Sunday was Awesome as F**k. New York City 9-19-10

Joe's still the man.

Joe’s still the man.

This Sunday I had a whirlwind day up in New York City. I took a quick break from the “editing cave” (holy cow I have a lot of editing in the queue) and headed up on the train in the wee hours of the morning to do some portraits of a client of mine for a book she’s writing. She was coming in from Los Angeles to attend a Q&A/Lecture at the 92nd Street Y, and we figured this would be the best time to shoot since we live so far from one another.

Here are some of my favorites from our shoot!

The panelists for the 92nd Street Y thing included Broadway’s Michael Mayer, director of the American Idiot play, as well as Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. The moderator Jordan Roth would be asking them questions about the adaptation of the music to a stage show, as well as asking questions submitted by fans from around the world via Twitter. I must admit, I was definitely interested.

But let me backtrack now that you have an idea of why I was in New York. My day began with meeting Niki (my client) near the Niagra in the morning, where there is a really awesome Joe Strummer mural. If you are a Clash fan like me, or even just a fan of Joe’s, I recommend you check it out. This mural is being maintained and watched over, but there is a chance that someday it might just be painted over, as was the fate of other Clash murals within the city.

Anyway, I thought the mural would mesh well with Niki’s philosophy on life as well as really go well with her bright pink hair. After doing some shots there, we headed down to the Yaffa Cafe to have a bite to eat. Jim from Honah Lee introduced me to the Yaffa back when he was living in NYC and I’ve been a big fan of the place ever since. I only wish that I were up in the city more often to get there. I highly recommend the brunch: a delicious omelet with cheese and your choice of veggies, home fried potatoes, toast, and a mimosa. $12. Sweet.

This week was University Week on Broadway, and many shows were offering discounted student tickets. American Idiot was no exception. For five shows between September 14th and September 19th, attendees were given a special treat after the performance. During what was called “Idiot University,” director Michael Mayer, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, cast members and crew came back on stage and sat in folding chairs to take questions from the audience after the show’s end. Time Out New York‘s David Cote moderated the discussions. There were probably a few hundred really hardcore Green Day fans who had flown in from all over the globe (I met a guy that came all the way from London for this!), and so I managed to hear about and subsequently get into the post-show discussion after the play to check it out for myself. Since there was a Sunday matinee performance of the play, I would be able to attend both the post-play Q&A, and the 92Y thing which was scheduled for the evening. Ruleage.
The whole panel on stage at the St. James Theater.

The whole panel on stage at the St. James Theater.

The post-play discussion was really interesting, and it was great to hear about the work ethic of the actors involved (John Gallagher, Jr, Stark Sands, and Tony Vincent sat in on the panel), and also to hear about how Mayer and Armstrong continue to collaborate (even now after the show’s been running for months) to help the show evolve with each performance. Multimedia/video artist Darrel Maloney sat in on the panel as well to talk about the video that he’d created to run on the multiple TV screens on stage throughout the play. While most of the fans in the audience were there to simply swoon over everything Armstrong said, I found Maloney’s presence to be particularly interesting, because his contribution to the play is vital yet quite often under-appreciated, and I was glad he was able to speak about his craft, even if only for a few minutes. Photo and video nerds unite. 🙂

I think what interested me most was a question directed at Armstrong regarding how the songs taken from American Idiot changed meaning when sung by the cast. Many of the songs on the record hold some very personal meaning to him, and while they certainly had one intended meaning at the time of writing, they took on entirely new meanings once placed in the context of the play. Armstrong elaborated on that a bit, and said something about how it still blows his mind that his songs are on Broadway. It was pretty cool to see that someone even at his level of fame still gets an occasional reality check when something unique or frankly, historic, happens.

The panel went on for about a half-hour, and while a few fans had meaningful questions, several just wanted hugs or to give Armstrong a token of their appreciation. A young boy nervously took the question microphone and barely managed to squeak out that he wanted to give Armstrong a gift. Armstrong hoisted the boy onto the stage with one arm and got his gift. Once the boy was on stage, however, the fear instantly disappeared and he started to really ham it up for the cheering crowd, much to Armstrong’s amusement.

A few more questions were asked and then the panel wrapped. As soon as it was officially “over,” a mob of fans rushed the stage and Armstrong stayed for quite some time to sign autographs.

While photography was prohibited during the play, I did manage to snap some shots of the Idiot University panel from my seat after the show. I’m including some of my favorites here.

Next we grabbed a bite to eat and a few drinks at a bar nearby. I met up with Rachel (one of the Cobras’ managers – see the Party! Party! Party! tour postings from April 2010 if you don’t know who the Cobras are…) and my other friend Tanya so we could talk a little business and just catch up a bit.

After dinner we headed back uptown to the 92nd Street Y for the next interview. This one was substantially larger, filling the Y’s large auditorium almost to capacity. The crowd went crazy at every word from Armstrong, and it made me giggle to see all of the middle-aged moms around me positively blushing and swooning at Armstrong’s very presence. A few ladies near me were even dancing in their seats.

This interview posed much more complex questions (no “Can I get a hug?” questions…) and really was educational. I don’t know much at all about Broadway, and to hear from director Michael Mayer about how he developed the play as well as how the first meeting between he and Armstrong came about was pretty interesting. It appeared that the two were very friendly and that definitely leaves options open for Armstrong and Mayer to collaborate again.

Once again, as in the case of the Time Out New York interview with Armstrong that was held a few years ago, my question was not asked (grr!), but some of the questions that were answered were truly riveting. Moderator Jordan Roth’s questions were very introspective, and quite often had both speakers thinking for a few moments before answering. I like that. Not the same interview regurgitated over and over again, and no softball questions for which either speaker had a pre-determined answer. It was a really candid, conversation-style interview.

After the moderator had finished asking his prepared questions, once again it was time to open it up to the crowd’s questions. Thankfully, this Q&A was pre-planned, and so fans had to submit their questions via email, twitter, or in writing, and the 92nd St. Y chose the best of the best to keep the conversation going.

The interview went on for about an hour, and I have no photos from the Y interview as there was strict press control. I honestly enjoyed just watching as a spectator anyway, and was happy to be able to put my giant heavy bag down.

The other really cool thing was that legendary rock photographer Bob Gruen was also there. I get a little gun-shy with people I admire so I wasn’t initially going to talk to him, but Tanya insisted and so I made my way over to shake his hand. We chatted for just a few minutes, and he was gracious and kind, just a nice guy. No wonder so many important people trust him with their images – he seems so easygoing, so drama-free. I can see why world-famous musicians like the Clash and John Lennon and Green Day would appreciate someone with that sort of demeanor when constantly surrounded by the chaos of touring, fans, and rocknroll.

After the 92Y let out, lots of folks milled about on the sidewalk outside, saying goodbyes and hugs and taking photos. I was commissioned to take a group shot of some of the most hardcore GD fans together at the 92Y. I have to say, these people are FOR SERIOUS. It’s nice to see, though, that these folks became friends because of the band, and they come together whenever there’s an event regarding the band or the band’s individual members to support them. It appears that there is no destination too far away for many of these folks when it comes to Green Day. Maybe the band should link up with an airline to transport fans to their shows. They could serve PBR and Coffee, allow cigarette (and other kinds of) smoking on-board, and the in-flight entertainment would be – you guessed it – Green Day music and videos. They could call it “Idiot Air.”

After the 92Y event, I’d heard that some of the superfans were heading off to the Rockwood Music Hall to see John Gallagher, Jr. perform some of his solo material. John Gallagher, Jr. plays the lead role of “Johnny” in the American Idiot play. I thought it’d be interesting and a nice way to wrap up a long day. Goodness knows I was looking forward to again putting down my giant gear bag and having a few beers with friends.

Love the hat, John!

Love the hat, John!

Gallagher’s solo material was folksy and romantic and very stripped down. He played an acoustic guitar with only one accompanying musician, also on guitar. To be quite honest I was floored by his range and depth after having just heard him sing in the American Idiot play. His voice was different than it was in the play – way more mellow and soothing – and I really enjoyed his music. What impressed me was that he had just performed TWO shows earlier in the day and evening, and was just now getting started on yet another show at almost midnight. Kudos my friend… I would have been beat by that point.

Since his set started late I couldn’t stay through it all, but I really liked what I heard. I also was able to make a few nice photos of him under the spotlight before heading off to Penn Station to catch the Last Ride In to New Jersey. I finally reached my bed by about 3:30 a.m., and while I was totally exhausted I went to sleep with a smile on my face. Yep, Sunday was a really great day.

Here are my faves from John’s gig. Hope you enjoy them!

21 Responses to “Sunday was Awesome as F**k. New York City 9-19-10”

  1. Tanya says:

    You, Michelle, are awesome as fuck! These are amazing! Love them! (and just to let everyone know, I posted some my Green Day Mind blog on AIU also at:

  2. Abbey says:

    You are SO FUCKING TALENTED Michelle. I love the moments you capture and share here. Oh, and Id fly IDIOT AIR!

    With Bob Gruen not going along with Green Day to South America, I think they should take you along.

  3. Cheryl says:

    What a great entry, Michelle!! LOVED all the photos, and Idiot Air – what a great idea!

  4. Fallyn says:

    AHHH!!! You took some amazing pictures! Plus, I’m all giddy that the picture of my tattoo is up there.

    By the way, that was the actual tattoo. He’d signed my arm at the talkback earlier that day, I went down to St. Marks and got it tattooed on, so that was already tattooed. 😀

  5. Julia says:

    This is a really cool blog. I was wondering if you mind me steeling 2 pics (the group pic and the one of me and my friend)? Thank you for taking the pics and thank you for writing this.

  6. Michelle says:

    No problem Julia! Just please don’t crop out my logo, that’s all I ask. 🙂 Enjoy!

  7. Michelle says:

    Thanks Fallyn. Really cool about the tattoo!

  8. Jenne says:

    beautiful work, great stories and thank you for sharing! I must go see the Joe Strummer wall when i go back to NY next month!

  9. Tanya says:

    I agree with Abbey on all counts, particularly Idiot Air and South America, he!

  10. Becki says:

    Your photography is amazing!! I wish I had the ability to capture people in that way. Nice one 🙂

  11. Lily Horn :D says:

    THESE PICS ARE BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!! You my dear have a natural talent! They are also so vibrant and capture that day amazaingly! The picture of me and Niki is heart warming :,) lol I’m the one with the blonde curls! Is there anyway I can save that picture?

  12. niki says:

    I JUST GOT HOME I LOVE YOU’RE SHOTS!!!!!! i love the black and white that you used. i really do enjoy all the pictures. and i usually always hate one. the b&w you took of billie joe, that first shot of him; wow. very great picture. the fans, johnny gallagher, the show…you captured quite a day.

    since i’m not working, you call me when it’s convenient to you. what a day. what a 4 day for me. love~niki

  13. Mallory says:

    Holy shit, man.

    I just followed a link to your blog here from GreenDayCommunity.Org, and I just wanted to say two things: One, that your photography is fucking amazing, and you have no clue how much I appreciate you taking all those shots for those of us who weren’t able to attend any of the talkbacks, and two, I want to be exactly like you when I grow up. Aside from maybe Joan Jett, you’re like the coolest ‘older’ alt chick I’ve ever seen. 😀


  14. […] Here is a selection of photographs that she took of the day. Go to her site to view the full set, “Sunday was Awesome as F**K.“ […]

  15. Michelle says:

    Hey Mallory, Thanks so much for your kind words, you are very sweet. Glad I could bring the event to those fans who couldn’t make it in person.

  16. Michelle says:

    Thanks Niki! We’ll catch up sometime this week I’m sure!

  17. Michelle says:

    Thanks so much, Lily! 🙂

  18. Devon John says:

    Damn Girl!!!!! What a way to get out of the cave! Good for you! Incredible shots!!!!!!!

  19. Michelle says:

    Thanks Devon! Now back to the cave… lol!

  20. Ivan says:

    Hola, Gracias por el articulo. Cada vez que quieres leer.

  21. Ali says:


    This is an amazing review of the whole thing, and these photos… gah! I wish I could’ve been there.