Living with my father was no picnic. He was strict, stubborn and had an alcohol problem that would have made Bukowski call him a “drinking buddy”. That’s why it was so strange that he would, out of nowhere, want to take me to see Green Day play a free concert at the Hatch Shell.
Let’s start with who i was the morning i woke up in Watertown, Massachusetts on September 9, 1994. I was basically a clean slate. A blank canvas. A 13 year old lump of shit waiting to be molded into…whatever. i followed no fashion trends. Just whatever was on sale at Marshall’s. I had a regular haircut. perhaps even a bowl cut. The music i liked was safe for the most part. Some grunge and some punk but i didn’t really know anything about sub-cultures or genres. i just liked what i liked. perhaps my dad noticed that i had a flare for the more agro, upbeat music sound.
It was the second day of the school year. Eighth grade. What a bummer. i walked the halls with no friends, no social skills and no unique qualities. It was boring and lonely but i have a recollection of being oddly content and happygolucky which makes no sense at all. I had heard rumor of this concert happening but there were several reasons for me to just forget about going to it:
1. i was a 13 year old loser with no friends to go with.
2.i wasn’t that familiar with the band (had seen and liked their videos and watched the mudfight at Woodstock and thought it was cool) but that was about it.
3.my dad would NEVER let me go.
So i went about my day and went home right after school because that was my only option. Plus, Animaniacs was on and i liked that show a lot. And right as i walk in the door, i see him. and he looks stern. poised. almost concerned. and he asks me if I “would like to go to the free punk show at the Esplanade”. i was confused. weary. like i was being set up for a lecture about being a decent person and why can’t we all be more like Emerson and Thoreau…But i said yes. with total jubilation, i said yes.
We sprung into action. It was almost 4 pm already and we needed to hurry if we wanted to get parking, grab some food and secure a good spot on the grass. We got in his shitbox 1982 Toyota Tercel and made our way into the city. While on Storrow Drive, he explained to me the whole punk rock movement. 1977. The Clash. The Pistols. The Ramones. What a mosh pit was and how to react when in one. I wish i could feel that kind of wonderment again. that glazed feeling of not knowing what is around that corner but being ready and excited to embrace whatever it is with no hesitation.
We got the parking ok and grabbed a hot dog with no issues and made our way to the stage. Now, here is where i should mention that WFNX, who was sponsoring this event, only expected about 5,000 people to come out to see Green Day when they booked it earlier in the year. But Dookie had a breakout with the “Basket Case” single over the summer. there was closer to 50,000 drunk and high college students parading the area, looking to get their rocks off in grand fashion. i had never seen anything like it before. i don’t think my dad had either but he calmly found us a spot pretty close up. The opening band, The Meices, were playing but nobody really cared. All these people were here to see Green Day.
All i could do was notice the older kids. i had never seen punks before, really. i have memories of seeing mohawked men in Harvard Square but never put a label on them. It was different this time. these people belonged to something. They dressed crazy. had blue hair. chain wallets. dirty shoes. smoked cigarettes and had huge bongs pumping marijuana smoke into my space and i felt a little something. not just the THC, but thrill that something was going to happen. and then…it happened.
Green Day came on. Once Billie Joe’s pick touched his Fender Strat, that bomb went off. and that void inside my soul was filled to the top before the second chord could even be strummed. i got thrown around like a rag doll. i pogoed. i screamed. i yelled. i was changed in an instant. i was a punk rocker now. it was that easy.
The set was famously short. 6.5 songs. In the middle of F.O.D. the stage barriers were down and the crowd rushed the stage. The band was disappeared. and just as quick as i saw my first punk show, i saw my first riot. my father, being my father, grabbed me and whisked me out of danger’s way with a huge smile on his face. he had been rejuvenated. he thought it was just as cool as i did. as we tried to make our way to the car we were engulfed in a sea of apathetic teenagers blocking traffic and jumping on cars. for what ever reason, my dad let me jump on the hood of a car for a little bit. i screamed some more. it must be what Christians feel when they feel whatever it is they feel. or like what Bruce Banner felt the first time he became The Hulk. i was changed. i was reborn. and i was ready to start living my life for real.
i’m not sure if he knew that taking me to that concert would have the impact that it had. but i DO know that he fully supported me when i changed everything about myself. i got new (old, dirty) clothes. cut and died my hair. i also started doing better in school and had found like minded people to be my friends who are still my best friends to this day. He past away only four years later, but i bet he would be happy to see how much of an impact that night had on me. The concert, itself, had nothing to do with it. Green Day played badly that night. there was only 6 whole songs. i hardly saw any of it because i was a little kid and not tall enough. but if my dad had not taken me, i don’t know, nor would i want to know, the person i would have ended up as. maybe i would have become a punk as a destiny? but maybe not. maybe not.