Making of a Moment – Mountain View, CA 6/1/2003
This week’s podcast covered the June 1, 2003 show from Mountain View, CA, one of the only times Pearl Jam played there without it being a Bridge School benefit. As I was listening to the show (no video, unfortunately) and coming up with my Top 3 Moments for the podcast, I felt inspired to dig a little more and explore why I picked them and why these moments stood out to me.
Pearl Jam can do this more than almost any other band, find a little spark or a little burst within a song, something that you’ve never heard before, that elevates the show to another level. This is extremely hard to do in the moment, it takes years of unspoken communication and feel to bring it to fruition. When it happens, I’m always in awe and it makes me appreciate them more and more each time. I did this once before and I felt like this show was a good one to bring it back for. Let’s get right to it.
Listen to Insignificance from 6/1/2003
My number 3 moment is Insignificance. As the penultimate song of the main set, it has to serve as the final buildup of the wave before it comes crashing down with the next song to end the set. It has to build on the energy of what came before (in this case, a scorching ½ Full, good lord Mike McCready) and keep it going throughout. Ed is letting his voice resonate throughout the first verse, he sounds like he’s fully engaged. Listen to Stone let his pre-verse lead just hang around playfully before the second verse, it’s delightful. During the second verse, between lines, Ed adds “…this song’s (unintelligible)” and then “…that’s Rock Point right there…” This song’s what, Ed? Was he about to let out some previously unknown nugget of wisdom about the song and decided halfway through to grab it before it escaped? What happened at Rock Point? Another mystery for us to solve, I suppose. But that’s all prelude to what really struck me about this version.
After the second verse, Mike and Stone are playing their leads, Mike’s holding it down, Stone’s letting his meander, Ed vocalizes wordlessly, soaring over all of it. Then, Matt comes out of nowhere, breaking his rhythm and beginning a simple tom beat that builds to one of the best drum fills I’ve ever heard him do…it’s not quite a drum solo, but it should have been. He starts with a couple of thunderous snare hits and then starts rolling, like bombs dropping, each one more intense than the last, even throwing in one more than there should have been room for, grabbing every bit of space that’s available to him before crashing in on the cymbals and driving the song home. It’s perfect.
Listen to Daughter from 6/1/2003
Daughter is my number 2 moment. I want to get straight to the bridge here. Before bringing it down like they do to get into the tag, Ed takes the last word of that last chorus and runs with it, again letting it soar over the music, which continues to build. He’s got an echo for the “shades go down…” part, and then starts in, repeating “everywhere I go….,” the last one away from the microphone just enough that it’s softer, then “it rains on me.” It’s Tom Waits’ “It Rains On Me” and now Ed’s teaching it to the crowd to do some call and response, which they answer, finding it hard to keep up with the man himself, as is usually the case. He lets a few delicate “…rains on me, me, me” lines spill out and then starts singing something else, the crowd doesn’t know this one, it’s another Tom Waits song, “Hold On,” a debut tag, and Ed’s singing it like it’s always belonged, using the echo again. The repetition of the “hold on” line builds and builds, it seems like Ed really wants to go off on it but reins it in at the last second. It finishes with a restrained “…don’t let go, hold o-, o-,” he doesn’t even resolve the line. Beautiful.
Listen to Crazy Mary from 6/1/2003
To no one’s surprise (those who listened to this week’s episode at least), my number 1 moment from this show is Crazy Mary. 2003 was when the song really came into its own, with the addition of Boom letting them play around and turn it into something special. They had already played it 13 times on the tour already, and 14 would be lucky this time. The verses, which can sometimes linger and meander, here have a drive and a purpose, like they know what’s coming and they can’t wait to get to it. Listen to the excitement in Ed’s voice as he lets out one last exclamation after the last …”pass it a-round.” Joyous. Listen to Boom’s B3 take over immediately, in perfect sync with what Stone and Mike are doing. It’ll be overshadowed by what comes later, but this first part of the jam is flawless. After a few measures, Boom starts really leaning into it, laying down the gauntlet.
Not to be outdone, Stone begins to strum his acoustic guitar so passionately that I can’t believe it stayed in one piece. While all this is happening, Mike is laying low, just waiting for his moment. And when it comes, after a torrid organ section by Boom, he wastes no time in becoming the focal point of the whole thing. There’s no warmup, he’s coming out swinging. Stone’s still trying to break all of the strings on the acoustic, and then everyone’s in it together, Boom joins back in and everything’s chaotic and messy and gorgeous for a moment. Mike challenges Boom with a riff, gets the answer, and now we’re dueling, guitar vs. organ, and it’s playful for a while until Mike says enough and kickstarts it into high gear, we’re at the 9-minute mark now and I don’t want this song to ever end. It comes crashing down on itself at 9:20 and somehow it’s over. Go listen to it again. I am.