San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
Green Day gives coffeehouse culture a jolt with new website.
Mike Dirnt likes to start his morning by picking out an album and brewing a fresh pot of coffee.
“My wife actually throws the record on,” he clarifies, “and then we make our coffee and it just starts everything in the right direction.”
Dirnt’s desire to start the day with some fresh tunes is no big revelation to anyone familiar with the longtime bassist for Oakland’s renowned poppunk outfit Green Day. The value the fivetime Grammy winner places on coffee, however, may take some fans by surprise.
Dirnt and bandmates Billie Joe Armstrong and Tre Cool founded Oakland Coffee Work in 2015. Centered on a mission of sustainability, smooth flavor and Bay Area love, the business is one of many local ventures the assorted members of Green Day have undertaken over the years.
Now, Green Day is hoping to capture and celebrate the culture and community created in local coffeehouses with the recent opening of Oakland Coffee House, a website Dirnt describes as “part punk club, part internet television show, part community forum.”
Visitors to the site can expect to find a rotating hub of content added weekly, including rare archival footage of Green Day performances and Dirnt hosting virtual coffee talks on Zoom with community figures.
Currently, the site’s offerings include undated footage of various eras of Green Day (look out for Armstrong with bleachblond hair!) playing three songs as well as the premiere of “Sorta Live.” Intended to become a regular series, the first episode of “Sorta Live” features short, taped sets from Green Day guitarist Jason White, Oakland artist Brontez Purnell and Oakland’s Whateverglades, a delightful local act that describes itself on Bandcamp as “swampy fuzz twang with a side of taters.”
These intimate performances conjure the vibe of a coffeehouse open mike while also incorporating brief interviews with the performers, focused mainly on how tough the past year has been without live concerts.
In one clip, White spoke about how surreal it felt to abruptly shift from headlining arenas to assigning his child homework as the pandemic set in.
“We were getting ready to go on a yearlong, massive tour, and then the rug got pulled out,” he said. “Now I’m a homeschool, stayathome dad — and I never would have seen myself in that position. Yeah, it’s been strange in many ways.”
Tickets for each “Sorta Live” episode cost $1.99, with all proceeds going to the featured artists and their charities of choice. Alternatively, fans can register free to join Oakland Coffee’s Free Stuff Rewards VIP program, which also grants access to the streams.
For now, the next “Sorta Live” installment is slated for early May, with more details set to be announced soon through Oakland Coffee House’s website and social media channels.
Dirnt encourages artists
from across the Bay Area — and beyond — to get in touch if they’re interested in being featured on Oakland Coffee House in some capacity by emailing email@example.com or using the website’s contact form. That invitation extends to painters, comedians and other creatives as well.
“It’s funny because people say ‘coffee culture,' but it’s actually a thing we see leaving coffee — especially in 2020,” Dirnt muses. “It’s coffee culture, and the ‘culture’ part of it matters so much to us because that’s what fuels our fire. Oakland Coffee’s slogan is ‘Wake Up’ for a lot of reasons, including what are you going to use the energy that Oakland Coffee is giving you to do? We’re going to use it to fight the good fight and to have a good time.”
One thing Dirnt wasn’t willing to divulge were any details on Green Day or its related projects hitting the Oakland Coffee House airwaves.
“At the Oakland Coffee House, you never know who’s going to stop in,” says Kate Kaplan, chief operating officer for Oakland Coffee Work.
“Oakland Coffee House is a platform for all things possible,” Dirnt adds. “That’s really what it comes down to and it’s why we built the platform. We get to play by our own rules and have a good time with it.”
Heidi Kühn’s vision for a humanitarian mission to eradicate the world’s former war zones of the scourge of land mines and transform those minefields into vineyards and sustainable crops came to her in an unscripted moment of clarity she still calls an “epiphany.”
As the former CNN journalist and fifthgeneration Marin resident describes in her inspirational new memoir, “Breaking Ground,” Kühn hosted a group of antimine activists at her San Rafael home in 1997. Deeply inspired by the landmineeradication ad vocacy of England’s Princess Diana, who had died just weeks earlier, Kühn held up her glass and gave a spontaneous toast: “May the world go from mines to vines.”
Thus was born Roots of Peace, Kühn’s Marinbased nonprofit that has since helped remove 100,000 land mines from the former battlefields of seven countries, including Afghanistan, Croatia and Vietnam. In their place, the organization has supported local farmers in planting highvalue export crops (pomegranates instead of opium poppies, for instance), thereby creating a path for thousands of families out of poverty.
Kühn’s book is a heartfelt call to action, as well as a personal examination of her faith, family history (her greatgreatgrandfather Capt. John A. McNear helped develop Sonoma and Marin counties) and how a series of serendipitous meetings (with Francis Ford Coppo
la, Walt Disney’s daughter Diane Disney Miller, Dodi Fayed’s sister and many others) galvanized support for Kühn’s commitment to “dig deeper for peace.”
Kühn spoke to The Chronicle on the day President Biden announced the planned U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, where Roots of Peace since 2003 has worked with farmers, even in Talibanheld areas. “We’re not giving up,” she said.
Q: The dinner you hosted in 1997 when you launched Roots of Peace was three weeks after Princess Diana’s death. How did she inspire you and what would become your life’s work?
A: When Diana walked her final minefields in Bosnia, led by land mine survivor Jerry White, in August 1997, I was really watching. Her tragic death later that month, and the compassion she represented to the whole world, was on my mind when I hosted that delegation. Jerry White had just come from Diana’s funeral, and then three weeks later he’s in my home. The coincidence factor was overwhelming. My Granny McNear, who bequeathed this house to me and told me to “do something for peace,” had such a beautiful saying: “Coincidence is a miracle in which God prefers to remain anonymous.”
Q: Why do you think the cause of land mine eradication has motivated you so profoundly? Is it the fundamental injustice of weapons of war being left to kill civilians long after a war has been waged?
A: Yes. It is social injustice at ground zero. When you plant a land mine, you are violating the Earth we’ve been given to shepherd, and you’re tempting a wayward innocent footstep long after the guns have silenced.
Having survived cancer myself, I see land mines as a cancer to the Earth, and the solution is removal.
Q: Was your first trip to Croatia when the issue of land mines became real for you and not just theoretical? You describe in the book seeing children tethered to a pole while playing outside so they didn’t stray into danger. A: Yes, that is when it absolutely hit home. Nothing I could have read in a textbook or a newspaper could ever explain the bonechilling feeling of walking through a minefield. I understood then that if you thought there was a land mine in your backyard, you too would tether your child to a pole and live in fear each and every day of your life until they’re removed.
Q: You describe taking your teenage son to Afghanistan as one of the hardest deci
sions of your life. How have you struck a balance between involving your family in this effort and not exposing them to undue danger?
A: To this day, as a mother and now a grandmother, I’m always evaluating the risk versus the reward and how to keep that balance. I think all four of my children’s lives, looking back in retrospect, have been enriched by having a mother who walked through the minefields of the world promoting the economics of peace. Q: You’ve worked since 2003 in Afghanistan, the most heavily mined country in the world. How does today’s news of a troop withdrawal by 9/11 impact your work?
A: It’s a very serious situation. I had a twohour security briefing with our entire staff in Afghanistan this morning because we have to figure out a plan. Last week, the Taliban threatened that unless the U.S. is out by May 1, they will specifically target and attack U.S. NGOs that stay in the country. We don’t know whether the Taliban will accept this delay or not.
But we are going to continue our work. Eighty percent of Afghanistan is dependent upon agriculture, and we are the only (NGO) working today in Taliban areas, based on years of trust. I have 330 employees in all 34 provinces. I’m working with 12,000 farmers who are planting fruit trees.
So while the (newspaper) front pages announce the end of the “forever war,” I will still be on the front line of the battle for peace.
“Having survived cancer myself, I see land mines as a cancer to the Earth, and the solution is removal.” Heidi Kühn