Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong has always been a voice for the voiceless. The musician is unafraid to stand up to injustice or, when the moment calls for it, to deliver a ferocious dropkick, as he proved in 1997 during a performance at The Filmore in San Francisco.
Armstrong has been on the right side of history more often than not throughout his career, and he wants Green Day concerts to be a place in which people can be free to be themselves without judgement. The shows are designed to be safe spaces that allow fans to briefly forget about life’s realities and come together for a punk-rock show. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always follow the script.
Over the years, Armstrong has endeared himself to Green Day fans with numerous kind gestures during live shows, such as inviting a disabled fan on-stage to play ‘Knowledge’ with the group at London’s O2 Arena in 2016 and subsequently gifting the fan his guitar at the end of the concert. However, that doesn’t top his heroic escapade in San Francisco during the 1990s.
Throughout the gig, which was organised in support of Nimrod, Armstrong had started to notice upsetting behaviour by one male fan with a mohawk towards a young and vulnerable girl. After berating the man, the Green Day frontman decided to take action into his own hands rather than allowing security to do their job.
After pausing the music, Armstrong took to the microphone to yell: “Hey, why don’t you come here, you little mohawked motherf*cker? You wanna fight? I’ll fight you right now. Come on, get up here on the stage.”
The frightened fan declined Armstrong’s offer to join him on stage for a fight, and the Green Day singer then jumped into the crowd to hand out a beating. After justice was served, bassist Mike Dirnt said: “Sorry, but these people didn’t come here to put up with your shit,” which was met by applause by the crowd.
Armstrong isn’t the only musician to reach boiling point and lash out at audience members. In 1981, Keith Richards noticed a fan running onto the stage during a Rolling Stones performance of ‘Satisfaction’, and the guitarist tactfully defended himself by using his Telecaster as a weapon. Meanwhile, Black Flag’s Henry Rollins once unloaded a catalogue of punches at a fan for stealing his microphone.
Unlike the other two examples, the agitator hadn’t done anything personally to Armstrong to elicit a reaction. However, their behaviour towards the young female fan was unacceptable in the singer’s book, and he deemed a dropkick a worthy punishment.