Revolutionary concept: if you want to know when a secret set is going to take place, ask the festival stewards. Strictly figured it out and arrived in plenty of time (no start time for Post War Glamour Girls, hmmn…wonder what might delay their 12 o’clock start), but most festival fans quickly got the low down from the helpful on site staff and passed the news along. But this led to the big moral question of the weekend: once you knew the start time, did you pass the word on, or did you watch people obliviously walking into town, keeping the juicy info to yourself?
Those who figured it out (or simply read Billie’s twitter) were not disappointed. The atmosphere inside the NME tent was joyously ferocious. A demented glee descended – smiles, sweat and awestruck open-mouthed expressions were the norm as this tumultuous sense of goodwill seemingly infected the Californian pop-punk legends.
From the moment a buoyant “Welcome To Paradise” kicked in, it became clear to everyone in attendance that this would be no ordinary set. The doubt, skepticism, and second-guessing that naturally runs through a festival fan’s mind were silenced – in fact everyone’s collective critical faculties appeared to have been left at the arena entrance. This wasn’t a gig, it was a celebration – an hour and twenty minute party that couldn’t be derailed by new songs (“Oh Love”, “Stay The Night”), ill advised old songs (“Know Your Enemy”), or the fact that vast swathes of the crowd didn’t know the words to “Longview” or “Hitchin’ A Ride”.
If any moment captured the essence of the set, it was when a sweat soaked Billie Joe Armstrong spotted a sailor’s hat in the crowd, and asked to borrow it. The fan duly obliged, and Billie uttered the words “If you clap, I’ll dance”. We did, and he did (badly) – it was corny, silly, completely morose, but somehow utterly endearing, and it summed up the entire set. A fan was brought on stage to sing and dance, call and repeats were constant, songs were re-arranged so Billie could wheel out his best Freddie Mercury impression, circle pits were incited, and Green Day told the security to get stuffed as the band massively overran. The secret set was a riot from start to finish.
No amount of unfamiliarity could dampen the crowd mood. Those who only knew “Holiday” and “American Idiot” bounced dutifully through “Brain Stew” and moshed during “She” (don’t ask it was just that kind of set), while those who’d normally groan when faced with “Know Your Enemy” and “Murder City” sang loudly and proudly.
If The Cure’s Friday night headline set stressed the aesthetic vision over fan friendly inclusion, then Green Day’s early morning exploits espoused the exact opposite philosophy. Billie and the boys were so intend on making every last person smile, they could have played “Ba Ba Black Sheep” and a eight minute cover of “Call Me Maybe” and no one in attendance would have noticed, let alone complained. David Hayter