Green Day‘s mud-caked set at Woodstock ’94 was a crucial moment in the group’s long history, but to Billie Joe Armstrong’s mother Ollie — who witnessed her son pulling his pants down, throwing mud at fans and chanting obscenities on live television — it was nothing but a profound embarrassment.
“She sent me a hate letter afterwards,” the singer told Rolling Stone‘s Chris Mundy later that year. “She said that I was disrespectful and indecent and that if my father was alive, he would be ashamed of me. She couldn’t believe that I pulled my pants down and got in a fight onstage. She even talked shit about my wife, Adrienne, and how she’s supposed to be my loving wife, but she’s never even come over and visited. It was pretty brutal.”
Ollie Armstrong may have not liked what she saw, but the youth of America had a very different take on the performance. Green Day were booked on the less prestigious South Stage midway through the final day of the festival, sandwiched between Nenad Bach and a Paul Rodgers blues revue. While many other festival goers opted to watch the Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan and the Spin Doctors on the main stage, Green Day attracted a younger and wilder crowd. It rained not long before they went on and many fans were already caked in mud.
Green Day’s major label debut, Dookie, had been on shelves for five months at this point, slowly climbing to #19. The group saw Woodstock ’94 as an amazing opportunity to reach a wider audience, and when fans began throwing mud they didn’t hesitate to throw back, culminating in a near-riot where a security guard mistook basset Mike Dirnt for a psychotic fan and smashed his front teeth out. It was absolute chaos. It was also one of the most memorable performance of the entire festival, causing MTV to play highlights over and over. Check out this video of “Paper Lanterns” from the set.
Within three months, Dookie was at Number Four on the charts and the band was headlining arenas across the country. “Welcome to Paradise,” “Longview” and “Basket Case” were all over the radio and MTV. Hopefully Ollie Armstrong forgave her son for his behavior at Woodstock ’94 by that point.