Making the Crystal Method go on stage at R.F.K. Stadium's HFStival in Washington, D.C., after what Green Day did to it was cruel and unusual punishment. Theirs was a performance that will age well and prove more vigorous, more audacious and more felonious as it evolves into urban legend. Today, it was, "did you see Tre Cool torch his drum set, Billie Joe Armstrong strip to his leopard-skin bikini briefs and that pimply-faced mosher jam with the band? " In ten years, the drummer for Green Day will have pulverized his drums and shot flares into the crowd, Billie Joe will be naked and urinating on security guards, and an overzealous fan will be heisting guitars. It was that good.
"We never plan to do shit," Tre said after the band's set, waiting for a fire marshall to potentially come-a-callin', "but we always keep the implements of our destruction on hand in case need be. I had an ax and other things." Tre stood in front of his drum kit like a priest performing an exorcism, doused it with lighter fluid, and watched in glory as the flames grew. With studied ambivalence, Billie Joe walked up to the mic and performed the only song he could with the rest of the instruments in various states of ruin: the guitar ballad "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)." The song's line "It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right/I hope you had the time of your life" proved a fitting explanation for the wreckage ... and a modest farewell.
Earlier, while covering Operation Ivy's "This Knowledge," Billie Joe voir dired the mosh pit, looking for a young hack who could adequately play the song's guitar line, so the ax-wielding frontman would be free to roam. After a two-minute search, Dave the Fan, wearing a "Porn Star" T-shirt squirted through the pit and hopped on stage, where Billie Joe greeted him with a full kiss on the mouth. For the next few minutes, Tre and Mike supplied the backbeat while Billie Joe taught Dave how to play the song. "If you suck, everyone here is gonna kick your ass," Billie Joe said. He didn't, and even if he did, Green Day's chutzpah negated him.
Not that a few performers didn't give Green Day a run for the benjamins. Wyclef Jean, joined on-stage by fellow Fugee Pras and the hip-hop flava of the month, Canibus, baptized "rip-rock." "A lot of kids try to do it, but the fusion's not right," he said before his set. "We gonna combine street hip-hop with straight-up rock, but the lyrics are straight deadly street, you know what I mean?" Sure, why not.
Then the carnival came to town. In between his triple-backwards somersault and Jimi Hendrix-style, tongue-pickin' guitar work, Wyclef sprinkled in snippets of Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" and Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" and led a chorus-less version of Elvis Presley's "Blue Suede Shoes." Wyclef lathered up the crowd with his old-school cheerleading and then, after a hardcore ... um, rip-rock ... version of Canibus' "Rip-Rock," gathered air and plunged into the sea of friendlies.
"Will someone tell me why Wyclef Jean isn't president of the fuckin' United States?" asked Everclear frontman Art Alexakis during his band's post-punk-and-crunch set. Later, he clarified: "I haven't seen someone appeal to so many people in so many different ways," he said. "I've always been a big fan of him, but live, he smoked me."
Since alternative music is an unequivocal -- and oft ironic -- umbrella for so many musical genres, D.C.'s WHFS allowed hip-hop's instant legend Wyclef to share the same stage with recently-reunited psychelicious pool party band the B-52's and country-tinged rockers Barenaked Ladies. "The crowning moment of the show to me was convincing the muscle-bound, shirtless slam-dancers to square dance and line dance instead of moshing," said Barenaked Ladies guitarist/vocalist Ed Robertson.
For the B-52's, who couldn't have played a more predictable set ("Roam," "Love Shack," "Rock Lobster," etc.), it was acclimating themselves to the moshers and flying bottles. "People used to just spit and stuff," noted B-52's vocalist Kate Pierson.
In recent years, it's actually become easier for bands to dodge aerodynamic trash than for fans to elude witty band prater. "Who hates clueless moshers who don't give a fuck what they're listening to?" asked M. Doughty, frontman of Soul Coughing. Or there was Alexakis wondering, "You lazy motherfuckers in the cheap seats having a good time?" From the overt to esoteric was Scott Weiland, who appeared on stage and announced, "I am Syd Barrett, and we are Pink Floyd," and later "this is a song about a wet dream I had with Jane Fonda," while introducing the song "Barbarella."
Unfortunately, B-52's vocalist Fred Schneider overstepped his geriatric bounds, ingenuously attempting to parlay the trash throwing into trash talking. "If you wanna throw something at us, throw wallets full of money at us, that's what we like," he said. Hey man, it's supposed to be about the music.