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No Place Like Home - By zruskin - August 2, 2017 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

No Place Like Home

Green Day (Photo by Frank Maddocks)

Green Day is ready to come home.

When the Oakland punk quartet released its latest record, Revolution Radio, the United States was still a month away from the election of President Donald Trump. Led by the explosive lead single “Bang Bang,” the album finds singer-guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, drummer Tre Cool, bassist Mike Dirnt, and new member (and touring guitarist) Jason White angry and ready to do something about it. Now nine months into a tour that has spanned the globe, Dirnt says the band is at the top of its game.

“This tour has been one of the greatest tours we’ve ever had — possibly the best,” he says.

In many ways, it’s not hard to see why the group that broke big with 1994’s Dookie might feel that way. Following the maligned release of Uno, Dos, and Tre — a bold 2012 attempt at a triple album — Armstrong entered rehab following a public meltdown during a performance at the iHeartRadio music festival. Unable to tour behind the records, Green Day entered a period of inactivity, something Dirnt is thrilled to leave in the past.

“I don’t think any band should put out a triple record,” he laughs. “With Uno/Dos/Tre, shit hit the fan. It was just too much to take on at one point, but I never have any regrets. As far as the touring cycle goes, yeah, right now we’re really happy to be on the road. We’re making up for a little lost time when it comes to actually playing shows and being in front of our fans.”

While out on tour, Green Day has also been screening Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk — a documentary the band executive-produced — ahead of select shows.

“I think, for a lot of people, it was a great exclamation point on the earlier half of our life,” Dirnt says of the era captured in the film. “At a time where art is just getting hammered on by our government and not supported anywhere, it’s nice to see that a bunch of kids from nowhere can get together and create art and actually do it in an ethical way that can transform their lives and the world.”

Dirnt confirms that he still loves going out to see small shows when he’s home in the Bay Area. However, he admits he’s a little miffed that Green Day was on tour when Iggy Pop — who narrates Turn It Around — played Burger Boogaloo in Mosswood Park on July 1.

“That’s the kind of ‘ships in the night’ shit that happens to us when we’re on tour,” he says. “I turn around and Iggy Pop is playing a fucking park that I walk every day. Really? Now?”

While Green Day has been traversing the world, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a chance or two to see them around town. Last December, Armstrong, and Dirnt joined SWMRS — a band that features Armstrong’s son, Joey — for a benefit at Oakland’s 1-2-3-4 Go! Records in honor of the victims of the Ghost Ship fire that had occurred weeks earlier.

“Obviously, it was devastating,” Dirnt says about first hearing the news. “I don’t know if I even have words. For me, personally, it always makes you feel good to have some bit of control in an uncontrollable time, even if that means just doing a small thing. That’s one thing that you can kind of focus on and feel a little bit good about.”

While the nature of Dirnt and Armstrong’s appearance with SWMRS was certainly solemn, the band has long enjoyed playing intimate and often secret shows around the Bay Area ahead of their album releases. In October, Green Day played the 1,400-seat UC Theatre in Berkeley, and, in 2009, they held concerts at Oakland’s Fox Theater and Uptown to preview 21st Century Breakdown.

Dirnt says booking small shows is a luxury the band is grateful to have.

“I’ve talked to other big rock stars and they’re like, ‘Yeah, I miss playing small shows,’ and I go, ‘Well why don’t you just go play a small show?’ If we want to play a small club, we’ll play a small club,” he says. “If we want to play a giant venue, we’ll play that. That’s the luxury that we’ve afforded ourselves at this point, and that’s where some of the gratitude comes in — knowing that we can play a tiny club with our fans or we can play Oakland Coliseum.”

Whatever the venue, fans can look forward to a show that won’t be overshadowed by our current president.

For a band that wears political dissent on its sleeve — most notably with 2004’s American Idiot and its criticisms of then-President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq — Dirnt says Green Day is taking a slightly different approach with its current live shows.

“It’s like, there’s the seriousness of what’s going on in the world,” he says, “but we also — when it comes to playing music right now — we just want to get together and be with our fans and celebrate a moment of sanity. We want to go insane together but let our shows be a moment of sanity.”

The band was itself the subject of a rather insane show last year, when local organization Undercover Presents put on a tribute concert in celebration of Dookie. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf declared Feb. 19 to be “Green Day Day,” and the entire affair served as a benefit for 924 Gilman, the DIY venue where the band first got its start.

Dirnt has no doubts about what comes next.

“I guess the band has a birthday now or something,” he says. “It’s weird, because there’s been times you get this massive hype, and you go, ‘OK, what do you do here? What’s next?’ Well, you just play music. It’s not about any particular goals at that point. The goal is music, and the goal is celebrating with our fans. You know, that’s where we’re at right now. We’re about to throw the biggest party Oakland has ever seen in about a week here.”

Green Day
Plays with Catfish & the Bottlemen at Oakland Coliseum on Saturday, Aug. 5 at 7 p.m. $39.50 – $79.50; ticketmaster.com