In this First Concert Ever segment, Dave Munro, of the indie pop band, Air Traffic Controller, talks about the story of his first experience with live music. You can check out the story, after the break.
Green Day at the Hatch Shell in Boston was my first concert and one of the most thrilling yet terrifying experiences of my youth. I was in high school, working at Stop & Shop, fetching shopping carts, better known as carriages in MA when I first saw this fluorescent green flyer on the wall, I bet I still have it. It said WFNX Welcome Back Weekend with GREEN DAY – FREE show at the Hatch Shell Memorial. Although they were a “punk” band, almost everyone I knew liked them, I mean, what teenager wouldn’t identify with songs about boredom and masturbation, or an album title that means poop?
Green Day was blowing up on the radio and MTV, and this free show sounded way too good to pass up, I had to go. My stepbrother Ricky and our buddy Josh took the T into Boston. For Ricky and me, this was one of the first times we actually told our parents we were going somewhere, rather than asking. Two girls from our class, Jackie and Jessica, tagged along, ok they were popular and very attractive, and we were average and slightly grungy, so I was actually psyched they came with us. We were all pumped to just be doing something new, and had no idea how historic and infamous this night would become. (see Green Day Riot of 1994)
We approached a massive crowd during the opening act, The Meices, I can’t remember what they sounded like at all. By the time Green Day took the stage we had been weaving in and out of people for a while but hadn’t gotten that much closer. You could feel this weird energy in the air, like when you know a storm is coming. Green Day was amazing, I was surprised how loud and full these three guys sounded, just like the record, which I always appreciate.
We saw things we’d never seen before, a group of people holding the edges of a blanket with a girl in it, they pulled the blanket tight like a trampoline, launching her like 20 feet into the air. What if she missed the blanket on her way back down? It was a scary thing to watch, it’s not like they were professionals, these were idiot kids like us. Jessica brought her own blanket folded up in her arms, I remember someone saying, “you might want to hang on to that…” And that’s about the last we saw of Jackie and Jessica because Rick, Josh, and I found a way to get closer to Green Day – crowd surfing. Again, first concert, but we learned quickly how this works, and it’s not quite as graceful as it looks on MTV. You surrender yourself, letting hundreds of people toss you around like a hot potato. I remember wanting to let people know I was coming and try not to hurt anyone I was surfing over, I was afraid they’d drop me and I’d get trampled, but everyone was cool. It was like I was a beachball in the stands at Fenway, people seemed psyched when I came bouncing by. It wasn’t long before the crowd turned rowdy, Green Day was really just getting started, and the show got more and more chaotic by the minute.
I wasn’t that much closer to the stage when my crowd surf ended, because no one gets carried over the mosh pit. I landed on my feet and was now standing in a huge circle where dudes were just slamming into each other, arms whipping around, fists clenched. It was frightening, to be honest, but I wanted to be a part of it and be able to say – I moshed. I was a skinny kid, someone could have easily broken me in there, but I went for it, running from one side to the other, using a mix of dance and football moves. I bumped into a few guys without getting hurt, and found my friends at the edge of the circle, trying out the pit as well.
The energy shifted from kinda scary to complete hysteria as people began throwing clumps of grass and dirt, as well as glass bottles, courtesy of the event sponsor, Snapple. The band played for about 20 min before singer Billie Joe ripped up a bunch of flowers and threw them into the crowd, fueling the fire. The music ended mid-song as if someone literally pulled the plug from the stage. You could hear the hosts from WFNX trying to calm the situation, but I don’t think they even had a microphone, maybe it was just a bullhorn, they weren’t getting anywhere. The barriers were knocked over, cops were flowing in on foot and telling everyone to leave. We didn’t know which way to walk, I was kind of wandering around when Josh pulled me back by the shoulder because a state police cruiser nearly drove into us. We knew we had to get out of there as fights were erupting and police were trying to steer everyone out. Good thing we got out when we did because the Globe headlines the next morning said police made 50 arrests, and about 50 others were injured in the “Riot”. I think there were an estimated 65,000 in attendance, far more than the city expected.
This was the beginning of our concert heyday and set things in motion for us to seek out more shows. On the train ride home I pulled out the green Welcome Back Weekend flyer and said – anyone want to go see Juliana Hatfield tomorrow? We later saw REM, Bad Religion, Cracker, Red Hot Chili Peppers… some of the best shows happened in my high school years. It’s funny because later in life, concerts became so much more produced, enhanced, and expensive, but nothing hangs in my memory quite like this one, and it was only 20 minutes long.