Houston Remembers Green Day, Back In the Day

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Photos by Rachelle Mendez and Matthew Juarez
Saturday night, one of the most polarizing bands of the past 20 years rolls into town. Since its 1994 mainstream breakthrough, Dookie, Green Day has been dividing fans and critics alike. Some damned the trio for leaving their punk-rock roots behind at 924 Gilman for the glamour of MTV videos and catered backstages. Others championed them for bringing a youthful sense of humor to the dour grunge-saturated rock scene of mid-'90s.

The success of Dookie of in turning kids everywhere onto punk should not be underestimated. The band's 1994 release brought a new sense of snottiness that was missing in music at the time. Sure, the grunge bands were sarcastic and too cool for school, but even kids as young as eight could get behind the album's nihilistic and reckless noise. It was a fun record that tapped into a youthful energy missing in Alice In Chains and Nirvana; potheads are always going to have more fun than the dudes tying off a vein in the corner. It's also hella cheaper.
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As far Rocks Off could surmise from the people we talked to, Houston's first Green Day sighting came in 1993 on the band's Kerplunk! tour. Local photographer Matthew Juarez remembers seeing them on that tour at Houston's old Emo's location.

"Tre Cool kept trying to persuade me into letting them sleep at my house because they had no place to crash yet" he remembers. It's funny to imagine them looking for a place to stay now, seeing that they are probably occupying an entire swank suite at a hotel near Toyota Center at the moment.

Juarez and his friend Rachelle Mendez also managed to capture a few Emo's shots of the band onstage and off. The pictures show the band young and fresh-faced, with lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong still sporting black dreadlocks. His trademark wide-legged guitar stance seems to have not gone anywhere.

Local vinyl maven and Ray's Franks crew member Aaron Sainz was too young to be going to shows when the band first hit town, but he remembers Dookie for how it changed his worldview and the deep sense of fan interaction the band brought to their Adeline Records label. The band used the label as a clearinghouse for their various side projects along the way, including Armstrong's Pinhead Gunpowder.

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"I mail ordered from Adeline when the Pinhead Gunpowder/Dillinger 4 seven-inch came out. Billie hand packed my order and sent me a mix CD. I was young and really fucking stoked," Sainz recalls.

Sainz continues: "Dookie is the gateway record that got me into a lot of other bands. I really wish I was as naive or sheltered still every time I listen to that record. It kinda opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed."

Local auteur Jacob Calle has a special place in his heart for the bands debut, 39/Smooth. "Green Day is what inspired me to be in a band. I would analyze the lyrics to that record and then rewrite the record in my own words about one particular girl," he says. "She has passed away. I hold that record dearly to that girl."

Something tells Rocks Off it had a bit to do with Smooth's beautiful "Going to Pasalacqua." The band seems to be also including that one the setlist for this round of touring behind 21st Century Breakdown.

As the band got further up the punk rock food chain, Michael Bell remembers the band opening for Bad Religion along with Seaweed. "The next time BR came to town, Green Day were bazillionaires, and Greg Graffin asked, 'Whatever happened to that band that opened last time?' A bunch of people yelled that Green Day sucked, and someone else yelled that Seaweed ruled. Graffin said, "Why, cuz they didn't sell 5 million records?"

When Green Day and Dookie finally got over that hurdle, many people walked away as the singles started popping up on KRBE and MTV was awash in their music videos. It didn't stop Rocks Off from begging his mom to dye his hair blue and buy him a chain wallet though.

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In the summer of 1994, the band hit Houston again on a Lollapalooza tour stop out at the Houston Raceway Park. After that, the band was playing bigger venues like International Ballroom and Verizon Wireless Theatre. Now its natural habitat seems to be Toyota Center.

Later on as the band's production values and artistic stakes grew higher, we found ourselves torn between old snotty Green Day and the mature and socially-aware Bush-bashing band wearing make-up. Our favorite album behind Dookie will forever be 2000's Springsteen-laced Warning.

Try as we might to write them off with each subsequent release, we have to keep remembering that when they started they were just kids like us, and why begrudge them the privilege of growing as artists like we have grown as people over the nearly past two decades?

No matter how we feel, we can still count on Dookie pulling us out of a mental rut. The energy that runs through it is undeniable. It will always remind us of sitting in our best friend Chad's room in Pearland playing Sonic the Hedgehog or some early crappy Super Nintendo version of Madden with the album on infinite repeat. Did we mention we had it on tape?
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