5 Unforgettable Moments of Pearl Jam in Los Angeles
Brian Horwitz Highlights Some of the Band’s Top Moments in Los Angeles, CA
As far as cities go, Los Angeles would be a good one to live near if you wanted to catch a PJ show over the years. In the early days, it was almost a second home to the band: they played 4 shows there in 1991 and another 4 shows in Hollywood. These shows were an important part of an era vital to the band finding their groove and turning into the band we would come to know and love over the years.
Before I could come up with a list of top 5 moments that have occurred in Los Angeles, I had to actually define what it means for something to have occurred in “Los Angeles.” That may sound obvious, but Los Angeles is a sprawling city with several venues that are in L.A. proper, or right on the outskirts. At my count there have been 25 full shows in L.A. over the years if you count L.A, Irvine, Hollywood, and Inglewood. And that’s not counting things like the Singles Premiere Party (just watch PJ20 if you want a good laugh), or the secret 11/4/93 4-song show which, depending on who you ask, was either at the Whiskey A Go-Go or The Roxbury Club, and of which details still have yet to surface.
Here we are in 2022, and a full tour 2 years in the making is finally going to kick off in May. The 2nd and 3rd shows of the tour will be at The Forum in L.A., and they will be the first L.A. proper shows since 2013. The local fans must be jonesing, but they’ve certainly been spoiled over the years with some fantastic shows, and a few quirky moments to say the least. Warts and all, here are my picks for top 5 moments, L.A. style, in no particular order:
2/7/91 (Florentine Gardens)
Pearl Jam plays their 4th full show ever as a band, still under the moniker “Mookie Blaylock.” Garden is played for the first time ever and sounds absolutely fantastic. The song is relatively close to what would eventually make it onto Ten. Mike’s solo in the middle is a little looser, and there’s no real graceful return to the final chorus, but other than that it’s pretty darn close. Ed just sounds fantastic, and the response by the crowd afterwards is pretty great considering most of them probably had no idea who any of the guys in the band are (except the guy saying “Let’s go Stoney!”). Some other highlights from this show include Brother making its debut, not to be seen again for another 18 years! The show ends with yet another brand new song: Why Go.
10/6/91 (Hollywood, CA)
A fantastic late ’91 show that showcases the band clearly starting to forge its own path, and there’s been a great sounding bootleg circulating for years. What sets this show apart is actually not the main set (which is full of great performances) but a surprise 3-song Temple Of The Dog set in front of roughly 500 people, including Hunger Strike, Reach Down, and Pushin’ Forward Back.
As Soundgarden was one of the other acts on the bill, this was only natural. Before Hunger Strike, Chris Cornell jokes that “this is the late night cocktail set.” Seeing as how the rumor was that Metallica was going to make a surprise appearance, and also seeing as how the TOTD album wouldn’t really surge in popularity until the following summer, the crowd’s reaction to the TOTD mini-set is fantastic. Oh, to have a time machine.
5/11/92 (Rockline, KLOS Studios) and 5/12/92 (Ventura)
It may be a bit of a stretch to call Ventura a Los Angeles show, but these 2 dates link together in a very interesting way. As the story goes: In 1990, Jack Irons gave Eddie a demo tape from a bunch of dudes in Seattle looking for a new lead singer. What was sent back by Eddie to the band was the now legendary “Mamasan” tape containing 3 songs: Alive, Once and Footsteps. Two of the three songs on the demo would see their way onto Ten (Alive and Once). The third song would sit on a shelf until 5/11/92, when Ed and Stone did an appearance on Rockline on KLOS Radio.
They begin by playing recordings of Even Flow and Alive, after which Ed and Stone debut the fan favorite Footsteps live on the air. It was recorded and would later appear as a b-side on the Jeremy single. The following night in Ventura, the band plays Footsteps for the first time in front of an audience. Ed mentions that they played it for the first time as a band the previous day, and that since it came out pretty good, they decided to give it a shot. A legendary live song was born.
7/14/98 – Inglewood, CA
A killer take on Habit. A high energy show and the band in great spirits. This show has something for everyone. But what sets this show apart is the appearance of Johnny Ramone during the encore, as he joins the band for a cover of The Ramones‘ “The KKK Took My Baby Away”. Before kicking into the song, Eddie introduces Johnny by simply saying “Ladies and gentlemen: a legend…Johnny Ramone.” The whole band is beaming as one of their idols joins them on guitar.
11/24/13 (Guitar tech problems)
A show in L.A. proper, on the Lightning Bolt tour, that is unfortunately known for a lowlight rather than a highlight. Speculation aside, what occurred is something that I’m sure the band is not proud of. Ed had been having some guitar issues during the tour, and it came to a head during Sirens when his guitar was clearly out of tune. He turns around and motions to his guitar tech, Ricky Ramone, and shrugs his shoulders as if to say “What the fuck man?!” As Ricky approaches Ed to grab his guitar and take it back to fix, Ed throws his guitar on the ground and makes Ricky pick it up. In front of 20,000 fans. Yikes. Ricky was relieved of his duties soon after. Go to the YouTube video and see for yourself (around the 3:40 mark).
This show is one of the Vault Vinyl series, and for good reason: It is screaming with energy. Brain Of J. is particularly ferocious, and the entire set is absolutely relentless. Listen to our podcast episode covering this show.
9/10/92, “MTV’s ‘Singles’ Scene”.
The band plays a few songs at the premiere party for the Seattle-based movie Singles. The problem is: after a long tour the band is tired and they don’t want to be there (watch PJ20 for “The birth of no”). They proceed to get stupid drunk before their mini-set and it’s a total disaster. At one point Eddie is so drunk he goes over to the side of the stage during Baba O’Riley and starts ripping down the side curtains, confusing them for blinds and thinking it will let in some light. He also repeatedly says “Fuck MTV”, and apparently the execs in attendance were none too pleased. Oh boy.