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2009 has definitely been a year to remember for Green Day. I knew that when they released their Know Your Enemy single, it could only climb uphill and it sure did. On May 15th, Green Day released 21st Century Breakdown, the follow-up to American Idiot. I had high expectations for this album as their previous album was amazing. Green Day certainly did not let me down with the new album and it can easily be considered their best album. And what always comes with a new album? A tour! It didn't take long for the band to announce that they would be playing Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario on Thursday July 16th, 2009. As soon as I heard about the tour stop, I started freaking. We hadn't even bought any tickets yet but none the less, I started to look forward to my first Green Day concert ever.

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Now we had to worry about our tickets. My dad had learned from somebody that if you join a band's fan club, you will probably have a better opportunity to purchase concert tickets. Dad took the advice and signed us up for the "Idiot Club". Every day, I would log on to check for any ticket sales information. Finally they announced to all Idiot Club members that there would be a presale with some rules. Only 2 tickets could be purchased at a time and all tickets had to be picked up at the venue. None of this mattered to me as all I wanted to do was just see my favourite band. Anyways, about a week before Green Day was due to release the album, the tickets were due to go on sale at 7:00 pm. I woke up that morning thinking about Green Day and only Green Day, but I still had to wait for about 12 hours before I could really say that I would be going to a Green Day concert. Finally just before 7, I ran downstairs and made sure my Dad was logged into the Idiot Club. We kept refreshing the page until the "On Sale at 7:00" turned into "Tickets Available." Somewhere within those 10 minutes, Dad decided to scare the living daylights out of me by yelling, "What!? Hamilton sold out!?" That didn't work for too long though. The clock then read 7 and we started to buy tickets. Our plan was to purchase 2 pairs for me, my sister Carly, my dad and my mom. We couldn't believe that the tickets were just under $60 for such amazing seats. We couldn't pass this amazing opportunity for only 4 tickets so we called my Uncle Kerry up. He said yes to some tickets so we purchased 4 more tickets for him, my Aunt Martha, and my two cousins Alex and Mason. All of the tickets purchased were within 50 to 100 ft. from the stage. It was official; we were going to see Green Day!

For two months, I got myself into a Green Day mood by either constantly cranking Green Day music, or jamming along to any Green Day song that I could play on the guitar. Then it was time for Green Day to start their tour in Seattle on July 3rd. I was really excited to find out what their set list was going to be, and also what type of stunts Green Day would be pulling. Their set list as promised was amazing and it also turned out Green Day did really know how to put on a show. Billie Joe put the spotlight on no less than 6 people, one of them being a guitarist. This guitarist in particular was pulled on stage to play Green Day's famous rock opera, "Jesus of Suburbia." For all 9 minutes of the song, this guitarist nailed it as if he was an actual member of Green Day. As soon as I heard this, I told myself that it was going to be me that would be onstage in Hamilton. A very hard goal to reach, but something that wasn't impossible.

After checking that Green Day kept pulling people on stage to play the guitar for Jesus of Suburbia, I started planning for my moment of stardom. I kept playing the studio and live version of the song on my iPod while jamming to it on my guitar. The song is filled with numerous power chord progressions that had to be memorized and perfected. I also studied other videos from previous concerts of guitarists for Jesus of Suburbia. I mainly looked at when to play and when not to play. I checked when Green Day would be playing the song. It was always the second song of the encore right after American Idiot. Finally, I reviewed the lyrics of the song because I knew that Billie Joe would be shoving the microphone into my face to sing a few lines for him. This would surely prepare me to be onstage alongside my favourite band.

The next part of my plan was to figure out a way to get the attention of the band. My first thought was to create a sign, but what would I put on it? I remembered that I had watched a video of a U2 concert. A guy had made a sign saying "Me + Piano = Yahweh." He ended up being pulled out of the audience to play with U2, so I thought, "Why wouldn't it work for me?" So the night before the concert, I begged the artist of the family, my mom, to help me with a sign. She always enjoys taking on a little art project so we got out the markers and Bristol board. I told her "ME+ GUITAR = JESUS OF SUBURBIA" and soon she had a whole plan of how it would look. In big letters she wrote the message and even drew Billie Joe's guitar on the poster. The front of the poster looked amazing but there was still a whole backside that could have a message. So after a bit of talking we had the saying, "AND ... I'M F*!*ING AWESOME TOO!" Not too explicit, but something that the band could definitely handle. Now all I had to do was go to the concert and pray to God that the band would notice me.

On the Wednesday before the concert, I made sure that the video camera had all of its memory available and I also made sure that the 2 batteries were fully charged. I wanted to capture a lot of the songs on video, and just in case I got lucky, we would have my moment recorded. My cousins arrived from Bellville the next day at lunchtime. They also brought along my cousin Olivia. She was going to be watching the concert from a box with her boyfriend Nick. Nick's friend's father is the CEO of Copps, which is why they were given the chance to watch the concert from a suite. We headed down into the music room where we jammed to a crazy amount of Green Day tunes. We then left the house at 4:30 for Hamilton for what would be the best night of my life.

On the trip, we took our 2 cars; the girls in one, the guys in another. We cranked Green Day music on the way to the venue. Mason also succeeded in taking a picture of his nipple and making it the background on our cell phone. Traffic hit us right before our arrival, but we eventually pulled into a parking lot just a couple blocks from Copps. Kerry and Dad went to the venue to pick up the tickets while the rest went to find a restaurant for dinner. When we arrived at the restaurant, Martha got a call saying that Alex and I needed to head back to the venue to hand over some tickets to Kerry. He needed to sell them, which meant another long walk for us. We met up with my uncle and he was able to sell the pair of tickets for $60 each. Then Dad came outside from a long ticket line up (Another family saved his spot) and filled us in. Apparently, once you had your tickets, you were in the venue. It made sense because it meant that ticket scalpers wouldn't be able to scam fans. But that also meant our dinner plans would have to be downsized to eating some pizza in the venue. We called up everyone back at the restaurant and told them to head down to the venue. Dad, Alex and I went in line while Kerry waited for the rest of the crew to catch up with us. Dad wasn't kidding about a long line either. We walked for a few minutes before we got our spots back. Then we had to wait. We passed the time by using radio code to comment on other people. "Hotel Alpha, 9 o'clock!" Finally the line started moving and we were on our way into the venue!

Slowly, we picked up the rest of our gang and made our way through security. The security that patted me down asked me right away what my sign said. My first thought was that he was going to take it away, but he just wanted to make sure that it wasn't something the band could take offense too. It was probably a smart choice to not tell him what was on the back. My night would have been ruined if he decided to take the sign. We then went to pick up our tickets. That was a bit annoying as the security guard monitoring that area was a pain in the ass. "Move over this way please. Now move over some more. Some more room please!" That didn't last long, and finally we made it inside the venue. It was great getting in earlier in a smaller line, compared to the other 16,000 that were trying to get in through the front doors. My first look at the stage was incredible. Even at the far end of the venue, it looked as if everyone would have a good seat. The first we did was Carly and I bought our t-shirts, but only after Dad and Kerry had made their first beer stop of the night. My t-shirt has a full portrait of the band with the words "Green Day, 21st Century Breakdown." On the back, there is a girl spray-painting as well as the words, "Green Day Hamilton, ON July 16, 2009." It was funny changing into my new shirt because I did it right out in the open. So here's Alex and Mason guarding me like I'm the Prime Minister saying, "There's nothing to see here." Of course, as soon as my old American Idiot shirt comes off, it goes right onto Mason. It didn't stay on long though because Mason and Alex ended up buying some t-shirts too. Finally, it was dinnertime! We grabbed a slice of pizza for everyone and some drinks. After we did some searching to find Olivia's box, we went to the bathroom, grabbed our tickets and went to our seats.

The seating arrangement ended up like this: Alex and me, Carly and Mason, Mom and Martha, and Dad and Kerry. Alex and I ended up beside the aisle leading right to the stage from Mike Dirnt's side. Hopefully this would be the seat where Billie Joe would notice me. As we waited for The Bravery to take the stage, Alex and I discussed my plan of how I was going to get noticed by the band. I told him that after they finished playing American Idiot, I was going to grab the sign and head out into the aisle. Then I would wave my sign in the air and yell as hard as I possibly could and pray that they would notice me. I also took the time to show Alex how to work the camera so he wouldn't be fumbling around if I did get lucky. Then at around 8 o'clock, the opening band took the stage. These guys were a huge disappointment as the lead singer really moaned the lyrics instead of singing them. The best part of their performance is when Tre Cool lit of some fireworks to scare everybody in the audience. They finally left which meant Green Day would soon be on.

The first sign of Green Day's arrival was what appeared to be a very drunk man inside a bunny costume. He got the audience going by dancing to some Michael Jackson (he is dead you know) and downing some beers like it was his last time he would ever drink. He then left the stage and the music volume doubled. The lights went out and Song of the Century started to play. Finally, the opening chords to 21st Century Breakdown came blasting through the speakers and the band members ran out. Billie Joe did not fail to grab the audience's attention. He's a little guy with a non-stop supply of energy. The band played the first 10 songs with hits from their last 2 albums. During this time, Billie Joe had already pulled at least 3 people from the crowd. Then old-school Green Day took the stage. This part of the show featured even more audience members, some good and some not so good. Either way, Billie Joe was making some dreams come true. Green Day then finished off the set with 21 Guns and American Eulogy, which is where my Green Day story begins.

During American Eulogy, Mike Dirnt walked over to our side of the stage and was pretty much looking right at Alex and I. Up goes the sign and Mike gets a really good look at it. The band left the stage after that song and then came out for American Idiot. During Billie's solo, he came over to our side of the stage too. Again, he looks directly at us, so up goes the sign and Billie gets a good look too. I kind of got that feeling that something was going to happen so I emptied my pockets and gave all of my stuff to Alex, just so I wouldn't be lugging around all my crap onstage. Then at the end of American Idiot, I gave the camera over to my cousin, grabbed the sign and went straight out to the aisle. Billie started to please the crowd with some more dialogue. Something about how the band could play all night long. Then he looked directly at me and pointed.

Billie: You + Guitar = Jesus of Suburbia. Is that what you are saying?
Billie: Can you really play?
Billie: Yeah?
Billie: Swear to God?
Billie: Alright. Get your ass up here kid. Let's go.

Although it seems like a very odd conversation, this is one of the best conversations I have ever had in my life. When Billie Joe pointed over in my direction, I couldn't believe that this was happening to me. I really wanted to get up on that stage and I was lucky enough to be the one that Billie Joe picked. I still really would like to see the look on my family's faces when they heard the front man of Green Day reading out my sign to a crowd of 17,000 people, and better yet, see the look on their faces when he told me to get on stage. So I proceeded down the stairs receiving numerous high fives from people. Then I made it to security where they threw me up. I walked by Mike Dirnt who gave me a "Welcome to the stage" kind of nod and then over to Billie Joe. In my mind, I was freaking out. This was way better then waking up on Christmas morning.

The first thing Billie asked me was if I had ever done something like this before. I think this is because he wants to give everybody a chance at performing with Green Day, which is great on his part. So I told him that I hadn't. He then asked me my name so I screamed, "My name is Sam" into the microphone. That was my first experience at having 17,000 people yell back at me. I also had the experience of 17,000 people boo back at me, but it's understandable. Billie asked me where I was from so I said "From Toronto." Apparently there is a small rivalry between Hamilton and Toronto. Anyways, Billie then put his black Gibson Les Paul Junior on me and handed over the guitar pic that he probably had used for American Idiot. I was surprised at how different his guitar was from mine seeing that we both play a Gibson Les Paul. I prefer mine, but at that moment, I didn't really care. Here is the next part of our conversation.

Billie: You sure you know what you're doing? Me: Yes
Billie: Okay, first you might want to turn the volume up.
(I reached down and turned it right up.)
Billie: There you go. Okay now listen to Tre. Watch Tre. Watch Tre. Ready? This song's called Jesus of Suburbia.

When I turned around to watch Tre, he didn't disappoint me. He gave me a really funny look that only Tre Cool could do. He then counted me into the song with 4 drumstick counts. I was now playing with Green Day! Throughout my time up on stage with Green Day, I wasn't nervous at all. I was just way too excited to even think about anything else. It was awesome to look at 17,000 people just screaming back at the stage. Within the first minute, Billie had his arm around me as he belted out the lyrics to the song. Billie then walked me out on the little stage that went out into the crowd and got me to sing, "This is how I'm supposed to be." He left the walkout and left me to play by myself in the middle of everyone. How friggen awesome is that? After a little bit, I went back to the main stage where Billie met me so I could sing "In a land of make believe." I was then on my own for a while. This gave me a chance to really search the audience to find the rest of my family. I caught a glimpse of everyone and they were going crazy. I guess it's not every day that you get to see your son/brother/nephew/cousin performing with Green Day. A short walk over to Mike let our camera get a really good shot of me. Billie pulled a girl up on stage for about a minute, but she sure didn't steal my spotlight. Then the song went into just a bass line and I thought for sure that Billie was going to take back the guitar as this is where he had for the previous guitarists. Instead he walked by and gave me the thumbs up. He then gave a quick glance to Tre to let him know it was time to start and counted me back in. His arm then went back around me and he walked me a head a little bit. His hand then ended up on top of my head, probably the coolest thing that happened. My time was up though. After running back to his mic stand and putting the mic on it, he turned to me grabbed his guitar and just left me standing there. After introducing Mike Dirnt for his bass solo, he turned back at me and waved goodbye. Billie then got back into the moment and yelled out to Hamilton, "Give it up for Sam!" For 7 minutes, I was able to play with my favourite band. It just doesn't get any better than that.

I realized that what makes Green Day amazing is that they put on a concert to please their fans, not just to play the music. They know how to put on a show that the fans will never forget. There was one point where Billie Joe walked ran by to get to the other side of the stage. He had a look of exhaustion on his face but it wasn't a bad one. It was like watching a hockey team play their final period before winning the Stanley Cup. The sweat he had was something else too. Billie Joe is also a very small guy, but his other band member Mike makes up for it. The vest he always wears really shows the pipes he has. I was also very pleased with the eye contact that I was able to make with the band members. It felt like them trying to say, "Awesome job kid." One other detail which is pretty cool is I was able to see the set list on the stage. It'd be pretty sweet to come home with the set list that Green Day was looking at all night. Experiencing the sound from the stage was crazy too. From what I could tell, Green Day does not use any in-ear monitors so I had the real deal. I had no problem hearing myself or the other band members and there was an even balance with the music and the audience. What also made this whole situation cool is I was pulled up for the 3rd last song of the concert during the encore. I also held the guitar pic tight for the rest of the night until I was able to safely leave it on my desk at home. And let me tell you this, having Billie Joe put his arm around you while you're playing with your favourite band is just a feeling you can't describe.

After the security guards helped me off the stage, I made my way back up to my seat. Everyone that I walked by gave me some form of appreciation for the awesome job that I had just done. My main worry at this point was looking like an idiot and not being able to find Alex. That turned out to not be a problem though as the man beside me had gotten right out of his seat to let me in, as if to say, "Welcome back, how was your trip Mr. Phillips?" Alex gave me huge props when I finally got to him and we stood there still trying to process what had just happened. A funny moment throughout the entire concert was watching this couple in front of us. The boyfriend obviously was high and I'm surprised he even knew where he was. Anyways, they were all lovey-dovey at one point and the next they were fighting. After I had returned to my seat, they had made-up and the boyfriend turns around to me and keeps telling me that it was totally staged. Well I got some news for you buddy, it definitely wasn't. The rest of the concert was somewhat of a blur for me. Luckily I filmed the last two songs so I was able to watch them again. During Minority, Billie gave a huge thank you to everybody in the crowd, and I responded with an even bigger thank you. And finally, there couldn't have been a better way for Billie Joe to end the concert with an acoustic version of Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).

The house lights came on and we headed back out to meet up with the rest of the family. I continued to get high-fives and shout-outs as we ploughed through the crowd of people. We first found Mom and Martha with Carly and Mason. They were going crazy. They still couldn't believe what had happened. We then made our way to find the Dads who were also flipping out. I can't remember a time where my Dad had been more happy then he was at that moment. We finally then met up with Olivia who came back with a present for me. When I had gotten on the stage, she told everybody I was her cousin, so the CEO gave her a special Hamilton Bull Dogs jersey with "Green Day 09" on the back. That made the night that much better for me. After talking with 2 kids who thought I was God and were almost going to ask me for my autograph, we left the venue. The ride back was still spent trying to take in everything that happened. I was also able to really tell the details of everything to the others. We then finally made it home.

After everyone relieved their throats with a glass of water, we busted out the cameras. Olivia had some amazing pictures and we had an awesome yet funny video. After looking through the pictures, we played the video on the TV. Throughout the entire 7 minutes, all you here is Alex yelling, "YEAH! GO SAMMY BOY!" My guess is that everybody else had that same kind of reaction. Apparently the girls looked like idiots because they were screaming when Billie started reading my sign. They were able to tell the people standing around them though that I was either their son or nephew. The boys on the other hand ended up being a little calmer. Dad told everyone right away that it was his son on stage, and Kerry got the Blackberry out to let the other family know what was happening. I didn't get much sleep that night, but was it ever worth the lack of sleep.

The next morning I woke up to reviews in the Toronto Sun, emails from people who had attended the concert, and a very happy family. There was one person who sent an email to the radio station Y108 in Hamilton (DJs Ben and Kerry) telling them how awesome I was. She also mentioned how much that this whole thing seemed to be staged. After setting up a Youtube page and getting the message out through MSN and Facebook, a lot of people started to think the same thing too. That's how good I am! It definitely wasn't a staged event. I did make it happen though. With all of my preparations, Billie Joe wouldn't have noticed me and probably would have picked another lucky fan. I also continue to get shout outs from random people that were at the concert that comment on how good I was. Around 8 other videos have turned up on Youtube and Green Day even posted a picture of Billie with his hand on my head on their official website. This will definitely be a highlight in my life that I will never forget. They say that everyone at one point has their 15 minutes of fame. I couldn't have picked a better way for my 15 minutes. Green Day has definitely succeeded in giving someone the time of his life.

Visit Sam's YouTube Page for videos from the concert.
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