Green Day performing at the SXSW Festival
[note]Editors Note: The following recap was written by GDA's co-owner and business manager, J'net Newton, who attended a few of Green Day's warm-up shows earlier this month. [/note]
On March 10, I flew to Phoenix full of anticipation and uncertainty - ready to see Green Day again, and not sure what to expect. I would be seeing them first in Tempe and two nights later in El Paso. As I arrived in Phoenix late that evening, a large number of my friends were in Pomona waiting for Green Day to take the stage for the first time in too long. When the band is touring, I'm always somewhat on edge between shows. But the wait between albums is excruciating, and I often just withdraw a bit from the Green Day crowd to try and manage my own "angsty" agitation.

After the show in Tempe, I had no doubt about the fact that the boys are back in full force - and so are the fans! It was sweeter than I can say to see Omar, Shar, Beffy, Kitzya and so many others. Sharing a Green Day show on the barrier with some of my best friends (brought to me courtesy of Green Day to begin with), is one of the things I most anticipate and one that rarely fails to live up to my expectations.

There were a couple of happy surprises in store for us in Tempe. The first of those hit us when the venue's manager came out to chat with those of us in line that morning and assured us that a separate line would be formed for the Idiot Nation members at around 5:00 pm. That line would enter first. Beffy also let us know that the same had happened at the Pomona show the night before, so we had no doubts and were able to take better care of ourselves during the day than we sometimes are.

The next happy surprise came when we entered the building and I spotted a second entrance into the room with very few people lined up. Almost the moment I arrived there with Shar and Omar, the security guards let us into the room, and we speed walked to the barrier. We got to the barrier and were very conflicted about where to stand because there were SO MANY CHOICES!!! How often does that happen?

Look closely and you can see J'net and Omar in the audience
We finally chose a spot near the center (and later regretted being quite so close when we were severely damaged by all the crowd surfers pulled out over our heads. With no catwalk, it seems the crowd surfers aim themselves to wherever Billie is - which is mostly in the center. However, we greatly enjoyed the show and the energy of the band - just slightly surprised that they played only 4 or 5 songs from their new albums. It was a great show full of energy, though, and after a few moments of apparent nerviness at the beginning, it was full-on, full-steam-ahead Green Day - just what I'd been hoping for!

That night, we got a few hours of sleep and I managed to wake up in time to see Shar off for her early flight. It's always so sweet sitting over coffee with Green Day friends the morning after a show and talking it all out. Later, Omar and I had breakfast with Erica and then headed for the airport, completely unaware of the amazing experiences in store for us in El Paso. While waiting in line for security at the airport, I started getting texts from friends letting me know that I had won tickets to the South by Southwest (SXSW) events in Austin! Dawn had also won tickets. After a quick discussion via text messages, I sent Sara a note asking her if she could possibly go with us after the El Paso show to attend SXSW. Later, as we boarded our plane, we got a note from Sara saying she could do it, and I'm convinced all our excitement and elation helped our plane take off that morning.

When we arrived at our hotel in El Paso, Eddie was standing in front of it watching for the shuttle to arrive. As we climbed out onto the sidewalk, his face was apparently something to behold. I was too shy to look at him - not really wanting to see his reaction when I got off the shuttle. But Omar recounted the story later, and I do wish I could have seen it for myself.

As I did the walk of shame into the hotel, I thought of what I would say, and the first words out of my mouth (to Eddie, Jeff Matika, and Jason White) were, "I'm not stalking you guys, I promise!" We chatted for a few minutes, and I complimented them on the previous night's show. They were all smiles and seemed very relaxed and happy. As I was turning around to leave, Billie arrived - looking great and well-rested after the previous night's show. I said "Hi", thanked him for the great show, told him I love the new music, and then said, "I feel like I'm back where I belong!" He said, very sincerely, "I do, too!"

Later that day, we were picked up by the ever-dear Sara (think San Antonio in 2009 - pulled up on stage to sing Longview and crowd-surfed right back to her spot on the barrier with Tanya and me). We went out for some wonderful Mexican food and to plan our strategy for show day.

The next day was full of exciting events, so I'll try to condense them into just the most significant:

I worked most of the day from our hotel while Omar and Sara waited in line. I just joined them from time to time to make sure they were doing okay. We were expecting special handling for the Idiot Nation ticket-holders, so not too concerned about keeping a spot, but we also didn't want to take any chances.

Sara made a couple of new friends in line who were using her phone to call their mom. They were brothers, Mauricio and Gerardo (I hope I'm spelling them right). They were 14 and 16 years old, and their mom wasn't sure about letting them go to the show alone. It was their first pit show and their first time to see Green Day. Finally, we assured her we'd keep an eye on them and she left them to it.

At some point during the day, Omar got an email from Idiot Nation telling him that there had been cancellations and he had also won entry to the Austin events! That meant I had a plus one again and Omar also had a plus one. While talking to our new friend Michelle in line, we found out that her daughter, Tori, was going with a friend, but Michelle didn't have entry, so we told her we could hook her up. Much excitement all around!

Dawn arrived from New York and came to join us in line later in the day. We got to go eat while she waited in our temporary spot. After that, we were ready to get the show started!

Tre Cool on his Motorcycle
Members of the band were spotted several times during the day navigating around the neighborhood (Tre primarily on a motorcycle). Sara's nephew, Andres, got his t-shirt signed by Billie and later by Tre. His day was made! Jason Freese also gave autographs to delighted fans.

When we got to go in (first with the Idiot Nation ticket-holders as we had in Tempe), we saw a beautiful venue: a very narrow room and a stage outlined with lights. Sara, Omar, and I found a place at the barrier, stage left, in front of Mike's spot, and Dawn went down to the other end of the barrier where she saw a spot that worked well for her. It was crowded and "pushy" from the start. Sara stood at the barrier, I was behind her, and Omar was behind me (our respective heights make this a good arrangement).

We found out not long before going in that there would be no opening band. None of us was too upset about that! However, when it was about 5 minutes past start time (in a crowd that had been standing up being squished for quite a while), people started to get restless and vocal. One thing that made this experience not the greatest was that the venue wasn't well air-conditioned enough to handle a crowd like this one. Eventually, management came out and announced that the show would be delayed so that all the people could enter the venue and "see the same show that the rest of us got to see."

After some more time passed, the crowd was getting increasingly restless. To my delight, the technicians came out and played several songs for us as Eddie arranged for the security guards to start pouring water in our mouths (and all over our faces). Not long after the techs finished their "set" Green Day took the stage.

I've seen Green Day at Wembley - at the Costa Rica show - at many assorted venues - but the roar of the crowd in El Paso that night completely took me by surprise. How could so few people make that much noise? The band immediately reacted as if they were taken off guard by the level of excitement - but they weren't complaining about it! On the contrary, the entire band pumped up their energy level and put on a show with an intensity that I've rarely seen - even from them.

Haha - Billie started by running over to stage left, where Omar and I were standing and sticking his tongue out at Omar. Sara had found another spot by then where she could see better without being crushed, so I was on the rail by then (I promise, I never crushed her on purpose - you know how it is when there's a whole venue full of people all pushing in the same direction, and this one was intense).

Mauricio and Gerardo had ended up on the barrier beside us, and spent the long wait looking incredibly bored. However, the minute the band ran out, they became insane and sang along with EVERY SINGLE word! There were times when I enjoyed watching them just as much as watching the band.

The crowd was incredibly rough. Even though not one crowd surfer was pulled out over our heads, we got just as beat up (if not more) than the Monday night in Tempe. However, this crowd was rough because they were SO emotionally engaged in the show. They gave it everything they had and inspired the band to reach great heights!

Green Day reacts to Andres' jump
Speaking of heights, during Know Your Enemy, Billie started looking for someone to pull on stage. At some point, his eye fell on Sara's nephew, Andres, who was in the balcony! If you haven't already seen the youtube video of Andres' leap into the crowd below and outstanding performance on stage, you should watch it now. The band was delighted, and the El Paso Times photographer captured a great shot of their reaction when Andres took the plunge! Andres got much respect from fans after the show asking to take photos with him, and he deserved every bit of it.

I'm not sure if it was the crowd that inspired so many departures from the set list, but I was delighted to hear Stray Heart live for the first time, X-Kid live for the first time, Brat live for the second time (as Jen Somniac pointed out, we did hear it in Costa Rica), and several other sweet surprises. Dawn was able to capture a set list, and we were surprised at how many departures we found from what was written there.

At the end of the show, Tre ran over to the area of the stage near where we were standing and bounced his drumsticks off the floor into the Security pit. By much pointing and gesturing, we made sure Mauricio got one of them, and the look on his face will be one of my fondest Green Day memories forever.

My new friend Kevin Martin was at this show, though we didn't meet him till the Austin show. He had this to say after the El Paso show: "The band sounds just as good as they have for the past 25 years if not better." I couldn't agree more! He also said, "...it seemed like Green Day was legitimately surprised and incredibly happy to see El Paso's reaction. That being said the show will likely be regarded as one of the best shows they've played in their entire 25 year career." I have to agree again and remember that, as I left the show, I had no doubt this one ranked in my top two of all the shows I've ever seen.

While the guys were off stage before the encore, Billie's guitar tech walked out and taped a new piece of paper to the floor near Billie's microphone. After we were treated to American Idiot and a wild version of Jesus of Suburbia, we heard the opening strains of Brutal Love. Sigh, faint, melt ... that's all.

Set list

99 Revolutions
Know Your Enemy
Stay the Night
Stray Heart (not on set list)
Stop When the Red Lights Flash
Letterbomb
Oh Love
Holiday
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Hitchin' a Ride (not played)
Brain Stew
St. Jimmy
2000 Light Years Away (not played)
Paper Lanterns (not played)
Brat (not on list)
Disappearing Boy (not on list)
When I Come Around
Basket Case
She
King for a Day
***X-Kid
Minority

American Idiot
Jesus of Suburbia
Brutal Love

Last Minute Thoughts:

Speaking of Brutal Love, Dawn has some interesting thoughts about the song that you can read by clicking here.

The El Paso Times posted a great review by Doug Pullen and a wonderful photo gallery by Mark Lambie.

After reading Billie's Rolling Stone interview, hearing X-Kid in El Paso (a heart-wrenching performance), seeing Broadway Idiot, and hearing X-Kid again in Austin, I have a few words to say about that song. I guess I'll have to write an Austin recap next.

HUGE shout out to Idiot Nation, which has really done a great job making our fan club memberships worthwhile so far. At every small show, the Idiot Nation ticket holders were allowed to enter first. And the Austin events were an exceptional package that we'll never forget!

I'm sure Sara's nephew, Andres, thinks no one else had as exciting an experience as he did that day, but the way I feel about Green Day, every time I get to see them is just as thrilling as the first. Even though this show was, without a doubt, one of the best I've seen, I have special memories from every one of them, and I wouldn't give up one of my awesome Green Day experiences.

Yes, the boys are back, and so are we. And it feels grand!
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