Although they had performed in Dallas three times the year before, there was something different about the March 3, 1994, Green Day concert at Trees in Deep Ellum. The Bay Area punk trio had just released Dookie on Reprise Records, its first major label release. The fans, zines and artists of the punk scene in the mid-’90s weren’t often kind to previously independent bands that hitched their vans to the corporate treasure chests that had been buzzarding around looking for the next Nirvana to emerge from obscurity.
In a short review posted on Setlist.fm, under the set list for the ’94 Trees concert, Chris Jeffers (under the user name hisboyelroy) noted the devoted yet antagonistic environment of the night by writing, “The show sold out, yet half the people there couldn't resist holding up signs declaring and screaming themselves ‘Green Day is a sell-out!’ since they had moved from indie label Lookout to the major label world.”
Audio recorded from the show and posted to an online Green Day community archive offers a propulsive, fiery show. In the impressively clear recording, you can hear fans shouting along to the opening number, “Welcome to Paradise,” as well as deep cuts such as “Chump” and “Burnout.” The band’s first hit single “Longview” was played, but future hit songs “Basket Case” and “When I Come Around” were left off this concert’s set list. After the show, Jeffers says the band hung out and chatted with the fans in a casual manner unbefitting the global brand the trio would soon become.
Now a 42-year-old working in the finance world, Jeffers was then a 17-year-old punk-loving skater. He had caught Green Day live in ’93 at Deep Ellum Live, opening for Bad Religion, and had come to adore the group through hearing their songs in skating videos. Green Day wasn’t his gateway to punk rock, but his “punk getaway,” he says now. By March ’94, he was fully in the established superfan camp that was beginning to welcome millions of punk rock newbies just getting their first taste of the group’s infectious pop-flavored style.
“I had just turned 17 and really didn’t even understand the concept of ‘selling out’ yet,” Jeffers recalls. “In fact, it was probably at this show I first heard the expression. The thing I was confused about was that here these people are, in line outside, posting up inside, some even with signs, protesting that Green Day had ‘sold out,’ yet they had spent time and money to come and see the show nonetheless?”
This Saturday, just a single night shy of that memorable night’s 25th anniversary, Trees will again be filled with Green Day fans, but it’s a safe bet the vibes will be a great deal more celebratory than accusatory. Local tribute band Green Dazed will perform Dookie in its entirety, along with a second set of assorted band favorites to commemorate a quarter century of the band and album that changed music for so many.
As a 21-year-old college student living in the Bronx in 1994, John Poakeart was immediately blown away by the band upon hearing them for the first time via the album that has sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Now, he’s a family man living in Frisco who colorfully paints his hair, a la Green Day’s drummer Tre Cool, when he plays drums for Green Dazed.
“Dookie came at an interesting time,” he says. “It was during the decline of grunge, although we didn’t know it at the time, and it was different than anything else in the mainstream. Although we all were into the grunge sound and the bands, Green Day also fit right in with our tastes, although as musicians, we in the band were fans of lots of different styles anyway. But while Green Day took a lot of flak for ‘selling out,’ the thing is, they really did bring a new sound to so many people, so how can that be a bad thing?”
Poakeart, who goes by the stage name of Tre John, met lead singer Marcus Benedict and Joe Dirnt (also a Green Day-adjacent stage name) in 2016, forming what the band believes is the first Green Day tribute act in Texas soon after. The drummer had spent a bit of time in a Ramones tribute band, but this sort of thing was a first for Benedict and Dirnt. Like their drummer, the singer and bassist were also profoundly affected by the album, which spawned several massive radio and unavoidable MTV hits over the course of 1994 and 1995.
“Before doing a tribute, none of us were into changing our looks or hair or wearing makeup when playing music,” says Benedict, the group’s eyeliner-wearing Billie Joe Armstrong doppelgänger. “But as an artist you play the role, and that's an important aspect of our show. It's a real tribute, it's intense and full of energy and bit a craziness.”
Few other American rock acts can claim as wild a roller-coaster rider as the real Green Day can. Now members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the band has won big awards, collected platinum records and spawned a Broadway hit based on its 2004 American Idiot LP. But it has also fallen out of critical favor, flirted with becoming a ’90s rock afterthought and in 2012, suffered through the substance-abuse issues of Armstrong and his subsequent, harrowing trip to rehab.
All the hills and valleys of the band make this anniversary noteworthy. But when a band has been around as long as Green Day has, its most die-hard fans have likely grown even more so thanks to their own triumphs and trials during the same stretch of time. For Jeffers and the men of Green Dazed, such a shared timeline builds bonds in a way only music can.
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“I didn’t become a fan because of the band’s popularity,” says Jeffers, who still counts Green Day as his favorite group. “And the quality of their music is all about perspective. In Green Day I found a band whose lyrics I could and have since always identify with, and the music always seemed to complement the lyrics, and vice versa. As Green Day grew up, they evolved, and I was growing up and evolving with them.”
Although Green Dazed plays shows every month, with regular dates both here in town and as far away as Oklahoma City, Atlanta and Denver, there’s no mistaking this Dallas concert is a special one.
“We’ve all had our ups and downs,” Tre John says. “And the coolest thing about Green Dazed is being able to share the music with our kids and seeing all the different generations in the audience. Everyone out there has different memories and experiences tied to Green Day’s music for all these years, and at the end of the day, we’re fans of the band. And as fans ourselves, we have so much fun performing this music we love and sharing it with a bunch of other Green Day fans of all ages.”
Green Dazed plays with Sedated (Ramones tribute band) and Not Ur Girlfrenz on Saturday at Trees in Dallas. Tickets are $11.