Banbridge teen rocks out with Green Day

James Murphy (left) with Cole Becker, lead singer of American punk rock band SWMRS.
James Murphy (left) with Cole Becker, lead singer of American punk rock band SWMRS.

A Banbridge teenager who was plucked from the crowd to play guitar with US punk rockers Green Day has said he was “blown away” by the experience.

James Murphy volunteered to take to the stage when lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong asked if there were any guitarists in the crowd at the band’s gig at Ormeau Park in south Belfast last Wednesday.

The legendary punk singer-songwriter then singled out the 18-year-old student and part-time cinema employee for a chance to play the band’s track ‘Knowledge’ to a crowd of thousands.

James, a former Newbridge Integrated College student who is planning to start a media course at university later this year, told Belfast Live that what happened next now seems like a “daydream”.

“I just can’t believe it happened. I was on my mate’s shoulders and he [Billie Joe] was looking for people, going back and forward on the stage looking about. But I had a T-shirt on of his son’s band, SWMRS, which I reckon might have swung it.

“I was about five metres back from the stage and had to get through the crowd before the security guys grabbed me and hauled me up on stage. Next thing I was high-fiving the other guys in the band.

“Then he put a guitar over my shoulder and had to teach me how to play the song. I knew it, but I just wasn’t that sure of it.

“He’d only asked if people knew how to do three chords so it was straightforward enough to pick up.

“Then it was like, ‘You’ve got the stage kid’ and I just had to go for it.”

James, who was brought up listening to the music of Bob Dylan and Neil Young and has only been playing guitar for about a year, added: “At one stage I looked up, just for a second, and saw all those people looking back at me which was pretty overwhelming, so I just looked back down at the guitar and concentrated on not messing it up.

“I went for it, but you had to. It was just an amazing experience which seemed like it was over in a split second, but I think I was up there for about two minutes.”

As a special memento of his big stage debut, Green Day presented James with a signed Les Paul guitar - not a bad way to end an unforgettable evening.