We are dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to look back at a moment in Green Day’s history that, despite being caked in mud, was one of their brightest times on stage… we think.
There are several moments of grubby grandeur amongst the long career of iconic pop-punkers Green Day. Yet if you’re looking for a seminal moment in the band’s career, one that would help define them as a band, it’s hard to look past the mud-caked revelry of their 1994 Woodstock set on what was the 25th anniversary of the legendary festival.
Going back a few decades, the trio was far from the festival headliners they are today. It meant that Woodstock ’94 wasn’t going to give up a nice slot to the group. Instead, they found themselves playing the less than desirable South Stage during Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers’ sets on the main stage. It would split the crowd and drive a young audience towards the pulsating punk energy of Green Day.
When you place a young crowd—without the watching eyes of the Dylan-viewing parents of the event—in front of a band like Green Day, a group who was coming off the back of their seminal record Dookie, and with a lead singer with the bit between their teeth—all hell is more than likely to break free from its shackles. It certainly did.
With the energy dialled up things got a little muddy as prior to the band’s performance, the event experienced a heavy downpour which turned the dustbowl space into a mud pit. You can see where this is going.
With Dookie having been out for nearly five months when Green Day took to the stage, the trio of Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool saw the stage at Woodstock as an opportunity to make their name once and for all. That opportunity landed even more squarely at their feet with a huge, wet, filthy splat of the first mudball launched from the crowd.
Drummer Tre Cool recalled the moment the crowd (and later the band) took part in a gigantic mud fight. “It got all chaotic, we kept trying to play, but Billie [Joe Armstrong] was getting mud hitting his guitar and Mike [Dirnt] was getting it on his bass and hitting him,” he said. “Luckily my drum set was just far enough back where I was less in harm’s way… It was punk as fuck, and nobody expected that to happen.”
All hell finally broke loose and, as the mud flung from the crowd rained down on the stage like some kind of biblical dirty protest, a security guard would mistake Mike Dirnt for a crazed fan and smash his front teeth out. The next moment in a long line of punk revelry would see Billie Joe Armstrong pull down his trousers and flash the crowd while being pelted with mud balls from across the giant audience, it was not something that would go down well with his mother, Ollie Armstrong.
“She sent me a hate letter afterwards,” the singer told Rolling Stone‘s Chris Mundy in 1994. “She said that I was disrespectful and indecent and that if my father was alive, he would be ashamed of me. She couldn’t believe that I pulled my pants down and got in a fight onstage. She even talked shit about my wife, Adrienne, and how she’s supposed to be my loving wife, but she’s never even come over and visited. It was pretty brutal.”
As brutal as it may have been, it remains one of the punkiest moments that has ever happened at Woodstock and a shining merit badge on the rock and roll scout sash of Green Day.
Watch their full performance at Woodstock ’94 below: