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all words: Ross Bonaime, all photos: Jason Dixson

The last time I was at the Patriot Center was probably one of the worst days of my life.

It was almost three years ago, I sat in a uncomfortable folding chair waiting for my name to be called to accept my diploma at George Mason. It’s not that graduating was bad, it was what it meant to me. Only a few weeks earlier, my girlfriend of almost five years had broken up with me, which had shattered me, and add to the realization that I had a shitty job and almost no money, graduation represented saying goodbye to the great moments of my past and going into a future that was solitary and undefined. As I left Fairfax that day, I swore I would never return.

But then Green Day came to the Patriot Center on Thursday.

Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

I could’ve ignored it, like I had with other bands it had killed me to miss like Gorillaz and Sigur Ros, playing less than a block from where I had lived for years, and had some of the best moments of my life. To me, George Mason meant nothing more to be than experiences that seemed so distant and so inextricably linked with a person that I had loved for so long, that I dared never return. But something in me said it was time. Maybe it was the eleven-year-old in me that bought Nimrod and fervently listened to it over and over, or maybe it was something else that told me I needed to go back and that Green Day was just the excuse I needed. So with a stomach filled with nerves and whiskey, I returned to the Patriot Center for the first time in three years.

Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

I found my seat just as Best Coast had started their first song, “Crazy For You.” Best Coast is sort of the best sort of band to open for Green Day. The first time I saw them, Wavves were opening for them, but it felt like the two bands should have switched positions in the lineup.

Best Coast at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13.  Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Best Coast at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13.  Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

Best Coast’s songs are fast and upbeat, but the band doesn’t have much energy, unlike Wavves and of course Green Day. Best Coast is a perfectly good band live, but you can’t expect them to change the material much from the sound of their albums.

Best Coast at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13.  Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

There’s very little banter as the band goes about knocking out ten songs in what feels like a relatively short set, even for an opener. Seven of these songs come from their debut Crazy For You, such as “Goodbye,” the supposedly Martin-inspired “Our Deal,” and the set’s closer, “Boyfriend.” Only three songs from their set come from The Only Place, but it gives the audience a great taste of what Best Coast is all about, especially since the incredibly diverse crowd is filled with clear Green Day fans.

Best Coast at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13.  Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

My biggest fear of Green Day was that they would mostly be pandering to their younger audience, performing mostly songs from their three albums from last year, and instantly it seemed like this was what was about to come. A pink rabbit came out on the stage drinking as “Blitzkrieg Bop” played trying to pump up the crowd, clearly a weird way to start off. After this, the lights went down and Ennio Morricone’s theme to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly came on as Tre Cool, Mike Dirnt and Bille Joe Armstrong each took their places.

Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

To add to my fears, they started out the set with “99 Revolutions,” from their latest album Tre! As I hadn’t been a huge fan of their Uno!, Dos! and Tre! releases, I was worried how much of the set would be comprised of these albums. In fact, four of the first five songs in their set came from those albums, yet seeing these songs performed live gave a newfound appreciation for them.

Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

Splitting up these songs was “Know Your Enemy,” which Armstrong pulled out a kid from the audience during to come out on stage. The kid was decked out in the black shirt-red tie combo that the band sported during the American Idiot era, and Armstrong let the kid stage dive perfectly timed with the song. It didn’t take long in the set before Armstrong had the audience eating out of his hands. Everything he requested, the crowd succumbed to. It became very clear that Green Day wasn’t just her to put on a concert, they were here to put on A SHOW, one that shouldn’t easily be forgotten, and dammit, if they didn’t do just that.

Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

Sure, there were moments when I worried that Armstrong was on the verge of having another, “WE’RE NOT FUCKING JUSTIN BIEBER” outburst, but never came to that, like when he proclaimed “this isn’t a fucking computer, this is life!,” and threw down his guitar and microphone to just sit on the stage during “Letterbomb.” But Armstrong made it quickly clear this was all for show.

Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

After knocking out several of the new songs and a pair of American Idiot favorites, “Holiday” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” Armstrong proclaimed in “Vintage Green Day Time,” and he meant it, playing tracks like “J.A.R,” which was originally on the Angus soundtrack, showing how old it is, and “Who Wrote Holden Caufield?” from Kerplunk!

Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

Once some older tracks had been played came the first medley from the band. They started out with “Sweet Home Alabama,” changed into “Sweet Home Virginia,” then “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Highway to Hell” before getting into the still phenomenal guitar intro to “Brain Stew.” I found myself wondering if you could already hear “Brain Stew” on classic rock stations alongside the AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses songs they had performed alongside it.

At the end of the medley, Armstrong got a little prop-crazy, spraying several water hoses into the audience, shooting off a toilet paper gun and even a T-shirt cannon, before getting into “St. Jimmy” and “When I Come Around.”

Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

But easily the stand out moment at the show didn’t even come from Green Day. After two verses of “Longview,” Armstrong called out another audience member and bringing them onto the stage. The kid that was chosen looked incredibly young and was asked by Armstrong to sing the song’s third lyric, an interesting choice since it states, “when masturbation’s lost its fun, you’re fucking lonely.” But the little kid grabbed the mic and screamed the third verse like a pro, instantly shocking all of Green Day and everyone in the audience. Armstrong stated that it was “the most memorable moment of my entire life,” then proceeded to give the little kid the guitar he had just been playing to keep. That kid better learn how to play, cause he could definitely be a star one day.

Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

Finishing up the Dookie block with “Basket Case” and “She,” Green Day started “King For a Day,” which then transformed into “Shout,” followed by “Stand By Me,” “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” a sing-along of “Hey Jude,” before transforming back into the end of “Shout,” bringing it a little bit louder now.

The show ended with “Minority,” wherein Armstrong played harmonica against the band’s accordion player. They returned from their encore with “American Idiot,” the entirety of “Jesus of Suburbia,” and the new song “Brutal Love.” With twenty-six songs and an over two hour set, Green Day had something for everyone from almost every generation that was a Green Day fan.

Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

But as I watched Green Day, I realized this was the perfect band to mark my return to the place I had once called home. Green Day throughout their career have focused on the idea of solitude, yet overcoming and finding your place in the world, like in “Minority” and especially “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”

Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

That was exactly how I had felt when I left Mason three years ago, uncertain of where I was heading but pessimistic about it. Now partially thanks to Green Day, as I walked that campus after the show, I was seeing the optimistic side of my past, the importance of that time in my life and that instead of being scared of my past, I should embrace it and keep on going. Sixteen years after buying my first Green Day album, this band was still speaking to me in ways that I would have never expected.

Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

MORE PHOTOS:

Best Coast at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13.  Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Best Coast at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13.  Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Best Coast at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13.  Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Best Coast at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13.  Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Best Coast at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13.  Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Best Coast at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13.  Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.Green Day at the Patriot Center on 4/4/13. Photo by Jason Dixson Photography.

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