This article originally appeared in the September 16, 1994 issue of the Boston Phoenix.
The prospect of a punk-rock concert at the same Hatch Shell where my parents have seen the Boston Pops was exciting. It was also troubling, because it would exemplify the inherent friction of a punk band entering the mainstream. Rock and roll may have started as teen rebellion, but it was co-opted and tamed by the power that be before I was old enough to sing along to “Puff the Magic Dragon.”
But punk – a loud, fast, and ticked-off rebellion – has managed to survive on the fringe, always maintaining its anti-authoritarian spirit. In other words, there was no way Green Day’s 21-year-old frontman Billie Joe was going to show or encourage any respect for the police or the barricades.
Shortly after 7p.m., the Meices took the stage and the moshing started in earnest. Little eddies of aggression formed, and an occasional casualty – often a younger kid scared and tired by the crush of the crowd – was lifted over the barricades that separated the general audience from the VIP area. The Meices beckoned the crowd to “come on down” into the large, cordoned-off space before the stage, but nobody took them up on the offer. If Billie Joe had asked, well…
Up front, it was tense. Further back, the audience was having a peaceful concert. The police seemed both bemused and annoyed by the crowd. The security personnel were struggling with the barricades, but they were good-natured. One guard handed out sodas to kids up front. And kids they were: one front-row viewer with his face painted green was only 12; a little girl, who looked eight or nine, was standing with her chin on a barrier and her hands over her ears.
The barricades were reinforced, and the “two steps back” requests continued. There was no mistaking the sarcasm in Billie Joe’s voice when he came out a few minutes later and told everyone to “calm down so the show can go on.” As the sun set, it got easier for kids to sneak into the VIP area. And considering the conditions behind the barricades, I’d say it was hard to blame them.
At 8 p.m., a voice came over the speakers from the soundboard area: “the barricades are coming down, I need help out here.” A dozen security guards left their posts and ventured out through the crowd, leaving unguarded gaps around the stage. It was no longer a question of whether barriers would break: it was a matter of when.
I’ve never been to a general-admission concert at which the front row was comfortable, but everybody nearest the stage at this show was trapped between Storrow Drive, the Charles River, and the barricades – more prisoners than concert-goers.
Green Day took the stage at 8:15 p.m. Billie Joe hit the first three chords of “Welcome to Paradise” and the crowd surged into the VIP areas on either side of the stage, swarming the giant Phoenix/’FNX balloon. “Tear that fucker down,” Billie Joe shouted before the next song. The crowd complied.