The boys - all a year or two shy of legal drinking age at the time - had come straight from New Orleans. After an evening of revelry, they had returned to their van to find that it had been robbed.
The bag containing their tour money was gone, so Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, Tre Cool and their traveling companions struck out for Auburn, hoping for better luck in the college town than they had in the Crescent City.
"It was cool," drummer Tre Cool said in a recent telephone interview. "We didn't have no money or clothes, and everyone was donating clothes and, uh, and basically money." That night, Green Day and several dozen college students crowded into the living room and kitchen of a rental house on Samford Avenue for a frenetic set of northern California punk rock. Earning the band enough money for food and gas, the show was considered a great success.
Four years later, Green Day is measuring success a little differently. The band returns to Alabama Tuesday night for a 7:30 show at Boutwell Auditorium. This time they come with bigger credentials: a best-selling major label debut, ``Dookie,'' and the recently released follow-up, "Insomniac." They've also traded the van and the roadies for a bus and an entourage of 28, including their friends and opening act, the Riverdales.
``Well, now we're like a multi-platinum rock act,'' Cool said. ``So basically, there's no way to do a van tour ... and we wouldn't keep all our money in a bag. We don't even see the money now.'' But touring isn't entirely unchaotic, Cool explained. ``Hey, there goes the chainsaw! Do you hear the chainsaw? Yeah, we're backstage in Cleveland, firing up the ole chainsaw. They're making a sculpture ...''
Cool paused to burp loudly.
``Sorry ... of Wendy O'Williams. The roadies. With a chainsaw. Out of a piece of wood.'' Along with fame, success and roadies who are skilled with chainsaws, there have been a few developments in the personal lives of the band. Cool and vocalist/guitarist Armstrong both are married and each have a child; bassist Dirnt is engaged. ``Fatherhood, marriage, you know,'' Cool said. ``You have a baby. You help the baby do things, feed the baby. They play with toys. They're really cute.'' Green Day's music is the one thing that really hasn't changed much, despite the occasional cold shoulder from punk fans who equate signing with a major label to selling out. Armstrong still writes songs about ``real-life stuff,'' Cool said, and the band is content to keep playing them.
``It (the music) has aged gracefully,'' he said. ``It hasn't gotten any flashier. If anything, it's gotten a little simpler, a little tougher and stuff, you know?''
When Green Day stopped in Birmingham after that Auburn show in 1991, they played in the living room of a house on 14th Street South. At the time, they talked about how they had just turned down a deal with IRS Records. Dirnt explained that if they did sign such a contract, they would end up touring in a bus, staying in hotels instead of on random couches and doing telephone interviews. They were still just kids, he reasoned, there would be time for success later.
``Mike's a pretty smart guy, huh?'' Cool said. ``Well, we always wanted to experience music from every aspect. I mean, we've played living rooms, squats and places like that, like, so many times,'' Cool said. ``It's better to regret something you have done than something you haven't done.'' No regrets thus far, Cool promised. But some people have suggested that Green Day's success came from selling out to corporate rock moguls. Cool doesn't agree. He offered a different explanation:
``Satan. Satan, Satan,'' he chanted. ``That's what's different. We're all firm believers in Satan now. We think Satan is cool. ``How the fuck do you think a band like Green Day got popular?''