With the Replacements in town over the weekend for Boston Calling, there was some question of whether Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong would join the Minneapolis band on stage for a few songs. After all, Armstrong had done just that for previous ‘Mats reunion shows, including Coachella, and there was a certain anniversary on the horizon that would forever tie the Green Day frontman to our city: the 20th anniversary of the alleged “riot” at the Hatch Shell for a WFNX 101.7 FM “Welcome Back Weekend” student concert. The event drew — depending on whom you ask — nearly 100,000 people, and is cited as one of the reasons no one is allowed to have fun anymore in Boston.
Oh, and OK Soda was a sponsor — how fucking ’90s is that? .
In July of 1994, when WFNX and the Phoenix started making inquires about the availability of bands for their free welcome-back-to-school concert at the Hatch Shell and Green Day’s name came up, no one could have predicted how quickly the Bay Area brats would rise to mega-popularity. August saw the band steal the show at Woodstock ’94 with a set that ended with a massive set-ending mud fight that was replayed on MTV ad nauseam over the next couple of weeks alongside the “Longview” and “Basket Case” videos.
Dookie was certified platinum by the beginning of September, and on September 9, somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 people showed up at the Esplanade. No one — not the MDC, the state police, the Wizard Security staff, or the Phoenix/FNX folks — was ready for such an enormous, mosh-happy mob or the snotty three-piece who coaxed the crowd to tear down the FNX balloon before plunging into the flower beds and tearing them up in front of the stage.
The crowd broke through the barriers and the plug was pulled just 20 minutes into the set. More than 100 people were injured (24 shipped to local hospitals), 31 were arrested, and Green Day went on to become the most successful punk band of all time. As Wizard Security owner Jeff Freedman said at the time, “It was the band, the location, the audience — the total atmosphere. I don’t think it will ever be duplicated.”