Green Day may not be the biggest headliner of them all on this year’s festival calendar, or even on British Summer Time Festival’s gargantuan bill, but they are definitely the most important. Father and son tag-team Steve and Josh Jenner explain why, from two very different perspectives…
Josh Jenner, age 13:
23rd August 2013 was one of the most important days of my life so far, the day my dad took me to see Green Day play Reading Festival. I was blown away by the power of songs like ‘Burnout’ and the raw emotion of numbers like ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’, which remains one of my favourite songs to this day, and probably always will; in fact, I am listening to it as I write this.
Everybody has a passion in life and mine is music; specifically the electric guitar. I am more than proud to call Billie-Joe Armstrong one of my biggest inspirations. I don’t know where the guitar will take me, if anywhere: but no matter how far I go, I will always have him to thank.
Green Day’s songs can be an outpouring of emotion, such as ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’, which they convert into masterpieces. They can also be an exciting bag of quickfire power chords, as on ‘St. Jimmy’. Fundamentally, we can all connect with them. Their older songs relate more to the lives of young people (as they were when they wrote them), such as ‘Basket Case’, and some newer ones, such as ‘Viva La Gloria’, carry positive messages that we can take all the way through our lives. For those who aren’t kids anymore, their songs provide an irreplaceable nostalgia that I don’t believe any other bands can truly match.
Having turned 13 recently, I have entered the world of teenagers, and this is when anxiety tends to creep into most people’s lives. With no jobs or kids to worry about yet, this tends to be more social in its nature. Green Day have a knack for connecting with these powerful feelings and emotions, which inspires songs like ‘Stay The Night’. That one, and others like ‘Chump’ focus on literal aspects of life while others, like ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ are more abstract.
At the same time, the new chances that arrive at my stage of life are exhilarating. Songs like ‘Waiting’ are about the excitement that we all hold as these new opportunities begin to open up to us. Green Day also teach people to stand up for themselves and their beliefs, which inspires songs like ’99 Revolutions’ and ‘Revolution Radio’. These messages are increasingly important in the world we live in, full of terrorism and political instability. I suppose that in words it is difficult to convey how they connect with the audience in a convincing way, but if you listen to it and put yourself in the shoes of somebody like me, you will understand just how much Green Day can mean to a person.
Hopefully it is clear now that Green Day are more than a musical interest. I am delighted to say, without regret, that I idolise that band and what they have to say. My love for them will continue throughout my life, and I have never been more sure about anything than I am when I say that going to Hyde Park to see them will mean a lot more to me than just having a fun day out.
Thank you, Green Day, I can’t wait!
Steve Jenner, age 41:
The summer of ’95… blue skies and a country exploding with creativity in film, music and art. A thrilling time and place to be 19 years old. And what a soundtrack. From hissy in-car cassettes to pub jukeboxes and Walkmans’ on the go, the ubiquitous life-affirming tones of the day made it feel like the party followed you everywhere.
Forget the hype, it wasn’t about being British and we didn’t only listen to Blur and Oasis. It was about being young, alive, positive and empowered. The bands that resonated were the ones that tuned into this, wherever they came from.
One record that defines that summer for me (although I was a little later than some to catch on) was Dookie, a 39 minute outburst of fierce and euphoric teenage uprising by a Californian trio called Green Day. I’d never heard anything like it. The NME labeled it punk but to these ears, punk was impotent – all spit and no action. The Sex Pistols made a wonderful noise but they fell short of believing they could actually change their world.
Dookie, on the other hand – in harmony with the clumsily-named ‘Britpop’ sentiment sweeping the nation – was about grabbing life by the balls and shaping it to our design. That glorious summer, we all believed we had that power and records like Dookie amplified this spirit and sense of pro-active conviction. Plus you could sing along to it on the terraces, in the car and on the walk home from the pub, so it was always going to be a winner.
As the Britpop party died and life got real, Green Day stayed with me for the comedown. They sang ‘Good Riddance’ as we both waved goodbye to the carefree frivolity of youth. I settled down, got a job and a mortgage while they confronted more mature concerns of their own in songs like ‘Warning’ and ‘Minority’. We were growing up together.
Then life took a really dark turn as we went to war. As our rosy nineties-inspired worldview melted into a distant illusion before our eyes and the integrity of the leaders we had elected (and our very nation by association) sank beneath the floor, Green Day stepped-up and did something amazing. Putting their careers and the safety of their families on the line, they once again tuned into the sentiment of the people, distilled it into a musical grenade called American Idiot and threw it in the faces of the imperialist warmongers. Anti-war songs so catchy the mainstream media couldn’t help but broadcast them directly to the hearts and minds of millions, backed-up by a worldwide stadium tour and a Broadway musical.
Maybe the ballsiest record ever, definitely the most important one made at that time, so much more than just a record, American Idiot was a lifeline for our frayed consciences to cling to during this ugly, turbulent time; a valid disclaimer that these terrible crimes were not being committed in our names. We could still exist separately from this shitshow. We could still make things better. Only the power of music could have amassed the world’s liberal souls into such a potent army of light and Green Day wielded it like a modern-day Gandhi, contributing in no small part to the public’s ultimate refusal to allow the US-led war machine to achieve the full extent of its oil-grabbing ambitions.
Shortly afterwards I became a father and had the privilege of watching the magic come full-circle as my own kids’ ears pricked-up to Green Day‘s infectious tones carousing through the air around us, as the hits continued to pour off their next epic release 21st Century Breakdown.
How my back ached and my heart beamed as Josh, my oldest, had his young mind blown atop my shoulders by their awesome set at Reading 2013, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Dookie.
Then I was the proudest parent in the hall as he thrashed out his rendition of ‘Holiday’ in the school music competition, to a polarised reception of awe and horror – the only kid chopping on an electric guitar in a world of woodwind.
Fast-forward a few years to the present, Green Day are back with one of their biggest shows yet at British Summer Time Festival in London’s Hyde Park. More than a concert, this is a timely rally-cry of love and defiance, a turbine to fan the wind of change once again bustling through our hedgerows.
I’ll be there with Josh beside me, two generations shoulder-to-shoulder, singing our hearts out in harmony for the same hopes and dreams. For Josh, the journey is just beginning. Mine will have come full circle.
It’s going to be a very special day.