I've always felt a strong wish to thank Green Day at the end of every show when Billie starts pointing at people in the crowd and saying, "Thank YOU. Thank YOU. Thank YOU." Obviously, many others feel the same way - hence the proliferation of the Thank You signs that led to ... well, that's another story! The first time I spoke to Billie, I did thank him, and he said, "No, thank YOU!" with the sweetest smile. It's occurred to me lately that I need to say more than just, "Thank you." I need to explain why I'm so grateful to Green Day.
Green Day's music has been with me personally since the early 90's. I was introduced to Kerplunk some time before Dookie appeared on the scene. I listened and liked what I heard, but wasn't immediately a rabid fan - just enjoyed listening for a while.
During the Dookie and Nimrod days, I heard them often on the radio. I grew even fonder of their music and enjoyed many of their music videos as well. Two enduring images from those days: Billie in the Basket Case video looking up into the camera at an odd angle with a crazy look on his face and his spiky hair and, of course, Billie tearing up the couch in the Longview vid.
In those days, I thought of Green Day as a breath of fresh air for my listening pleasure rather than a life-changing trio. That all changed when I listened to the Warning album for the first time. I can't even remember when it was, but it probably wasn't anywhere near its release date - I wasn't watching eagerly for new Green Day music in those days. It might have even been after the release of American Idiot. But when I heard Minority for the first time, my life changed. I won't go into details here, but hearing Billie sing, "The only way I know!" freed me in some way to be more true to myself (which I've almost always done) without feeling associated guilt (which I've almost always felt). That in itself is a huge thing to be grateful for.
During the days of listening on the radio (before I could afford to buy music), I occasionally heard of a Green Day show that I couldn't possibly attend and felt a bit sad - but not overwhelmingly devastated. That was before I knew what I know now. Green Day's live shows are emotional, exhilarating, euphoric experiences. They're phenomenal! Every Green Day show I've participated in (because I can't just 'watch' a Green Day show) has left me feeling changed - has left me with an incredible number of memories that I want to keep forever. Please don't let me be one of those people with Alzheimer's who forgets everything! Those memories can keep me going for a long time.
One of my favorite memories, and I've seen this happen a few times, is when Billie will be talking to the crowd about how much the band loves their fans, and he gets choked up - he's so sincere, his emotions come right to the surface. When Mike sees a fan he knows in the crowd or someone who's obviously emotionally involved, he makes eye contact, kisses his fist and then places it on his heart. The look on his face is so sweet it will always bring tears to my eyes (whether that loving gesture is directed at me or someone else). And dear Tre loves to interact with the fans he's able to see from his perch - making faces - sticking out tongues - having staring contests. I have good reason to believe that he is touched by the attention he receives when the charismatic Billie and Mike are out in front receiving most of the limelight.
This love for their fans and the sweetness of the icing it puts on the cake of a Green Day live performance is another thing that fills me with gratitude. That's why, whenever I walk out of a Green Day show feeling exhausted, fulfilled, emotional, stunned with the whole experience, and wired from all the adrenaline (and, of course, hungry!) ... I'm also filled with love for everyone around me who shared that experience. I have seen the love in the eyes of so many around me too, and felt it in those incredible after-show-hugs and heard it in those teary voices. The love in the air is one of the best things about the whole experience of a Green Day show.
You might think you fully understand now why I'm so grateful to Green Day. But I haven't even touched on the most important reason yet. Three words I'm sure many of you will understand immediately: Green Day friends. Without Green Day, I would never have met so many people who have changed my life for the better and who make every single day of my life happier just by being there. These are friends, some of whom I've never met in person, who share more with me than my next door neighbors, my friends from school and work, or sometimes even my own extended family. These are intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate, and loving friends who make me feel cherished and important. These are friends who find me tickets for events they can't even go to themselves. These are friends all over the world who who will give me a place to stay any time I want to visit. These exceptional people care about other aspects of my life besides Green Day and are there to support and help me when I need a TRUE friend. I know many of you completely understand what I mean by saying that most of the time, getting to see my friends is the BEST part of going to a Green Day show (don't get me wrong, it's not the only GOOD part).
Members of the GDA team and Green Day fans at book signing in New York City for Niki Lee's "Seize The Green Day"
I would love to put a list of names here and recognize every sweet heart that Green Day has brought into my life. But you wouldn't be able to read all the names. There are too many, and I couldn't bear to leave even one of them out. Each one is so important to me that just writing this fills my heart with love. I have Green Day to thank for these friends, and I will never forget it.
There's no telling when (or if) anyone else will read this, but as I write it, many of my dear friends are gathering in New York City to attend the Irving Plaza show. This morning, I had a note from one of them saying she wished I could be there. I responded, "... go have an incredible time tonight! I'll be thinking of you. And hug all the besties for me, okay?" Her response was, "I will give J'net hugs to everyone and get a few to send back, too! You'll be missed!!!" And I believe her - I will be missed. That is a sweet feeling for someone who's felt like a black sheep most of her life.
As Green Day begins all their pre-release activities and my friends and I start making our tour plans, the excitement is building! Green Day days are here again! The best days ... the absolute best days! I know it won't be long before my feelings of gratitude are heightened and I have new music, new memories, and new friends for which to be grateful. What a wonderful feeling this is!
I could be wrong, but I believe that, even if a day comes when Green Day disappoints me in some terribly negative way; even if they someday "sell out" (even if they already have); even if they're not "punk" (even if they never have been); even if they do something someday that I simply can't accept - I believe I will always feel this gratitude for what they've given me. I have so much to be grateful to them for: they have helped shape the person I am; they have helped me to like and respect the person I am; they have given me SO much good music to listen to for so many years; they have filled me with wonderful memories that will last my lifetime; but most delightfully and importantly of all - they have given me good, strong, true friendships with the most wonderful people all over the world. For that alone, I owe them my eternal gratitude, and they have it.
So, from the bottom of my heart, thank YOU, Green Day.