Balancing angst, humor, and political commentary since the early 1990s, iconic rock trio Green Day have long-cemented themselves in the pop-punk pantheon. With a discography that spans three decades, hits like "Basket Case," "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," and "American Idiot" would define their respective eras —and then some.
Next month, the band set to co-headline Harley-Davidson's inaugural Homecoming Festival in Milwaukee, a 4-day food, music, and moto-culture festival in Milwaukee. Happening July 13-16, the festival marks the brand's 120th anniversary with live music, demo rides, showcases, and exhibits at venues across the city, including the Harley-Davidson Museum and Harley-Davidson Powertrain Operations. Green Day will take the stage at Veterans Park on July 14 along with The Cult, Phantogram, KennyHoopla, and Abby Jeanne.
While summing the band's legacy up in just a few songs is no easy feat, these essentials are a good place to start.
Written from the perspective of their early years after moving out on their own, the Dookie deep cut tracks the fear and angst of growing up and heading out into the real world and up against all the obstacles that adulthood has to offer. Though it didn't see the same success as other singles from their breakthrough third album like "Longview" or "Basket Case", it would end up defining the band's historic Woodstock '94 set.
The relatable anxious energy of "Basket Case," inspired by the panic attacks frontman Billie Joe Armstrong was having during the recording of Dookie is the core of its mass appeal. One of the band's biggest hits, MTV went as far as airing the video nearly 20 times an hour in the mid-1990s.
While some fans took the 1997 single as the band eschewing their punk roots, the brooding acoustic ballad was a testament to their versatility and in some ways, was a sonic foreshadowing American Idiot. Initially not a fit for their 1995 album Dookie, the single was a perfect fit for the greater sonic diversity on Nimrod, which saw the band dabble in surf rock and ska. Despite being about a breakup between frontman Armstrong and an ex who moved to Ecuador, it would somehow become the de facto nostalgic goodbye song at almost every prom in the late 90s.
For a song to make its way back onto the charts nearly a decade and a half after its release, that means something about it stuck. The lead single from the band's 2004 album of the same name was an ardent protest against then-President George W. Bush and a scathing critique of cable news, reality TV, and American culture at large. Ultimately, the song came to unintentionally define the political attitudes of the 2000s and 2010s: equal parts critically self-loathing about the past and present state of the nation and self-assured about avoiding the pitfalls of the future.
With the lull of the early 2000s behind them, the second single from Green Day's pivotal punk rock opera American Idiot was only the beginning of the comeback that would catapult them back into the spotlight and onto the radar of a whole new generation of fans. It was impossible to escape the slow-burning, rock power ballad, inspired by frontman Billie Joe Armstrong's time living in New York City and leaning into his feelings of isolation at the time. Eventually going on to win Record of the Year at the 2006 Grammys, it was the tipping point of the band's resurgence.
You can catch Green Day co-headlining the Harley-Davidson Homecoming Festival alongside Foo Fighters this July at Veterans Park. Tickets are available here.