$5 doesn't go very far these days. If you want to see live music in LA for $5 you're either going to see your friends band play at the Good Hurt (re: flyer discount) or you're gonna catch a free night at the Silver Lake Lounge. Or you might get lucky. Real lucky. On Monday, February 4th, $5 was enough to get into the Troubadour to see Pinhead Gunpowder. Who is Pinhead Gunpowder right? They aren't your friends little brothers' band that you begrudgingly go see "to show support". And they aren't a pseudonym for GNR-Axl+Scott Weiland. For those in the know, Pinhead Gunpowder is the perpetual side project the man who walks the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong.
Billie Joe is a polarizing figure in pop music. He either killed punk rock or saved it. Whatever your take on the man as a musician is, his roots in music by the people, for the people were self-evident Monday night. Scheduled to play at 10pm, the sold-out crowd of yesteryear punks at the Troubadour were tipping their bartender when the entire band walked on-stage to set up their own equipment. Now that's common place at any other $5 show but the Troubadour? wow. By a 3-time Grammy winner??? Double wow. Billie Joe was dressed like he was going out to grab a slice of pizza on Gillman St in 1994-flannel, black Chuck's, and a ratty maroon beanie covering a mop of bleach-blond hair. In between tuning and setting up his amp, he was chatting it up with almost everyone in the front row. Right before the band began playing, Billie Joe shook hands with a fan then pulled him onstage along with about 10 others on each side of the stage.
With nary a 1,2,3,4 they kicked into their first song which was as fast, tight, and (s)punky as any other track you'd find on Dookie. Remember how punk shows were in high school? Everyone here did. Fists pumping, crowds surfing, stages diving. The energy level was as high as I have ever seen it for an LA show save for maybe Datarock, Les Savy Fav and of course my favs who won't be mentioned here.
Fellow guitar player Jason White took the reigns on nearly half the songs allowing Billie to sing back-up and focus on his solid power-chording and the one elusive stage dive-->crowd-surf-while-still-playing trick. With such a notable figure at such a tiny club, it was to be expected that the airspace would be flooded with the pixelated glow of digital cameras and cell phones. At one point between songs Billie said "memories...memories, How many of you have digital cameras or cell phones? How about we put them away? YouTube can't own everything. Memories are here (points to his head) and here (to his heart)" and like Moses handing out his commandments, the crowd followed his request.
About 50 minutes and a college-ruled, single-spaced setlist of songs later, Pinhead was done. The no-frills, Lookout! Records brand of punk songs was over. The house music came on and the satisfied crowd started leaving. But, before too many people could toss their wristbands on the curb though the band returned to play three more songs before disappearing into the curtained Troubadour loft forever.
I can't say I was ever a big Green Day fan, I must admit that in my formative musical years I sort of went backwards after Nirvana to The Dead Kennedys and Social Distortion. That's not to say this enigmatic, charismatic, energetic (Grammy award winning) pop-punker at a somewhat secret show wasn't a blast though. And for $5 how can anyone complain?