Green Day returns to Bay Area with Oakland show
Before Green Day played the huge arenas, won Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the trio played countless concerts at The Phoenix Theater in Petaluma and performed at two different high schools in Santa Rosa.
As the punk-rock trio gears up to play its largest Bay Area concert of 2017, we caught up with Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt to chat about the band’s time in the North Bay, their newest record and what to expect at the band’s headline concert Saturday in the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum.
The band, also consisting of singer and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and drummer Tré Cool, first formed in 1986 and has since released 12 studio albums. Despite the number of years the band’s been together, Drint said he still feels blessed and grateful they continue to make music together. The trio sees each other regularly. In fact, they’re all neighbors. “We’re in touch with each other every day, or every other day,” Dirnt said in a recent phone interview.
The upcoming concert at The Oracle is part of Green Day’s Revolution Radio summer tour, which hits amphitheaters, stadiums and arenas across the country in support of the band’s Revolution Radio album. “This record was a very natural process,” Dirnt said. “We went in with no distractions. It was just me, Billie and Tré without any outside interruption. We wrote one song at a time and really, that’s the sound we make, when we get focused and we’re all on the same page.”
With the band’s extensive song catalog, it’s hard for the bassist to pick a favorite to play live. “It’s like choosing a favorite kid,” he said. “You can only fit so many songs in 2 hours and 40 minutes.”
Though the tour is in support of Revolution Radio, the band’s 12th studio album, the bassist said cult classics won’t be forgotten. “We love playing them because people go ape-shit with us,” he said.
Dirnt knows fans expect to hear classics such as “Basket Case” and “When I Come Around” when they go see Green Day Live. “This band has to be ready to jump into any of our 150 songs at any given moment, and we’ll do that,” he said.
The band’s set list are determined by the tone of the room and their mood that particular day. “We’re going to reach deep into our catalog for that show, but it’s also about celebrating all the songs that got us into that stadium, too. It’s every one of them from the songs people liked when we were on Lookout! (Bay Area record label Lookout! Records) to the songs that are some of our biggest hits.”
Some of these songs may include a few the band used to play in the North Bay when they were first starting out. Though Green Day formed in the East Bay, the band’s North Bay roots are strong and the bassist remembers his time spent in the North Bay as a teen fondly.
“The North Bay, we’ve always had really cool and interesting shows, and usually after these shows, we’d end up at somebody’s house stoned out of our minds,” Dirnt said. “It was a great place near home that we could play, like a second home.”
While it’s been years since the band graced the stage of The Phoenix Theater, “I have a million fond memories at the Phoenix,” Dirnt said. “A lot of it is a labor of love and people are way passionate about that club.”
The bassist also said he took his daughter to see her first concert at the Phoenix in 2003, long after playing his last show there.
“It was Hillary Duff, my daughter was like 7,” he said. “It was really funny to be standing there with my daughter on a skate ramp at her first show.”
Tom Gaffey, The Phoenix Theater building manager recalls Green Day’s performances as some of his favorite concerts at the venue.
“I don’t think we had a bad one among them,” Gaffey said. “What a band. They had it. Every bill that they were on, a good portion of the crowd was for them. They went from being openers to being headliners in pretty short order and in those days we were selling around 1,000 tickets a show.”
Other memorable North Bay shows include pop-up concerts at Piner High School and Santa Rosa High School booked by Santa Rosa resident and KQED Arts Editor Gabe Meline in the early ’90s.
“If you can call it booking them. I just called them up and asked if they would play at my school and they did it,” said Meline. “What was kind of cool about them back then was that they were willing to play anywhere at all and they didn’t care. I don’t even think we paid them for the Piner High School show.”
Meline noted these pop-up school concerts were pretty low maintenance but special nonetheless. “They didn’t have microphone stands, so my friend, Jody, and I had to hold the microphones with our hands for the first song until somebody ran into the band room and got some,” he said.
With formatives years like these, it makes sense for Dirnt to refer to the North Bay as Green Day’s second home, and to reflect on how the band’s music from that era still lives on and will continue to live on. “I think we know that this is the greatest thing we’re ever going to do with our lives and this legacy of music is going to be here much longer than us, so appreciate it and give it to the world. It’s created a great life for us. That’s really it, you keep that mindset going forward and you just try and create more and more music for the world to have when you’re gone,” Dirnt said.
Though the band played a sold-out show at the 1,400-capacity UC Theatre in Berkeley late last year, Dirnt is excited to play a venue large enough to fit all of the band’s Bay Area fans and see old friends.
“We love having intimate shows but parties come in all sizes, and this is going to be the biggest party Green Day’s ever thrown and I can’t wait,” Dirnt said.