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After postponements and pandemic peaks and valleys, pop-punk titans Green Day, Weezer and Fall Out Boy will take their Hella Mega Tour to T-Mobile Park on Monday, Sept. 6, with openers The Interrupters.
Of course, this is no ordinary stadium show: This will be the first concert for many since pandemic restrictions were loosened, or at least the first with tens of thousands of other concertgoers. Meanwhile, the delta variant of the coronavirus has COVID-19 cases surging nationwide.
But delta concerns aren’t enough to deter lifelong fans, for whom these are more than just bands — they’ve scored the soundtrack to relationships, graduations and life events from adolescence and beyond. They’re living connections to memories.
“It’s a huge nostalgia factor,” said JJ Jang, 26, a health care worker who grew up in Olympia and lives in Seattle. (Her favorite of the trio is Weezer.)
“I had this cassette-to-phone player in my car. So I have these really vivid memories of sitting in my Kia in high school, my friends in the car. We all had very different tastes in music, so it was a battle for the aux cord — and whenever it was my turn, I was blasting these bands.”
Before those high school days of Fall Out Boy’s “Save Rock and Roll,” Jang remembers trading mix CDs with friends in middle school with Weezer songs (“Island in the Sun,” “Buddy Holly”) before graduating to the “Pork and Beans” music video she ripped off YouTube and onto her iPod Video.
So, yes, nostalgia is at the heart of this fandom.
“They say your music taste is supposed to mature as you get older, but mine stayed pretty much identical to whatever it was when I was in sixth grade,” jokes Jace Peterson, 26, of Chehalis.
He’s seen Green Day three times and says his parents are fans “because they’ve heard the songs so many times.” Mr. and Mrs. Peterson have been to shows, too.
Peterson remembers driving to an Olympia Best Buy in 2009 because there wasn’t anywhere closer to buy “21st Century Breakdown.” He was 14; mom drove.
“I was in the car listening to the album and she had to go into the mall,” Peterson explains. “I killed the car battery, because we had turned it on without starting the car and I just kept listening to the album.”
They had to get a jump-start.
JT Vizenor, residence life coordinator at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, relates to that connection. Jamming on the ride home after work at 1 a.m., Vizenor’s dad would wake the house up with “American Idiot” in the driveway. “Dookie” was the first record Vizenor bought on his own, and he’s seen the band eight times. (Yes, once with dad.)
Vizenor and his wife, Lauren, bought tickets for the Hella Mega Tour two years ago. Since then, the show was twice postponed, and Lauren’s favorite, Fall Out Boy, missed dates due to COVID-19. Vizenor said that despite the looming worry of delta, they’re comforted being outdoors and having seats away from the pit. Mostly, they’re happy to hear music.
“I think there’s probably a little more [nerves] going to this show, only because of the traveling piece with it,” Vizenor said. “We can’t drive home. But we’re just excited to get back to it and do what we love.”
Like Vizenor, other fans mentioned the anxiety of returning to crowds, noting precautions they’ve taken — double masks, vaccinations. But rising case counts are forcing some to stay home.
HaiDang Feiler, 25, is a Seattle University law student who plans to commemorate her degree with a Fall Out Boy tattoo. She has memories of syncing songs on her first MP3 player and saw the band in 2017 at KeyArena. She took her little brother, raised on Fall Out Boy, by default.
For Feiler, songs like “Thnks fr th Mmrs” evoke images of her childhood bedroom in Olympia, of a road trip to Seattle with her best friend, of “a time where I was like, ‘Wow, I had no worries.’”
Still, pandemic worries trumped her desire to see Fall Out Boy this time around.
“I have a notoriously weak immune system; I am sick all the time and I am also paranoid. So I have this horrible fear of COVID,” Feiler says.
“My husband and I, we just recently got married, but we haven’t been able to see anybody. We’ve been staying away from crowds, so we can see family all together sooner.”
Even though she’s not going to the show, this music still plays on her heartstrings.
“It reminds me of a time when my brother and I were closer,” Feiler said, in terms of distance and in general. “It’s been a time of not seeing family, and [Fall Out Boy], they have this familial connection for me.”
Across generations of family and music hardware, these bands are the throughline. They have connected fans across time zones and age groups.
If that sounds dramatic, ask Dawn MacLeod.
MacLeod, 52, works for a bicycle parts manufacturer in Vancouver, Washington. A regular concertgoer with her husband, she’s seen Fall Out Boy 13 times in five states.
The band transports MacLeod to a time she found community while feeling isolated in her personal life.
“They’re a band that’s inclusive and embraces everybody, even the misfits,” she said. “I was feeling that way at my work, not being able to fit in, not being able to communicate. It helped me relate.”
MacLeod has followed the band as far as a hometown blowout at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. And during the pandemic, when these superfans couldn’t meet on tour, they Zoomed together from New York, Germany, England and beyond. One fan had seen Fall Out Boy 100 times.
MacLeod says the obsession is hard to explain, but there’s no place she’d rather be Sept. 6.
“It’s an escape for me, to block out everything else and enjoy the music,” she said. “Escape, community with the other fans. It just brings me joy.”