Green Day side project Foxboro Hot Tubs declined the backstage at Emo's in Austin last night. Instead, they entered through the front door of the 300-person club, presumably from the tour bus parked out front. In that 10-second, body-crammed span, a paparazzi-style photographer lit them up like the Griswold Christmas tree despite the no-camera mandate.
A guitarless, bleached-blonde Billie Joe Armstrong took the stage looking like Kurt Cobain circa the Jackie Onassis white-sunglasses phase. "Come close to me," he intoned. "Come close to me. Me llamo es the Reverend Strychnine Twist." Then the six-piece (augmented by two guitarists and a sax/flute/keys player) suddenly locked into the title track from their just-released vintage garage rock album Stop Drop and Roll. It was followed by big-beat doo-wop number "Mother Mary" and "Alligator," during which Billie Joe waved around a long stick with a plastic alligator head named One-Eyed Jack attached to the end. Meanwhile, bassist Mike Dirnt poured PBR tallboys on the crowd.
Even with the expansiveness of American Idiot, Green Day has always been rooted in the three-chord jumps perfected by the Ramones. But Foxboro Hot Tubs are straight out of the '60s, rooted in Kinks-ian British mod. The group also covered a tune by Network, the other mysterious Green Day alter-ego from a few years ago.
It was a refreshing way for a band coming of a massively successful album to keep it real and reconnect with hardcore fans. Be forewarned, though: the only way to catch the Tubs on the back-end of their 10-day tour is by standing in line for tickets like the rest of the diehards. They're only available the day of the show, at the box office, $20 cash.
But in return, Billie Joe will crowd-surf on your outstretched arms all night long.