September has ended. Green Day just woke up. Come to think about it, Green Day has had a very successful 2015, considering they've been unconscious. This year was the first year they were eligible to enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and they made it. Now, the band is releasing a documentary called Heart Like a Hand Grenade today, and fans could not be more excited.
Green Day has released eleven studio albums since the band’s formation in the late '80s, and arguably their most popular album is American Idiot. Released in 2004, this album is known for being anti-Bush and is often referred to as “protest art.” The album won the Best Rock Album Grammy in 2005. Some even regarded the album as a punk rock opera meant for the stage.
To the stage the album went: American Idiot officially opened on Broadway on April 20, 2010. Green Day front man, Billie Joe Armstrong, worked with Broadway director Michael Mayer to write both the book and music for the show (Armstrong even occasionally performed in the show himself). After Broadway, the show toured North America and then the United Kingdom and Ireland; this month, Northwestern is putting on its own production.
Daniel Leahy, a Communications junior, plays the role of Tunny. In preparing for the show, Leahy said, the cast talked about why Green Day was influential.
“For many of us, American Idiot was the first album we ever purchased, and it was the first album that we felt was written for us," Leahy said. "It acts as an anthem for everyone who strives to be bigger than where they come from.”
An interesting facet of the musical is that the songs stay true – for the most part – to the way Green Day originally performed the songs. They keep the rock element, while adding in the expected Broadway harmonies and choruses. American Idiot (the musical) was successful because it stayed true to Green Day’s sound and ethos. The show revolves around a group of teen youths who are upset with the current society in which they live.
“NU students should see this show because it’s about people our age, and the tactics they will resort to when they feel small and without opportunity,” said Leahy. “We hope that people leave this show understanding a little bit more about themselves and the failures and successes that have led them to who they are now.”
The documentary, Heart Like A Hand Grenade, was shot over nine months. Leahy explained that the title of the documentary is a lyric from the show.
“It represents the power that we have over each other when we are emotionally attached," Leahy said. "Our innermost desires can be obtrusive, and even destructive to our lives as we face the challenge of negotiating our dreams and our realities.”
The documentary was screened once before, in front of around 400 lucky fans in 2009. It was not released after that. Some people even thought it was an urban legend.
Alternative Press has been posting about potential release dates for the documentary for a while now. It's expected to be “one of the most-watched documentaries of the year,” according to Billboard. Even though it has not received a ton of advertising, I’d imagine the documentary doing pretty well. Green Day fans are a dedicated bunch. Once you go Green Day, you become a part of the madness.
I’ve been wavering on whether or not documentaries about musicians are worthwhile. I sat through Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and Miley: The Movement. We get to see into the lives of famous people all the time nowadays. They tweet about the studio. They Instagram in the studio. Green Day never really did much of that. This makes Heart Like A Hand Grenade feel vital and important. It will truly connect Green Day fans with the band even more. The fans can finally see Green Day’s whole process. I’m genuinely excited about the documentary’s release. No offense to Miley or Justin, but Green Day is a little piece of history – especially for us “'90s kids.”
Northwestern’s American Idiot opens October 16 and runs until October 25. Student tickets are $5 when bought in advance and $10 at the door. Information on the show can be found on the School of Communication’s website. Click here to find locations to watch the documentary. If you've managed to entirely miss the Green Day bandwagon, check out our musical primer below.