrived. The sun was setting, tinting it all gold.

United States Capitol Washington DC
United States Capitol

Sunset over Washington Memorial DC
Sunset over the Washington Memorial

We returned to The Walmart™ before we headed back, re-emerging with a camping chair, battery-powered fan and sun umbrella. We were ready.

Washington DC streets at night
Night time streets ft. the Capitol

The Longshot at Black Cat Washington DC
Clearly, I was actually here to see Mount Kimbie

It was nearly 11pm and there was still no line at the Black Cat. The street was packed with clubbers now. I’d probably have got stabbed with a stiletto if I’d rolled out my sleeping bag. We hesitated before going back to sleep and returning at 6am. I was eighth in line.

Fans queuing to see The Longshot Washington DC
Back in my natural habitat: on a street covered in chewing gum, in a line, in a random American city

My cooling off technique: sticking my face in free ice water from Peet's Coffee

The first few hours passed quickly. We made friends with a fellow Maria, who’d brought her twelve year-old son Daniel. He bonded with eight year-old Chase from North Carolina. Both of them had been on stage with Green Day and couldn’t wait to see Billie Joe again. There were fans from Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, England, Germany and Australia behind us. Most were hardcore fans, as you might expect at a side project show, but there were lots of casual fans too.

Once the sun reached its peak in the sky and shade receded, the hours began to drag. I spent a lot of time shoving my face in free ice water from Peet’s Coffee. Chase gave us all fabulous Longshot tattoos with a sharpie – and Maria gave Daniel some incredible, detailed Green Day ones – though in the afternoon they all began to melt off. I was very glad for the fan and sun umbrella. Best $20 I’ve ever spent. I was glad, too, that the stomach bug seemed to have finally disappeared completely. Only just in time, but I made it. It felt like coming home. The fact we’d be seeing The Longshot, these songs Billie randomly decided to bless us with, in such a small venue that night, was still surreal. We were incredibly lucky, and I was struggling to believe it wasn’t all just a big joke. Maybe we were actually seeing Green Date.

Young fans at The Longshot Washington DC Black Cat
Future rockers of America waiting for The Longshot

Half an hour before doors, staff checked ID and stamped our hands. The stamps were our tickets. I was frightened mine might melt off like Chase’s tattoo. Outside of our little groups, the atmosphere was hostile now. Thankfully, they let us into the air conditioning early, lining us up in a corridor before the stairs. I was shocked how calmly everyone filed in. It was even more of a shock, then, when they called us up early. Now it was, as usual, every man for himself. I was sitting on the floor and before I even registered what was going on, feet were thundering past me. My mum had gone to sit down and was nowhere in sight. I leapt up, joining the stampede up the stairs. Staff screamed at us not to run but no one listened. We crashed into the front row in the exact order of the line. I was up in front of Kevin Preston’s mic. My mum was still nowhere to be seen. Carling and Lindsay from Canada helped wave to her and we ushered her in. Panic over. Now, resting our arms on the stage with no barrier, only the amps between us and the band – it seemed at least real enough to know it wasn't some huge joke.

It seemed an agonisingly long wait for The Trashbags. Then they were gone, their kit was dragged off and replaced with a shiny Ludwig kit that read ‘The Longshot.’ In the meantime, Billie opened the door behind the stage, stared at us and shut it again.

This was real.

It wasn’t like Green Day, where Billie Joe is the final, dramatic entrance. The four of them strolled on stage together, smiling and waving to the crowd mere inches from them. I was staring in disbelief at Billie, at Kevin and his setlist taped to the amp in front of me, at David behind the Longshot kit that looked so new – like it was. They tore straight into Kill Your Friends. We were slammed into the stage in a surge I’d only ever experienced in England. All the tourist attractions we’d seen yesterday were long gone. The four walls that packed us in could have been anywhere. It might as well have been England, or maybe it was Washington DC. I’d felt like I was watching Green Day through a thick screen before, many times. Somehow, so close I could see the smallest features on their faces, this seemed more dreamlike than ever. Devil’s Kind was a song I’d listened to on YouTube. Not screaming the words back at Billie in a sweaty club. By Taxi Driver, I was jumping on people’s feet and they were jumping on mine. I couldn’t breathe and I didn’t care. I don’t think anyone cared. It certainly didn’t silence the collective voice screaming the words: ‘taxi driver, I’m rolling, taxi driver!’

Next up was Happiness. I remember looking round at my mum and her face was just alight with, quite literally, happiness. Billie yelled ‘oh my God, I fucked up the lyrics!’ but that might as well have been the actual line, it mattered so little. The crowd sung along as a raucous chorus to Rockaway Beach.

Then it was straight into Soul Surrender. There was emotion in Billie Joe’s eyes and voice I’d never known before. These songs resonated deeply with me, too and I felt connected to the band in a way I’d also never experienced, at any show, before. I keep saying it was surreal, but it was.

‘This is another cover song, this song was done by a band I saw play when I was 15 years old, in San Francisco…’

I screamed because I knew this was Bastards of Young. Annabelle introduced me to The Replacements when we got together, and I’ve loved them ever since. I’d never, ever dreamed I’d see any member of Green Day playing a Replacements song. And it was perfect. Paul Westerberg would be proud of his #1 fan.

Billie Joe sang As Tears Go By with his eyes closed. It was clear it meant a lot to him, and the emotional way he played it meant everyone in the room felt whatever he felt too. Cult Hero was a proper banger. Even the Longshot songs that weren’t my favourites were more incredible live than I could ever have imagined. Now I had memories I’d recall every time I heard them.

I knew they were going to play Fell For You. I could see it on the setlist in front of me. But this is one of my favourite songs of all time. It was released at a poignant time for me, when I was in my first relationship with someone who really shouldn’t have fallen for me. I’d dreamed of seeing it live since the first time I heard it. I thought that was far less likely than any Replacements song – they were probably more likely to cover Destiny's Child. Nothing could have prepared me for it. I was losing my voice, in tears at this point. Billie caught my eye and gave me the cutest smile. I know he doesn’t have a clue how any of us feel – but I’ll say again, it’s a connection I’ve never experienced with any other musician.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see Bill Schneider filming. We didn’t know, but our phones were buzzing in my mum’s bag with our friends telling us they could see us on the live stream. Sadly, I don’t think it’s saved anywhere so I never got to see it.

Whilst few people knew Walking Out On Love, it fit so well with the theme of Love is for Losers. Billie was really into it when he was in the American Idiot musical (in fact, I think they played it several times in a row at the closing night’s after party). We’d seen Green Day play it once then and I still knew the lyrics, which seemed to amuse Billie.

Body Bag was beautiful in a way a studio version just can’t capture. At the first chords of Love is for Losers, the whole crowd erupted into a screaming, dancing mess. We could have been 65,000 people in Emirates Stadium. Maybe it was after the lull of Body Bag – or maybe it was that we’ve all been there, searching the winter for the bride of Frankenstein with our delusions of lost love. In that line Billie Joe widened his eyes and spread his hands, playing the Frankenstein part. What a loser.

Turn Me Loose is, just slightly ahead of Chasing a Ghost, my favourite Longshot song. Seeing it live was everything I expected it to be, from the thumping drums to the emotion in ‘so turn me loose, but don’t call me a loser with dumb tattoos.’ Billie Joe stage dived and at some point I was pushing him off my head. What a time. Have you listened to Turn Me Loose? You should.

I was still innocent then. Before the Ultimate Trauma 2k18. A stray fan landed on the stage as they began Stay the Night. Then another. Then another. Billie beckoned more. My hair was soon being grabbed. My mum was being kicked and punched. People were trying to push her down. Kids with no idea how to crowdsurf were flailing and hurting people. Once they got up, they whipped their phones out for selfies. The crowd that seemed so unified earlier, that one collective voice, no longer cared who they hurt. They just had to get to Billie Joe. It continued through I Fought the Law to Chasing a Ghost. The stream of bodies was incessant. There was no room left on the stage. Kevin and Jeff Matika were out of sight. Billie was on the floor, three strings broken, asking ‘what the fuck?’ – but like true professionals, the music continued uninterrupted. Some guy had his hands around my mum’s neck. When I wrenched another guy’s fingers off her, he yelled ‘relax, slut!’

The kicking and punching continued until she was slumped, unconscious, over the amp. They still didn’t stop. Eventually, Carling managed to alert a staff member. To get her out, he had to shine his torch in their eyes and fight past them. In the meantime, fans on the front row were helping Billie up. When Chasing a Ghost finished and the band disappeared, we watched, completely stunned, as staff ushered fans back into the crowd. My mum and I have a pact that if something happens to one of us, the other has to stay on the front row. I hadn’t even processed what had happened yet, except that her smile so bright it lit up the room was gone.

I don’t want to vilify everyone who was up there. Nor do I want to lie or exaggerate to prove my point. It’s a wonderful idea, and a concept I have no doubt Billie loves. I know some went up just to dance or stage dive and caused no harm. But I’ve seen the ones who did touting it as everything from ‘punk’ to ‘love,’ and as someone who’s been to many loving, but still violent, punk shows – I’ve seen Green Day in Latin America and loved it, so spare me the bullshit about how I can’t handle ‘punk’ – this was 99% a rush to get to Billie Joe. No one was hurt in the name of punk. They were hurt by rabid, entitled fans. Also, no one who felt it dampened the set was ungrateful. The fans who weren’t satisfied with seeing The Longshot in a 750 capacity venue and abused that intimate setting, just for the cred of touching a celebrity otherwise inaccessible, were ungrateful.

That’s one thing I hate about the new mainstream [punk]: blatant violence. We get lumped into this bandwagon of this fucked up mentality. To me punk rock was about being silly, bringing a carpet to Gilman Street and rolling your friends up in it and spinning it in circles. Or having a pit with people on tricycles or Big Wheels. The whole thing had a serious message to people, but at the same time it was silly, and people weren’t afraid to talk about love. It’s a different thing going on now.’ - Billie Joe Armstrong, Rolling Stone

The band returned for the encore unfazed. Billie announced ‘fuck it, Love is for Losers one more time!’ and they played it again. It seemed a bizarre moment frozen in time that embodied the confusion of what just happened. I think I just stared blankly at the band in Ziggy Stardust. This night was surreal enough without 50 asses in my face.

The show ended with Kiss Me Deadly. This was originally going to be me and Annabelle’s first dance song. I remember watching videos of Billie playing just the intro at Soundwave in Australia, and thinking just hearing grainy audio of him playing that was enough. But I was standing there, in Washington DC, just a few metres from him and hearing it in full.

What a night.

I found my mum outside. While the staff guy helped her, apparently some girl from the stage took photos of her because she thought it was funny. Fans of various nationalities approached her, broken because their show was ruined and they knew she’d understand. Now I’m home it’s only a damper on my memories, but at the time it was awful to see.

We said goodbye to friends, thanked Taylor from Ohio for storing our camping chair in her car, and headed to Union Station. As upset as my mum was, she’s 59, disabled and she’d just got knocked out, and she was just chilling off to Baltimore. I know there are a lot of kids whining that she shouldn’t be at punk shows right now, but I think she’s more punk than all of us.

People from Baltimore told us not to line up before the sun rose. An employee was apparently murdered outside the Ottobar. Everyone else said they’d get some sleep. I’d read the stuff about how Baltimore is the most dangerous city in America. I still thought they were having us on. You know what Green Day fans are like.

We stepped off the train into a grubby station. A cop asked us if we were alright. As our Uber approached the Ottobar, we could see the street was completely deserted. They were not having us on. Our driver unloaded our luggage, unfazed by these morons about to set up for the night with a camping chair. Then he left. We were alone with some roaches and all our luggage. It was clear from the dirty street of squat buildings that this was not DC. A police car screeched past, sirens blaring. We were finally going to die. But what if we went to our Airbnb and 10 people arrived? We tried to hide ourselves behind a tree and I shoved our luggage into the shadows with the roaches. A bench I’d seen on Google Maps that said ‘BALTIMORE’ on it was opposite us, which improved the whole scene.

The moment I knew I was going to die for a stupid band, at 4am on a street in Baltimore, Maryland

A potential murderer ambled aimlessly past us. Another stumbled down the street. Murderer? No, he was with a woman and they were trying to hitchhike. A few expensive cars (meaning they could afford to shoot us?) passed. Then there was total silence. I kept hoping other fans would come. None did. Eventually, more headlights glowed in the distance. They approached slowly. It was a big vehicle. Oh God. This was it. It wasn’t just one murderer, it was a bus full of them.

‘Why is it driving so slowly? Are they going to get out and kill us?’

My mum squinted at it. ‘It looks like a tourbus.’

‘Why has it slowed down again? We’re going to die.’

We sat with bated breath awaiting our doom. Even the roaches, startled by the lights, stopped scurrying.

‘It’s stopping right here! It’s actually murderers!’

‘I’m sure that’s the Longshot bus.’

The murder mobile slowed to a halt. Then it turned into the Ottobar. Singing floated around the corner. This was officially one of my most stupid moments: being alone on this street in Baltimore, Maryland with just The Longshot, whose tourbus I thought was a murder wagon.

As 6am got closer, commuters began to cycle past. A man cheerily said ‘morning!’ as if it was standard to find English people there with a sleeping bag and camping chair. We replied ‘morning!’ as if it was our daily routine.

The first fans arrived shortly afterwards. I recognised one guy from Green Day’s Rose Bowl show. Rescue at last. I’m kind of glad we had the murder wagon experience tho. It made a good story.

Soon venue staff told us we were queuing at the wrong door. They directed us to another door in front of the bus. It was still running and pumping heat at us. Rude.

The Longshot at the Ottobar, Baltimore, MD

Outside Ottobar, Baltimore, MD
Outside the Ottobar, Baltimore, MD

Baltimore bench outside the Ottobar
The glorious four photos above were stolen from my mum, @thisisjoyjoyjoy on Instagram

I spent much of the day laying on my sleeping bag, under the sun umbrella with the Walmart fan in my face. Kevin and David got off the bus, waving as they passed. At some point I must have fallen asleep. I woke up abruptly to feet in front of me. There was a guy with a Blue replica. I sat up. The bus door opened.


Billie Joe stepped out. Me, summed up: sitting on my sleeping bag, three-day-old eyeliner on, just staring groggily at the musician I’d come to see. He let the Blue guy have a photo, which my mum kindly gave up her chance to meet Billie to take, then Bill Schneider announced they had to meet someone. No one swarmed him or tried to follow as they left. That was a refreshing change. They passed by again later, waving before they went in for soundcheck.

The Longshot Ottobar Baltimore fans
The line in Baltimore

When venue staff accidentally left the door ajar, we were greeted by the first chords of Love is for Losers. It was surreal all over again; hard to believe it was really The Longshot in there, not just the album we’d been listening to on repeat. Bill passed, my mum joked ‘no, don’t close it!’ and he was kind enough to actually leave it open for us. Fans pressed their ears to the wall to identify the next song. It took me a while, because I didn’t expect it. It was Fever Blister. My favourite of the b-sides Billie released on Soundcloud, I never expected to hear that, either. Too much for my cold, dark heart, guys. Too much. Then a venue man came by and undid Bill’s hospitality. We could still make out Taxi Driver.

The Longshot Ottobar Baltimore

Staff checked my passport and stamped our hands. A man stepped aside and said ‘nearly there.’ The room was completely empty. It was the first time I’d ever walked onto an empty floor with no rapidly approaching stampede behind me. I’d never been quite front centre either. Folding my arms over the amp in front of Billie’s mic was an emotional time. My mum was on one side and Taylor on the other, followed by her friend Alex, little Chase and his mum. Raiishelle from Australia snapped a photo of us from the balcony. It was such a good feeling to be at a tiny show with so many of my old and new friends.

Fans at Longshot Baltimore Ottobar
Photo stolen from @_greendaytrash on Instagram

During The Trashbags’ set, Billie peeked through the backstage curtain, pulled a face at my mum, waved and disappeared again. Murderer.

The thrill of the drum intro to Kill Your Friends hadn’t worn off. It wound up the crowd like a clockwork toy. One verse in and we were this meme personified. But no one flinched. Billie demanded we clapped to Devil’s Kind. The crowd obeyed in force. I had no room to breathe, let alone jump, but I still was. It was impossible not to. This was what these shows were all about: nothing but the band, the crowd and passion. My voice was already hoarse. As we all screamed along to Taxi Driver, I looked at the faces around me and up on the stage; and not one was filled with anything but joy.

She’s my soul defender, don’t be so uptight! I… oh shit!’ Billie laughed, turned away and before he spun back round, saying ‘I got it! I got it, I swear!’ the crowd was already filling in for him: ‘just me and my imagination! I swear I think I saw a ghost!’

Soul Surrender is, to me, an incredibly intimate song. A lot of The Longshot's tracks are. Yet there was nothing uncomfortable for me, the band, anyone about sharing them with the other 350-or-so people in that room. Whatever our backgrounds, whatever we got from that show, we were experiencing it all together. It’s weird – I’ll never see most of those people again, yet in those sweaty crowds, we subconsciously learn so much about each other people in our ‘real lives’ will never see. ‘Send me a message through the window…’

I could process Bastards of Young better this time. I think I knew, now, I wasn’t dreaming. I’d seen The Replacements play it in London, now I was seeing The Longshot play it in a shitty bar in Baltimore, Maryland. After the song I yelled ‘Wild One!’ as a request. Billie just replied ‘I could say the same thing about you’ before slapping his nose and adding ‘next time bring me the lyrics.’ Whatever, murderer.

As Tears Go By hit me even harder that night. ‘My riches can’t buy everything. I want to hear the children sing…’ That line went over my head listening at home, but hearing it there – it almost brought tears to my eyes.

Screaming ‘I got my darkest secrets and whispers at the moon, where all the stars never align!’ back at the band, it seemed impossible I had a life outside these walls to go back to. Whoever it was, we were celebrating a literal Cult Hero, in a sweaty ritual only those 300-and-something people would ever know.

Billie repeatedly yelled ‘fuck DC!’ and not going to lie, I cheered. This crowd was equally rough, if not more so, but far less rabid. Sure, I’m bruised all over, but it was from people just having fun.

I had no excuse for squealing at Fell For You this time. I still did tho. I think I terrified the people around me. Soz guys. Apparently there are two things in life I’ll cry about: Rose Bowl security, and seeing stupid bands play my favourite songs. But seriously, if the murder wagon ran me down then, at least I’d seen Fell For You.

Walking Out On Love tied all my memories together in this stupid theme of Love is for Losers that resonated with me so much. Able to take it all in so much more, I realised how perfect Body Bag’s place in the setlist is: a bittersweet lament after the bop that’s Walking Out On Love and before Love is for Losers, which is actually heartbreaking but so catchy and fun you’d never know.

People think American crowds can’t match the British. But this tiny crowd’s chorus of ‘heeeeey-eeeeey-ey-ey-ey!’ to the intro to Turn Me Loose could have been a stadium packed with the worst of us. Billie replaced ‘for the record and the afterlife’ with a roar of ‘for the record I ain’t gonna take no shit from anybody!’ that was smooth enough to be fun, but emotional enough to make that line more poignant. When Billie stage dived he landed right on my head. My face was just smashing into the amp over and over. Murderer.

The Longshot Baltimore Ottobar
Premium content: Billie Joe Armstrong giving me a concussion. 📷: @bjguitars on Instagram

Stay the Night was a song I associated with stadiums and arenas; with Green Day’s huge performance and blinding lights. It was the exact same song, the same experience, yet completely different at the same time.

Billie introduced Chasing a Ghost and announced ‘do what you want, come up here, I don’t give a shit.’ I will not lie, there was an audible groan from the left side of the crowd. But this was so much more in the spirit of ‘punk’ the DC fans preached about. Rabid people clawing their way up were in the minority. A lot more helped each other and went another way if someone got hurt. I was diagonal against the stage when Billie gestured to us for help before he fell off. Hey, we actually saw most of Chasing a Ghost this time.

They returned for the encore with Fever Blister. The rumble of the soundcheck came to life. It was the crowd’s last furious dance before Ziggy Stardust, when they preferred to respectfully nod their heads. Then Billie was playing the first chords of Kiss Me Deadly and I knew this dream was nearly over. These were two of the best nights of my life. I knew that too.

My life that seemed so distant was staring me in the face again. But it was OK. This would live in my heart forever.

We said goodbye to our friends, old and new, and hurried back to our Airbnb to sleep before the journey home. I didn’t feel like I hadn’t slept since 4am the previous day. I felt like I never needed to sleep again. Of course, I did sleep. I woke up with a concussion. I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t been concussed after a stage dive in 2013. Thanks mate, now I get to tell the story of Billie Joe the murderer giving me a concussion.

Concussed in Delaware

Our Greyhound stopped in Wilmington, Delaware so I got off just to say I’d been to Delaware (of course I did). Raiishelle was on the same bus and we got to discuss the shows again, standing in front of an escalator in Port Authority. I promised I’d see her again at a show in Australia. Hold me 2 it, kids. It is my big stupid dream and one day I will do it.

I needed one more thing to make this trip complete. I left my mum in Walgreen’s and crashed into the first tattoo studio I found. It crossed my mind that this would be the day I lost a limb, but no. My artist, Lee, made a great job of a design I drew on the Greyhound. When I told him it was a Green Day song, he said so many people had come to him to have Billie’s autograph tattooed while American Idiot was on Broadway he wished they’d go somewhere else.

Green Day Wild One tattoo
📷: @lee_infinitytattoo_nyc on Instagram.

We flew to Dublin, then flew to Birmingham, then got a National Express and a train home. A reasonably short journey by our standards. I went to work the next day, ringing up passengers with my concussion, and it all seemed so surreal. It’s a bit like New York City – the gateway to my most stupid, but best adventures. It holds you, in its embrace of neon lights and towering buildings; then they fade and crumble to warehouses and empty parking lots, and it lets you go. It’s almost as if it never happened. But the skyline glittering in the distance reminds you it did.

Like my bruises, my memories, the guitar pick I found on the floor. We all got our delusions.

I’m a loser with dumb tattoos. But for the record and the afterlife, I wouldn’t have it any other way.


#thelongshot #longshot #loveisforlosers

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