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Green Day Adopted My Son

Billie_joe_armstrong My kids are crazy about Green Day. Whether it's my 5-year-old daughter doing ballet spins around the living room while sweetly requesting me to wake her up before September ends or my 11-year-old son pumping his fist and urging me to know my enemy, they're sold on Green Day without question. Certified Green Day heads.

And I have a confession to make. I just didn't get it. Their enthusiasm for Green Day made me feel like my Dad.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the Beastie Boys and the way they appeared in my life right when my life needed a soundtrack, something tumultuous and funky. They made my Dad sneer and shake his head. And then twenty-some years later, I scoffed my way right into being my Dad. 21st Century Breakdown? Pfft.

But then I saw them last week. And they killed me. I stood dumfounded in the midst of something much bigger than an obviously great show. It was the vision of my son hearing himself. I watched my son raging into his very own face.

First of all, it was a straight up great show and I'll be back whenever they blow through town. Sure, there were tons of explosions and a bunch of fire shooting all over the place and interesting visual effects - which was all cool and made me want to break shit - but Billie Joe Armstrong impressed the hell out of me in terms of being a great showman and knowing how to work a crowd. I've half-read all kinds of print about Green Day being lyrically relevant and stuff about rock operas or what have you, but I don't really see myself ever getting juiced about their content. However, I like my teeth kicked in and they did not disappoint. Who knew Armstrong had such a rock-n-roll wail? We're all familiar with his studio nyahh nyahh delivery, but during his live show, he consistently let that drop and took the top of my head off with a banshee delivery that rivaled even the best rock yellers.

But beyond the fact that I was at a (to my pleasant surprise) kick ass Green Day show, I was also at my 11-year-old son's first concert.

As I send him off to 6th Grade next week, into that vague middle world between childhood and adulthood, I've watched my son begin to drift away from me and fold into himself. There's a part of me that's prepared for this and a part of me that's utterly terrified, deep, in the bones.

*

Greg_e_pie This is Keith. He looks a little like Billie Joe Armstrong, no? He was the guitar player for a band called Dirt E. Twat in W. Michigan's underground punk scene, a scene that writhes, not without rage and passion, in virtual obscurity in a part of the country where the slightest inkling of individuality finds itself with little to no hope.

Keith held both middle fingers aloft at all times and I admired his joyous defiance. We all find a little pleasure in breaking some of the rules some of the time, but there's absolutely nothing like the ruthless joy in the unabashed laughter of a person who breaks them all. A lot of people pose like they don't give a fuck. But Keith didn't. He shot through this life on his own terms and I admired him. And he admired me too - looked up to me, found some hope in me, I think, that adulthood didn't need to mean that all your fires burnt out. 

One night late in 2004, Keith was late for a gig at Muskegon's notorious Ice Pick (a shout out to the W. Michigan underground. Fuck shit up!). Brandon, the band's drummer, went to his apartment and found his rotting body, dead from a heroin overdose. Dead at 19.

*

I watched my sweet little boy - he plays a well considered game of chess and cried compassionately when our cat died - lose his fucking mind at the Green Day show. I had never seen this side of him. I didn't know it was there. But it was not lost on me that, even though he was at the show with his Dad, he was ecstatically discovering a world that would insist on severing parental ties in an effort to form broader identifications with music, friends, his own world, and his own sense of who he will be (who he is called to be), as opposed to who I expect to him be. He's getting ready to fuck shit up. And that process requires loud rude music with raucous drums and power chords because these are the sounds of kicking into one's self. That middle space between childhood and adulthood is made of yelling, explosions, fire, and it requires a music, a soundtrack, that echoes that unique rage where birth and death meet.

God, I never loved him more.

*

It's difficult to be a man who admires defiance, who knows that the edge is where all the prizes are, but who also has a trail of bodies in his wake of friends who couldn't manage that edge, who fell right off it. It's a tight rope, that walk across the middle. Mind your senses, young man. Take care of my boy, Billie Joe Armstrong.







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Comments

Laurie White

I saw this unfold on Twitter and I'm psyched you wrote about it. I'm a 38 year old woman and that description of your son at his first Green Day show is how I felt inside at mine, last month. It was completely unexpected, came out of nowhere and was apparently so sorely needed, I just had no idea. I still kind of want to fuck shit up. I should maybe have this a little more worked out by now, because I'm not 11, but life does go in cycles.

Your description of Billie Joe live is spot-on. Had no idea that would happen either.

I could go on and on about how much I love this post and hearing about your experience but I'm afraid it already sounds a little self-indulgent so I'll just shut up and say thanks. Again.

DianaCLT

Beautiful. Can't wait for moments like these. We've already taken our young kids (almost 2 1/2 and almost 7) to a few concerts, but obviously, nothing like Green Day yet. Can. Not. Wait!

Sweetney

OH MY GOD Ice Pick!!!!

Like I said the other night, American Idiot changed my mind about them. P-Rock Tommy FTW!

Well done, sir. Well done.

norm

I'm with Sweetney. I got on a message board frequented by a bunch of friends who are a) adults and b) kind of music snobby, and I confessed that I loved American Idiot and haven't heard anything like it since Sandinista. They patted me on the head and said "that's nice," but I think secretly they agreed with me. Good sh*t, maynard.

Alyssa

I heart BHJ. For that awesome piece of writing... but also for making me feel like it's ok that I secretly rock out to Green Day in my car when I'm alone. Phew.

Amanda

Being a mega Green Day fan and a student from Ann Arbor studying in West Michigan (Holland to be precise), this blog made my heart smile. Your boy is in good hands; Billie Joe saved my life.

BaltimoreGal

Genius. Also, yes.

Jennie

What I love about this band so much, is that they've done this (given this kind of experience) to more than one generation of kids. I think that's really something.

Theirs was the first CD I ever spent my own money on, nearly 15 years ago.

Sumo

American Idiot was probably my favorite album from 2004 (to be fair, I don't listen to that many new albums, so I'm not working with a statistically significant sample here). Back to my point: I've heard some people complain about Green Day not being real Punk and I can only agree that, no, they're not the equivalent of 70's punk, they're not The Clash... but they ARE something. They ARE relative. And they know how to put on show.

elfini

You know a post is good when you are left with a knot of conflicting emotions in your gut!
I grew up in a suburb of Detroit (west-side). I dated musicians and spent my youth at the clubs in Hamtramck and downtown. Death, drugs and rock-n-roll are all too familiar.
Now, 20 years later, my 12 year old son plays the bass guitar in the school band and loves it! I am both geeked for him and scared shitless.

Fan

I got into green day when i was around the same age as your son.Billie Joe had a HUGE impact on my life, and im sure my parents have been scared shitless just like i will probably be when my own child really gets into something with all his heart.
This band has done this for a lot of kids, they believe in personal freedom and sang that being different (the minority) can only be wanted. To be fair, i believe they show kids the right way.
Rock on Green day.

Wow

Oh my. Great post. Had me teary throughout.

"Older" Green Day fan here, and my now 4 yo loves them too. I fear that I'm responsible. :-) It could be worse. I hope Billie Joe keeps cranking it out, because much of it is magic and all of it is relevant.

You made my heart break with all the love you wrote. Thank you~

P.S. Great write up in Rolling Stone a few months back, about all of the band and notably, Billie Joe's creative process (obsessiveness) as well as family stuff. You might try to grab it from archives, for your son (and secretly yourself.) Enjoy~

the muskrat

I usually hate the shit you write, but this? This is good stuff. Nostalgia, appreciation of the now, and trepidation about the future...all wrapped into one post about a few hours with your boy.

It makes me look forward to the next several years of watching your little boy and little girl fuck shit up.

Okay, I don't usually hate BHJ. Just when he writes about bleeding.

MrsChaos

Good gawd, I feel like a BHJ stalker today (yeah, sorry about that) but like others that commented, I saw the Tweets about the show and had one of those "yes! I totally get it!" moments.

My 12yo is pissed because I'm not taking her to the concert. Part of me wishes that I would've bought that 3rd ticket for us to go.

But the selfish(?) side of me really just wants to go and, for a couple hours, feel like a punk. Just for the hell of it.

Case

Thank you for writing such a beautiful article about a band closer to my heart than about anything else in the world. You summed up perfectly what a pivotal role music plays when a child is trying to grow up - the soundtrack to your younger years can be, quite honestly, the most important and influential source of figuring out who you are when you have absolutely NO IDEA who you want to become.

The line "Take care of my boy, Billie Joe Armstrong" had me tearing up. Your boy is in good hands, I promise. Out of all the bands your son could've chosen, he (and you!) should feel lucky he chose Green Day.

suzanne

Thankyou so much for this...this article made me cry actually because Green Day and Billie are very special and they have changed my life and made me or open and not afraid to look life in its face...I don't have children because I can't for biological reasons but as an Aunty...I would love to see my nieces and nephews light up with excitement with loving Green Day...its beautiful

xxoo

greendayloveat38

This band kicked my @ss too in ways I never thought imaginable after seeing them last month. I loved seeing your son thru your eyes. I still want to fuk shit up yet at the same time be a responsible mom to a three and four year old. Dont we all want to exist sometimes in that space between childhood and adulthood? I know I do, and Green Day instantly gets me there.

TwoBusy

I have to admit that I didn't start reading this with the expectation that a post about taking an 11yo to a Green Day concert would suddenly send my mind reeling back to Yeats' The Tower and recollections of long-ago friends and crazy times and the way they could both vanish so quickly, in the "death of every brilliant eye that made a catch in the breath"...

Which, I guess, is what I get for having expectations.

Jenna/The Word Cellar

Shit, man. This was awesome.

your worst nightmare

this tugged at my heartstrings... you're child is in very good hands.

[mark]

two thumbs way way up.

i hope i have kids, and i hope i'm still as cool as you when the time you describe comes for them.

like it or not, you're now a role model. well done, sir.




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