Much has been said and written on the subject of empowering young girls to take their rightful place in the traditionally male-dominated rock and roll world. My friend Jessica Hopper has recently published The Girl's Guide To Rocking, which appears to be getting a great reception, and deservedly so.
But Monday night at Madison Square Garden, I saw Green Day and - more importantly - a girl called Stephanie do more for the cause of girls rocking out than all the riot grrrl bands in history laid end to end, and sorry if that sounds like a poor choice of words, but I honestly didn't mean anything salacious by it.
Those of you who follow Green Day will be aware that it's a long-standing tradition to invite audience members up on stage to sing or play instruments on some of the songs. Back in the 90s, most of the invitees would be boys, but nowadays the gender balance tends to be pretty equal. What people may not know is that those invited up are not chosen in advance; Billie picks them out of the audience based on his gut feeling as to whether they'll be up to the task.
Monday night he was looking for someone to play guitar on "Jesus Of Suburbia," a nine-minute rock epic with multiple chord and tempo changes. Much as I - like, no doubt, a million other fans - have occasionally harbored fantasies of jumping on stage with the band (I've actually played guitar with Billie in the studio once, back in the Neolithic era, but never on stage), I found myself ducking behind somebody else when he was recruiting a JOS guitarist, because there's no way I could play that song sitting alone in my room, let alone in front of 20,000 people.
But Stephanie swore she was up to the task, and boy, was she. She was so at ease with her guitar that before long she was wandering the stage just as the Green Day guys do, and singing along with Billie on the lead vocals. At the end, Billie got down on his hands and knees in front of her and did the "I am not worthy" bow, before leading all of Madison Square Garden in a "Steph-a-nie" chant.
I can only imagine what it must have been like for Stephanie, who, with her torn Misfits shirt and matter-of-fact attitude, didn't look like the kind of girl accustomed to being on the receiving end of wild adulation, but she took it in such stride that I'm inclined to think of it as a life-changing experience. Look it this way: from now on, any boy unwise enough to taunt her to the effect that "chicks can't rock as hard as guys" or somesuch similar foolishness can quickly be put in his place with a well-timed, "I had Madison Square Garden in the palm of my hand; what the hell have you done, sucker?"
Here are a couple videos of Stepanie's performance (Green Day were no slouches either):
There's also a nice little blurb about it in today's Times.