Tony Geravesh, singer for the San Jose pop-punk band Stickup Kid, was in his college English class on Thursday afternoon when he received a text he'll never forget.
It came from a band member and said, essentially: Do you want to open up for Green Day at South by Southwest?
There was only one problem. All five Stickup Kid members were in San Jose. And the gig was 6 p.m. the next day in Austin, Texas. They had about 30 hours to travel more than 1,700 miles to get to the Austin City Limits Live venue.
Flying was out: last-minute plane tickets to Austin were too pricey. There was only one option: Get in the van!
"We'd trade 30 hours (of driving) for 30 minutes of opening up a show for these legends," Geravesh said of Green Day, whose Friday night show was one of the hottest tickets at South by Southwest. "These guys are some of the reasons why I started playing music."
The added attraction was that South by Southwest is arguably the world's most influential music festival. Although it draws some of the industry's biggest headliners, it is primarily designed as an event that breaks new acts like Stickup Kid.
Making it to Austin in time, however, was no easy task for the band, which consists of vocalist Geravesh, guitarists Bo McDowell and Curtis Wallace, drummer Cameron MacBain and bassist Jonathan McMaster. The musicians, who range in age from 18-24, had to drive all night, taking turns behind the wheel.
"The minute we got in the car, we were already behind," Geravesh says. "We were literally going 95 mph the whole way."
There was barely time for bathroom breaks, let alone other travel luxuries.
"You had to eat at gas stations or else you went hungry," McMaster says.
They arrived at the venue, just a few minutes late, and were escorted backstage to get ready.
"Seeing the Green Day guys before the show, I was like, 'Wow! I'm actually playing with them,'" MacBain says. "I've loved their music since I was in third grade."
It hardly mattered that their gig was merely a backdrop to one of the biggest stories at SXSW -- how Green Day would perform following frontman Billie Joe Armstrong's well-publicized trip to rehab last year.
"Throughout that day, my legs were trembling, and it was hard to stay poised and be a leader for my guys, " recalls Geravesh. "But when the announcer said, 'Please welcome Stickup Kid!,' and I heard the roar of the crowd, the worries and anxiety disappeared."
The band's opening set was well received by Green Day faithful, who arrived early to secure good seats at the 2,700-capacity venue.
"That was the biggest crowd we've ever played in front of," McDowell says.
How did Green Day, one of the biggest bands in the universe, come to pick a relatively unknown group that was 1,700 miles away for an opening slot that scores of acts already in Austin would have died for? Chalk it up to the East Bay punk legends deciding to honor their Bay Area roots and handing the plum assignment to a group of musicians they believe in -- Stickup Kid is signed to Adeline Records, a label co-owned by Armstrong.
"It's just good to know that the people you look up to are kind like that," Geravesh says.
The gig -- which band members call "an opportunity of a lifetime" -- comes at a significant time for the Stickup Kid, which formed in 2009.
The band, which has already created a minor buzz on the local scene, releases its not-yet-titled sophomore effort sometime in the next few months. It also has a couple of local shows planned -- March 24 at 924 Gilman in Berkeley (a frequent haunt of Green Day in its formative years) and April 13 at the San Jose Rock Shop.
"We're just five best friends who love playing music together," says Geravesh. "That's why this band started and that's who we'll always be."
For more information about the band, visit www.stickupkidca.com.
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To see Jim Harrington's complete coverage of the South by Southwest festival, go to www.mercurynews.com/music.