Two Helpings of Grandma’s Hallucinogenic Jelly

A few weeks after Pearl Jam’s first album, Ten, came out, I had a chance to see them live on campus at University of Georgia for $3. Eddie’s voice was thrashed due to illness, but they were still able put on an amazing show to a relatively small crowd (and did I mention that it was only 3 bucks?!?). I was hooked. A killer new band that rocked the house that not that many people knew about. Right up my alley. I was in heaven until a month or so later when Pearl Jam’s Seattle neigbors released their album and ruined it all.

You likely know the story. Nevermind was unleashed upon the masses, and set off a musical explosion that no one was expecting. While it was great for the careers of many of the artists impacted by all of this, I think a lot of people were left feeling that “their” bands had been taken from them and handed out to the very white suburban mainstream fratboy/girl mofos that this music was helping them escape from. There were plenty more, but the big immediate losses for me were Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden and my newly discovered Pearl Jam. After each of their big breakthrough albums, I found myself retreating from all three of these groups, not paying a whole lot of attention to susequent releases.

A few years later most of the “grunge” bands had imploded due to death or freak outs from overexposure. Pearl Jam was still around though. Somehow during the insane hype of it all, they decided to take a stand by 1) not ho’ing themselves out via videos and talk shows and other stupid over-promotional B.S., and 2) taking Ticketmaster to the Supreme Court, claiming the TM was running a monopoly. The result of this was that they were able to fade from the media limelight with their integrity and sanity in tact, becoming the band that they had probably hoped they’d be (in terms of exposure) from the beginning.

So here we are in 2006, 15+ years into PJ’s career, and all of a sudden they’ve changed up the way they operate. New album, new video (first one since Jeremy) and a real live headlining tour. Yup, they’ve decided to step up to the plate for their fans, putting their Ticketmaster grudge to the side for the timebeing, and bring their live act to the masses.

My boy, PHarrell (no not that Pharell, but the original: Patrick C. Harell) was still in town after the Afoostic shows, and being the PJ phreak that he is, deemed that we catch not just one, but two of their three sold out nites at the Bill Graham Civic Center here in SF. So we attended, and they friggin’ BROUGHT IT.

Now, I haven’t been the biggest Pearl Jam supporter through the years, and in fact I’ve had my major PJ naysaying periods, but all that was left behind as soon as they took to the stage on nite one. The size of the venue was perfect for a show like this, and we had a really good vantage point on the floor, just to the right of the stage. The band was in rare form, playing really well together and all seeming like they were having a blast. And Eddie was Eddie. He belted, he screamed, he pontificated and he drank. Two bottles of red by my account. They played new tracks, and everyone nodded along, some singing. And they played old tracks, and every middle aged ex-fratboy went completely bonkers. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced as many 30somethings rocking out and singing along like that in my life. I realize that it probably sounds cheezy as crap from an outsider’s perspective, and I would have to totally agree if it hadn’t been so damn fun. Good times.

So all you current Pearl Jam haters who, at some point back in your late teens or early twenties, used to really dig this band, you’re the ones who need to get out to one of their shows and give them another chance. I know you don’t want to now, but tell me what you think afterwords.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 was me, PHarrell, Bob, Anne and the Moores

Pre-Opener Dead Man Walking
Set 1 Of The Girl, Go, World Wide Suicide, Save You, Severed Hand, Corduroy, Given To Fly, Unemployable, Sad, Gone, Not For You/(Modern Girl), State Of Love And Trust, Gods’ Dice, Present Tense, Comatose, Why Go, Do The Evolution
Encore 1 Even Flow, Parachutes, Footsteps, Once, Alive
Encore 2 Wasted Reprise, Life Wasted, Spin The Black Circle, Bu$hleaguer, Indifference, Rockin’ In The Free World, Yellow Ledbetter

More about this show on Pearl Jam’s website.

Sunday, July 16, 2006 was me, So!, PHarrell, Kris, Justin, Kristen and Sid

Pre-Opener Driftin’
Set 1 Sometimes, Severed Hand, Whipping, Corduroy, World Wide Suicide, Animal, Marker In The Sand, Dissident, Even Flow, Army Reserve, Insignificance, In My Tree, Lukin, Garden, I Got Id, Inside Job, Rearviewmirror
Encore 1 Wasted Reprise, Come Back, Better Man, Life Wasted, American In Me, Alive
Encore 2 Last Kiss, Big Wave, Blood, Leash, Fuckin’ Up, Yellow Ledbetter

More about this show on Pearl Jam’s website.