Some bands outgrow their hometown quite quickly, but Green Day just keeps finding ways to hide in plain sight. Over the years, the members of Oakland punk trio have performed as The Network and Foxboro Hot Tubs, but on Thursday night they took a new form.
Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt joined with touring guitarist Jason White, audio engineer Chris Dugan (drums) and tour manager Bill Schneider (bass) to take the stage at the 100-person capacity Thee Parkside in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood.
Billed as The Coverups, the band was dedicated solely to performing the music of others, which ranged from The Replacements to David Bowie to Tom Petty. The performance marked the third show for the band, which had previously played two equally tiny gigs in January and earlier in the week at the Ivy Room in Albany, California.
Amounting to a dive bar with a stage in the corner, Thee Parkside is a San Francisco venue where up-and-coming bands can cut their teeth. Like the neighboring Bottom of the Hill, the space is conducive to sweaty, raucous shows where gleeful mayhem and cans of beer take priority over sleek production values and hushed silence.
The Coverups were clearly game to carry on the tradition when they took the stage at 11 p.m. and launched into a version of The Replacements’ “Color Me Impressed.” What followed was roughly 90 minutes of covers that pulled from various decades and genres, including a rousing rendition of Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” and a pair of back-to-back Bowie covers in “Ziggy Stardust” and “Suffragette City.”
While Green Day drummer Tre Cool is not officially a member of this latest Green Day side project, he clearly had no intention of missing all the fun. Armstrong called him to take over on drums midway through the set to help out on a cover of The Ramones’ “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.”
— Zack Ruskin (@zackruskin) March 9, 2018
The band seemed to revel in the hot, stuffy confines of Thee Parkside — an atmosphere that harkened back to Green Day’s early days playing clubs like Berkeley’s Gilman. There were a lot more iPhones this time around, but some of the faithful in the crowd still found a way to get a few circle pits going. One enterprising individual even managed to crowd-surf.
Always game to play along, Armstrong accepted an adhesive-backed mustache from a fan and nearly kept it on his lip for the entirety of “I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones.
Later he marveled at a mute television in Thee Parkside’s back corner, which was playing John Hughes’ teen classic Pretty in Pink as The Coverups dug into the Psychedelic Furs’ song of the same name. Given the poster for the evening’s show featured a shot of Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club smoking a cigarette, it seemed the venue had suitably done their homework.
Meanwhile Dirnt — who was sporting a notably wild and shaggy beard — jokingly barked “No requests!” any time someone tried to entice them to deviate into a Green Day track. The catalog of The Coverups’ other band was not to be touched, and for good reason. This wasn’t a Green Day show, although the energy and excitement had all the hallmarks that have come to define that group’s live performances.
Other songs on the sizeable set list included “American Girl” by Tom Petty, “Chinese Rocks” by Johnny Thunder and the Heartbreakers, and “Dancing With Myself” by Billy Idol. Armstrong and Dirnt also raffled off some stuff that was quite possibly just taking up space at their respective homes. Each member of the crowd was issued a raffle ticket as they entered the show, which would result in a lucky few taking home items that ranged from a toy airplane to a selection of Kiss records to a double-necked guitar.
When The Coverups finished a take on Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?” with White holding down lead vocals, it appeared the evening was finished. Then Armstrong and Dirnt briefly conferred and brought Tre Cool back to the stage for the night’s best moment: an all-out assault on The Who’s “A Quick One He’s Away.”
White tossed a bag of branded Coverups guitar picks into the crowd, and then it was over. Suddenly it was just one-hundred dazed and euphoric fans standing on the sticky floor of a San Francisco bar, trying to convince themselves that what they’d just seen had, in fact, really happened.
Who knows what name the members of Green Day may masquerade under next, but one thing is certain: No amount of fame or success will stop them from doing what they do best. In some form or another, if you search hard enough, you’ll find them again, drenched in sweat and screaming themselves hoarse under the dim lights of a dirty bar where the only thing that matters is that you give them everything you’ve got.