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Lowell Punk Scene

Green Day, Living End Rock Tsongas Arena

By Sandra Chung

Staff Writer

Green Day, Living End

Tsongas Arena

June 22, 2001

Tsongas Arena in Lowell strayed from its standard folk and bluegrass shows for a night of moshing, plain and simple. Green Day, with opening act The Living End, rocked Lowell on Friday, June 22.

The Living End turned out to be a very energetic group and fun to watch. The most memorable thing about the performance was the bass player, who used a huge stand-up bass that was about as tall as he was, and stood on top of the thing to play it on a couple occasions. The set only lasted around a half hour, although the only familiar song was their radio hit “Prisoner of Society,” which everyone sang along to.

The group’s basic punk sound is uncannily like Green Day’s. But when they launch into quasi-ska and rockabilly riffs, lead guitarist/vocalist Chris Cheney reminds me of Brian Setzer. And Scott Owens’ stand-up is a classical double bass with an electric pickup on the bridge and an acoustic pickup on the fingerboard. Having played one a few times myself, I know that the strings on those things are fatter than my fingers. The way Owens rips into it (like a massive guitar, Stray Cat style) I wonder how he has any skin left on his fingers at all.

Drummer Travis Dempsey has more than enough of the requisite hyperactive, head bopping skill. The Living End is currently in the process of touring exhaustively to recruit American and Canadian fans. Green Day is probably just the right ticket to ride.

Once Green Day arrived on stage, it became clear that they truly does own the stage. The horrible acoustics of Tsongas Arena are just the right platform for amplified punk rock. Hundreds of adolescent fans and at least three Tech staffers crowded onto the floor in a sweaty, jostling mass of Green Day-worshipping flesh. Hundreds more yelled and soaked up the music from the arena seating.

Billy Joe Armstrong was born to work the crowd. He donned a crown for “King For a Day,” pitted the people on the left against the people to the right, got the people in the seats to resent the people on the floor, and had everyone swear at him in unison. He bellowed “Yankees suck!” to an audience of Red Sox fans. He lead the crowd in “Hey-oh” and “1-2 ... 1-2-3-4” until we were annoyed and sick of counting our fingers, and then he did it some more. He introduced Mike Dirnt and Tre’ Cool and guest musicians on trumpet, trombone, and saxophone.

Then he replaced the members of his band with volunteers pulled out of the audience. The audience musicians were 14 and 16 years old, and they picked up a few simple riffs so they could play all by themselves while Billy Joe sang. Cannons blanketed the crowd with Mylar and tissue paper confetti; band members sprayed us with water and jumped and kicked in the punk kung-fu style.

The set list was a bit of a disappointment. It was a greatest-hits collection: “Castaway,” “Church On Sunday,” “Longview,” “Welcome to Paradise,” “Hitchin’ A Ride,” “Brain Stew,” “2000 Light Years Away,” a cover of Operation Ivy’s “Knowledge,” “Basket Case,” “She,” “King For A Day,” “Waiting,” and “Minority.” But the audience sang along and shoved and yelled anyway, until they finished “Minority” and left the stage.

Something washed over the crowd when Billy Joe returned to the stage to encore alone. Moshing ceased, pogoers stood still. There is nothing quite like Billy Joe singing “Good Riddance” to the strains of a lone guitar. It seemed like the last song, but the rest of the band returned and followed it up with “Warning,” “Platypus,” and “When I Come Around.” The air had been crackling with rabid fan energy since the first strains of “Nice Guys Finish Last,” and remained electric till long after the last notes of “Macy’s Day Parade” ceased echoing in the arena.