Monsters of Stadium Alt-Rock: How Green Day, Fall Out Boy And Weezer Crushed It Post-COVID In ‘Hella Mega’ Style

Hella Mega Success
– Hella Mega Success
Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer, who staged the “Hella Mega Tour” in stadiums this summer, appear on the cover of the new issue of Pollstar.

With temperatures lingering in the mid-90s even as dusk set in, tardiness for the Arlington, Texas, stop of the “Hella Mega Tour” on July 24 would’ve been understandable. But as Weezer took the stage around 6:30 p.m., before sets from Fall Out Boy and Green Day, Globe Life Field was already 90% full and rocking, according to Ryan McElrath, Live Nation senior vice president of global touring.

“The remarkable thing is people showed up early,” McElrath says. “They wanted to see all three acts. People showed up for [opener] The Interrupters as well. It created one of those things that was an event.”

While the show began the “Hella Mega Tour,” delayed from 2020 due to the pandemic, and was the first-ever concert at the recently opened Globe Life Field, it held greater significance as the start of the first fully-routed stadium tour following the live industry’s shutdown.

“It was just so unbelievably emotional,” says CAA agent Jenna Adler, who has represented Green Day since the mid-’90s. “You got hit with this wave of emotion, like, ‘Oh my god, we’re fucking doing this!’”

“It was an incredible crowd,” says Sean Decker, executive vice president of sports and entertainment for the Texas Rangers, Globe Life’s baseball tenant. “You could sense the pent-up demand to get out, to gather, to come to events like this.”

And the moment wasn’t lost on the artists.

“They hadn’t been on a stage and hadn’t played in front of real people for so long,” says Bob McLynn, co-founder of Crush Music, which manages Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer. “I think some of them sort of forgot the feeling, and you could see it after the first show in Dallas. As the tour went on, it just got better and better.”

Globe Life’s sold-out “Hella Mega” stop grossed $3.2 million, kicking off 20 dates that moved 659,062 tickets and raked in $67.3 million, including seven gigs that topped $4 million, per Pollstar Boxoffice data. But it symbolized much more, reasserting live music’s strength on an epic scale after a brutal year-plus.

“Rock is more than a party,” Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong tells Pollstar by email. “When it’s done right, it’s a celebration for the masses to gravitate to.”

None of it would’ve been possible without Crush, which conceptualized the tour, kept its flame alive and executed it under unprecedented conditions.

“I don’t know if this tour would have happened if we didn’t have Crush management managing all three artists,” Adler says.

Thnks Fr Th Mmrs
Elliot Ingham
– Thnks Fr Th Mmrs
Backed by flames, Fall Out Boy drummer Andy Hurley holds down the kit at Atlanta’s Truist Park on July 27. The sold-out show grossed $3.1 million and drew 32,126.

This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race
Today, McLynn and Crush co-founder Jonathan Daniel helm one of the industry’s most successful management firms, but they started out on the other side of the equation. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Daniel played in pop-punk bands Candy and Electric Angels, and McLynn made his name in the ‘90s with post-hardcore group The Step Kings. As artists, both learned the industry’s innerworkings and witnessed management shortcomings firsthand.

With the arrival of Napster and the digital music boom, Daniel saw an opportunity to provide emerging acts with the managerial care he wished he’d had as an artist. He “started looking for … bands that understood the internet and were rolling up their sleeves and doing everything themselves,” which led him to Fall Out Boy, then a little-known band from the Chicago suburbs.

Around then, an industry friend introduced Daniel to McLynn, who was also transitioning into management. The two connected immediately. Both were already working with acts in their orbit, and they founded Crush in 2002, soon signing singer-songwriter Butch Walker and Fall Out Boy.

Daniel was also involved with BigChampagne, a tech venture and Crush client that tracked and parsed Napster file-trading data to deliver analytics to music industry players about acts that were gaining steam outside of record sales.

“There was so much research that no one was looking at,” McLynn says. “That really helped us early on to discover these new movements.”

Fall Out Boy exploded and when its bassist Pete Wentz discovered new artists online, he’d forward them to Crush. Soon, the firm’s roster swelled with acts that came to define a sub-genre: Panic! At The Disco, The Academy Is…, Cobra Starship and Gym Class Heroes. Those artists bonded with fans by directly communicating with them online, before that was common.

“Bigger artists didn’t care about it,” Daniel says. “They were like, ‘Why am I going to LiveJournal?’ … It was free, and there was nobody claiming the space – so we claimed the space.”

Quickly, Crush’s core acts became fixtures on Warped Tour, the travelling alt-rock bonanza formed in the mid-’90s that became the definitive forum for pop-punk and emo music in the 2000s.

“We had many, many bands from Crush management play on Warped Tour,” says Warped founder Kevin Lyman. “They never just came and said, ‘Throw my band on,’ and then expected us to do everything. They always have a plan.”

Crush became increasingly efficient, expanding its infrastructure – personnel for things like marketing and radio – to meet clients’ needs.

“Everything was working super well, and that’s how we afforded to build the company out,” Daniel says.

Island In The Stadium
Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images
– Island In The Stadium
Weezer guitarist Rivers Cuomo and drummer Patrick Wilson perform during the “Hella Mega Tour” at New York’s Citi Field on Aug. 4.

Hitchin’ A Ride
Genres go in and out of style, and the wave Fall Out Boy rode in the ‘00s was no different. As acts endearingly labeled as “MySpace bands” faded, McLynn and Daniel reimagined Crush and pushed it past its signature genre. Previously, Crush had only managed artists from the beginnings of their careers; now, it decided it would also work with established clients.

“I just had this thought that the industry abandoned artists before the public did, so maybe we should try artists that we thought were great, but that needed to be restarted,” Daniel says.

As Fall Out Boy went on hiatus in 2009, in-house Crush producer Sam Hollander introduced McLynn and Daniel to friend and Train singer Pat Monahan, who was considering changing management. Within months of joining Crush, Train released “Hey, Soul Sister,” which became its biggest hit ever. Career, restarted.

More artists followed. In the early ‘10s, Crush signed Sia, whose career had stagnated. Noticing her knack for writing, McLynn and Daniel encouraged her to pen tunes for others, and she notched hits that way, including Rihanna’s “Diamonds.”

“That really opened the door, and then when it was time for her to do her own music, we held back some songs that maybe she was thinking about for other artists,” McLynn says. Among them was “Chandelier,” the 2014 smash that shot Sia to stardom. Another career, restarted.

Crush signed Lorde following “Royals,” and its roster came to include Alanis Morissette, Regina Spektor, Jewel, Courtney Love, Lykke Li, Terrace Martin, Darkside and, as of August, Miley Cyrus.

But rock remains dear to McLynn and Daniel, and two signings loom large: Weezer in 2015 and Green Day in 2017.

“As a young manager with young bands, those guys were the gold standard,” McLynn says. “They’re the acts that we were aspiring to be. So, when it came around that they’d consider working with us, it was an honor.”

For Daniel, a longtime fan who first saw Green Day opening for Bad Religion in the early ‘90s, the call from the band’s camp was a pinch-me moment.

“When we met them, I asked, ‘You’re in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. What are your goals? Do you have goals anymore?’” Daniel says. “[Bassist] Mike [Dirnt] is like, ‘We want to be a stadium band.’ I loved that. That gave me something to chew on.”

Welcome To Paradise
Greg Schneider
– Welcome To Paradise
Green Day’s Mike Dirnt wows San Francisco’s Oracle Park on Aug. 27. The show was one of seven “Hella Mega” stops to pass $4 million grossed.

Perfect Situation
Green Day has long commanded arenas and amphitheaters, securing high placements on Pollstar’s year-end worldwide touring chart in 2005 (No. 12, $34.8 million grossed), 2009 (No. 26, $45.7 million) and 2017 (No. 22, $64 million), and has even periodically played stadiums. But the band had never staged a full-fledged stadium tour. While mulling possibilities, Daniel found himself contemplating the “Monsters Of Rock Tour,” the travelling event that united huge hard rock and heavy metal artists for American and European tours in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Scott Legato / Getty Images
– (Pyro)mania
Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz shoots flames from an apparatus connected to his instrument in Detroit on Aug. 10. Says Kevin Lyman: “Fall Out Boy, their fascination with fire never goes away.”

“One morning, I sent Billie Joe the ‘Monsters of Rock’ admat and was like, ‘This is how we do stadiums,’” says Daniel, citing the event’s 1988 U.S. bill that featured Van Halen, Scorpions, Dokken, Metallica and Kingdom Come. Meanwhile, shortly after signing Green Day, McLynn began discussing stadium touring options with Live Nation.

“The exciting thing we’ve seen in our business over the last decade or so is more activity in stadiums,” McElrath says. “Going out and building a show for stadiums and playing exclusively stadiums, it’s a massive statement.”

But who would be the Scorpions to Green Day’s Van Halen? Daniel and McLynn agreed such a tour would be virtually impossible unless all the acts were Crush clients. It’d still be challenging, sure, but not as logistically or interpersonally difficult as a similar trek where each artist had different management. Compromises would need to be made, and with a lineup of its own clients, the firm could be an honest broker.

“It’s not easy to have three arena-sized artists on their own all come together to do it as one big collective,” Adler says with a knowing laugh. “There were so many pitfalls. But that’s what managing is, right? Going out there and not being afraid and having the foresight and the gumption to say, ‘This is the right thing.’ … A lot of managers inside the industry were calling Crush and saying, ‘Are you crazy?’”

Each artist brought something to the table. Green Day had the deepest catalog of hits, while Fall Out Boy enjoyed a slightly younger audience. And Weezer was “the hottest of the three, in terms of industry perception,” Daniel says, coming off an unexpected Hot 100 hit in its 2018 cover of Toto’s 1982 single “Africa.”

“Weezer, Green Day and Fall Out Boy fans have a fair amount in common, so it wasn’t like we were on tour with Slipknot and Taylor Swift,” says Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo. “It was kind of the best of both worlds.”

A(rm)strong Showing
Scott Legato / Getty Images
– A(rm)strong Showing
Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong plays at Detroit’s Comerica Park on Aug. 10.

On Sept. 10, 2019, Green Day, Weezer and Fall Out Boy revealed the “Hella Mega Tour,” with the former two also announcing new 2020 albums; all three played L.A.’s Whiskey a Go Go that night to celebrate. But chaos – and not the fun kind of a punk show – was around the corner.

When the coronavirus pandemic erupted in March 2020, the wheels for “Hella Mega,” which was to begin with a mid-June European leg, had already started turning.

“We’re talking about millions of dollars just to start a tour, and there’s a good portion of that that you don’t get back when you move something,” says McLynn, explaining that the bands had already started shipping gear overseas.

Suddenly, Adler had to reschedule the “beautifully routed stadium tour for ‘20” she’d laid out before the baseball season was announced. “Hella Mega” announced 2021 dates in July 2020 and, over the next several months, Adler and McElrath stayed in touch with stadiums and Crush, discussing how late certain processes could be initiated for the tour to still go out in 2021.

“We were on the precipice of having to commit millions of dollars to not just hiring staff, but really building this out, if we wanted to make the July 2021 window work,” Adler says.

And, if it was feasible and safe, the involved parties wanted to make that window to work, because when the bands signed on for a 2020 joint tour, they hadn’t envisioned it happening in 2021, much less 2022. Even so, the decision to push for ‘21 transcended business strategy.

“We have to bring this world back to some normalcy, if we can go out safely and everybody’s in agreement,” Adler recalls saying to the “Hella Mega” team. “We’re Green Day. We are leaders. We’re going to lead these people and all of us out of this pandemic.”

Setting the tour in motion created substantial financial risk, but Adler advised that the artists and their teams commit to extensive COVID protocols and move forward.

“My rationale was really about following baseball,” Daniel says. “That became the blueprint of how we could do the tour. It’s like, ‘Let’s use the same rules as baseball. Let’s do it like that, because they’re filling stadiums everyday.’”

Adler savvily negotiated for the first four dates of the rescheduled “Hella Mega” – planned for Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco – to be moved to the end of the 2021 run, so the tour would instead begin in Texas, Georgia and Florida, states with more aggressive reopening timelines.

“We were always trying to safeguard this as much as we could to give us that best shot of making this happen,” she says.

When They Come Around
Greg Schneider
– When They Come Around
Green Day performs during its headlining “Hella Mega” set at Detroit’s Comerica Park on Aug. 10.

Dance, Dance
To succeed, “Hella Mega” had to institute COVID-era protocols at an unprecedented scale. Each band had its own crew and separate bubble; all touring party members were fully vaccinated.

“They had to stay safe, and even if they were safe, they still could’ve gotten it,” Adler says. “As much as I wanted the tour to keep going because it was so great, I also was like, ‘OK, we’ve beaten the odds.’”

And, despite precautions, the tour wasn’t impervious. When a member of Fall Out Boy’s team tested positive in August, the band withdrew from dates in New York, Boston and D.C., rejoining the tour in Detroit on Aug. 10. The remaining 12 shows featured the full bill, and when the tour reached L.A.’s Dodger Stadium for its penultimate show on Sept. 3, those involved sighed in relief.

“I was like, ‘Holy shit, Seattle’s in two days, I think we’re actually gonna make it,’” says McLynn of the sold-out gig, which grossed $4.3 million. “Partway through the tour, it didn’t feel like we were going to.” 

In a testament to Crush’s Dustin Addis, who handles day-to-day management of Fall Out Boy and Weezer, and Scott Nagelberg, who does the same for Green Day, the tour’s unusual nature didn’t impact its artists much.

Hella Metal
Matthew J. Lee / The Boston Globe / Getty Images
– Hella Metal
Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, pictured at Boston’s Fenway Park on Aug. 5, took inspiration from the likes of Kiss and Van Halen for the 2021 album Van Weezer.

“They really only tell me what I need to know, and I don’t really need to know any of that to perform,” Cuomo says.

“I’m not totally sure about all the logistics, because I’m the rock star that goes on stage and kills it,” Armstrong concurs.

In fact, while Cuomo knows “it was an incredibly difficult and complicated endeavor” from inception to execution, from his vantage point, there “seemed to be fewer problems than on a normal tour.”

At Dodger Stadium, Lyman, enjoying his first concert since the pandemic, was impressed.

“All four of those bands performed on Warped Tour at one point in their career, but never overlapped, so it was kind of the multi-generations of Warped Tour being represented in one venue, which was very cool,” he says. “That was a great tour and great package and actually a great value.”

As for package stadium touring, “Hella Mega” has struck a nerve in the business. In September, Red Hot Chili Peppers announced a 2022 stadium trek – like Green Day, another alt-rock stalwart venturing into full-fledged stadium touring for the first time – with most dates supported by The Strokes and Thundercat.

“There are so many different managers and artists across the industry right now that are saying, ‘How do you replicate “Hella Mega”?’” Adler says. “If you want to play stadiums, why not combine all these efforts and star power?”

“It’s not necessarily a new concept,” says McElrath, “but it’s certainly something that I think everybody’s been reminded of, how powerful it can be – and it’s helping drive more artists being able to go play stadiums.”

For its part, Green Day’s hooked, and will play more stadiums when “Hella Mega” finally hits Europe in 2022.

“We want to keep playing stadiums,” Armstrong says. “Green Day is a stadium band.”