On a hot Sunday afternoon, May 25th, the day before Memorial Day (or for you non-Americans, a day we celebrate our veterans with overeating and alcoholic binges), I stood in line in a giant parking lot to see a little-known band called the Foxboro Hot Tubs. This fledgling band had a minor radio hit, “Mother Mary,” a ’60s-tinged retro-rock homage, but had little else to show for them.
So why would I endure 4 hours to see a potential one-semihit-wonder? Why would I risk sunburn and annoyance to enjoy this fly-by-night group, breezing through town?
Here are three clues:
Because Foxboro Hot Tubs was really the secret side project of my favorite band, Green Day.
I would endure anything short of being roommates with Carlos Mencia to see them, the group that opened my eyes to the wonders of rock and roll. And damn it, I endured some shit.
I wasn’t even sure if I would even see Foxboro earlier that day, wondering whether to use the gas to trek 25 miles into downtown Phoenix on what was a risky venture. The band announced the week prior that you could only get tickets the day of the concert at the venue. But knowing that I would be kicking myself if I stayed at home watching TV, I got my ass down there.
As I parked and approached the Brick House venue, I realized that I wasn’t the only one that knew about this little-publicized concert. More than 300 people wrapped around the building and outer fencing — many with coolers, umbrellas and food. I found the back of the line, wondering if I would be let in due to the crowd already there. The security guard said I was number 308 out of a potential 500. Score!
With my spot secure, I began what would be a 4-hour wait of pain and painful people watching. If pain is realizing that fandom can approach scary levels, I was having an appendix attack. In front of me were about half-a-dozen teenagers that were obsessed with Green Day. One emo-looking kid with a guitar poorly stumbled through their hits, with socially-inept onlookers singing along. (One in particular, looking at the ground and mumbling, never failed to criticize the singer.) A young couple, clearly having their first relationship, were tied at the hip; one, who you could mistake for a hairy Filipino girl, clutched tightly to his cute girl, clearly knowing that his grip on her and the relationship was as tight as one’s bowels after a Taco Bell “4th Meal.” I actually felt sorry for his girlfriend.
I also had fun talking to a middle-aged woman, a somewhat crazy fan of Green Day, and one of those types with the friend-of-a-friend that knows the band through a friend of a friend. Between that, I listened to a rambling lunatic woman in front of me; I thought she had one of those assholish Bluetooth headsets, but she was indeed headset-less. In between swearing fits and drunken-like ramblings, she busted out gems — after listening to the awkward kids — like, “If that was my grandkid, I’d shoot them.” I love her.
After the 4 hours, the line finally began to move. And the lunatic woman became even more entertaining. In the proceeding 15 minutes, she: ditched her backpack; faked that she would toss herself over a bridge to be smashed by oncoming cars; duct-taped a piece of cardboard around her body several times; and rambled incoherently to herself and anyone that was listening. She was awesome. My main concern, was a cute punk-looking girl nearby: a tough-but-vulnerable looking hottie with long, curly black hair and several tattoos. As the line was being separated into an under-21 grouping and over-21 line, I wanted to see where she would end up. As I approached the ticket booth, she got her ticket and made her way to the under-21 line that I feared. (Ah well.) Meanwhile, the lunatic woman was facing grief from security, as they were concerned that she was a maniac — with good reason.
Buying my ticket and entering the venue, I knew that I would be witnessing something interesting. I slowly made my way near the front of the stage. The opening band, a horrible punk-girl group called Girls with Guns, was more than an hour late, with the lead singer drunkenly slobbering her way through the songs. Her surrounding members were better and more sober, but that wasn’t saying much.
Another overly-long wait, and the Foxboro Hot Tubs took the stage under cloaked lighting. And as they revealed themselves to be the members of Green Day — with several others — the crowd went NUTS. Launching immediately into the title track, “Stop, Drop and Roll!!!” the audience erupted like a volcano: kids crowd-surfed up to the stage and joined the band, hugging them and dancing; a mosh-pit opened up, with several sexually-confused teenagers taking out their aggressions on each other; a kindergarten-aged kid was passed up to the stage, with Reverend Strychnine Twitch (aka Billie Joe Armstrong) holding and protecting the kid while playing, whispering a long message to him before passing him back; and everyone jumped up and down and sang along. Several times, I nearly fell over or got hit, protecting myself and others against careless damage. And when Reverend Twitch crowd-surfed into the pit of adoring fans, people crammed up to be near him and touch him. I was unabashedly one of the many.
I’m in the red circles!
And when Reverend Twitch reached out to the audience, I was one of many that reached for the hand of the rock preacher. While he sang to the crowd, he grabbed onto my hand and clutched it for several seconds. I then let go and gave him a “brotha-shake” finish. Being able to reach out like that to one of the men that awakened me to a musical passion I will always carry? Well worth the time I spent in line to see them. It was one of my favorite moments of all time.
Foxboro plowed through their album, as well as a cover by The Network (another secret Green Day new-wave band) and a Green Day “cover” of “Blood, Sex and Booze.” After they returned for an encore, the crowd became even more crazed. Even the kindergarten kid was flashing the “horns.” When the ban announced the last song of the night, the audience took that as an invitation to go nuclear. Much of the front rushed the stage to get up there with the band. I felt myself gravitating to the front of the stage, unsure of how I got there, whether to get on the stage to safety or get out of the way, I chose to get on the stage. As the realization hit me that I was facing the crowd while the band — and more than 30 fans were behind me — I yelled and flashed the peace sign. It wasn’t one of my prouder moments, and being pushed over and being pinned against an amplifier by several hundred pounds was not much fun either. The band finished the song and with a few “Good night!” calls and quickly left the stage. With security yelling for people to get off the stage — and murmurs that the band wasn’t happy with the events — I got my ass off ASAP.
Leaving the concert and walking to my car, I knew that I witnessed something special: my favorite band in a venue small enough to choke lesser groups; making a connection with the lead singer of my favorite band, and sharing the stage with them is something I will never forget. And even if I felt embarrassed doing so at times, it was worth EVERYTHING to have that chance. All of the emotion and passion that cultivated my love of music was realized that night, and the colorful characters and agony in the process added extra spice to the story that I’m sure I will tell for years to come.