Pearl Jam Fan Report From The Road: Budapest 2022
Pearl Jam Budapest 2022 – Finally… The Waiting Drove Me Mad
To talk about Pearl Jam in Budapest, we have to go back 26 years to 1996 when they last played here. It was a show that produced an iconic poster (combined with Prague) that is one of the rarest in existence. Why was it so rare? Because not many people were in attendance. My wife was there though.
She was born in Budapest, but most of the crowd that night were not, and she remembers seeing nothing but uniformed men in the pit. They were American soldiers stationed in Hungary for the Yugoslavian war and were given tickets to fill out the crowd. It was a very strange vibe and she had space to walk around, even up front. The energy from the few fans who were there was strong though. Strong enough for the band to pull out a unique gem like Black, Red, Yellow, played for the first time and dedicated to the fans following them around the tour. To this date, there aren’t many images or memories available from this show, but one thing we do have is this clip of Present Tense that was released during the pandemic.
Pearl Jam tried Budapest again in 2000, but ticket sales didn’t improve so they subsequently had to cancel and add the now legendary second Katowice show next door in Poland. It would seem that Pearl Jam just isn’t that big in Hungary.
SMALL BUT STRONG FAN BASE
I moved to Budapest in 2014, and sought out other Pearl Jam fans when I got there, as I would do anywhere else. There was a small but dedicated Pearl Jam community, led by an online magazine called grungery.hu. I met some of them at a Mudhoney show and saw the same faces later when Mark Lanegan made a visit. Then I decided to check out a local Soundgarden tribute band called The Superunknowns and they were awesome.
I quickly became friends with their singer Marton. He, along with most of the other Hungarian fans, however, had never seen Pearl Jam live before. They would all ask me how many times I’ve seen them and I would only answer “too many, but not enough,” as I was too embarrassed to tell them it was over 100.
After the 2000 tour and the Roskilde incident, Pearl Jam would take a break from Europe for a while. They returned in 2006 and have been coming back pretty much every other year since. Each time, the Budapest fans would hope for another hometown show, but were let down as expected.
With each European tour, though, the idea of traveling around to see the band was becoming more and more popular amongst the Pearl Jam community. This would seem to be the way to do it. Those who were tired of waiting, decided to go to Vienna (only a few hours away) or other shows in Europe.
In 2017, grungery.hu created a campaign called Scream Hello, along with a film featuring interviews from Hungarian Pearl Jam fans. Their message was simple. Hungarian fans want to see Pearl Jam back in Budapest. They sent it to the band and, to the surprise of everyone, their request was granted on the next European tour announcement. You mean, all they had to do was ask? Hungarian fans were ecstatic and July 15, 2020 could not come soon enough.
Of course, 2020 and 2021 were cancelled due to the pandemic. Could it finally happen in 2022? Pearl Jam got their US tour started in the spring, only to then cancel the final few shows because some of the band members tested for COVID. Was the European tour also in jeopardy? About a month before the Budapest show, Pearl Jam posted a photo of their gear with the caption “Who’s ready for the 2022 European tour to start?” Yes, we’re ready. Budapest has been ready since 1996.
With what appeared to be a confirmation that Pearl Jam will indeed be returning to Budapest, I felt obligated to put on a party to celebrate in my adopted hometown. We organized a huge pre-party the night before the show, where a few hundred of us met up at the famous ruin pub Szimpla Kert for some drinks and some laughs.
The Superunknowns turned up the volume on a powerful performance and we also conducted a fundraiser benefiting an organization called The Copernicus Group (started by Polish Pearl Jam fans) who are helping Ukrainian refugees. We raised over 1000 Euros (between this and the Krakow fundraiser), and Pearl Jam even took notice and made a significant donation of their own separately. It felt good and we all felt good, even when the venue kicked us out at 3am.
Budapest was excited. And along with the thousands of Pearl Jam fans travelling around Europe nowadays, I had little doubt that we would fill the arena and bring enough energy for an unforgettable evening.
On the day of the show, there were already hundreds of fans lined up for general admission entry. Most had been camping out for 2 days. Around on the other side of the venue, there were a similar number of fans waiting for the merch stand to open up. Hungover or not, Pearl Jam fans are dedicated.
Around 1:30pm, we were let into the outside area of the arena where we could throw our money at all the swag. When it was our turn, we handed them our credit card and asked for 4 of everything that said Pearl Jam Budapest on it, or whatever the limit was they allowed. Apparently, the prices were 30% cheaper than the other shows due to the recent drop in the local currency. That worked for us.
The buzz was undeniable, not only at the venue but also around the city. There were people walking all over town with Pearl Jam shirts on. Inside the venue, it looked pretty full too without anyone in uniform. The floor was jam packed and we could feel the anticipation in the air.
Then it began. Wash. The crowd went bananas. It was deafening. Even though most of the crowd weren’t there in 1996, you could feel 26 years of built-up passion. The enthusiasm continued through the night with highlights such as Brain of J., Nothingman, I’m Open, and a special slow version of Lukin that led into the standard fast version. It was also great to see some songs from Gigaton live as well as Ed passing out cups of wine into the crowd during Crazy Mary. An amazing cover of All Along The Watchtower closed out a spectacular show.
The excitement carried over outside the arena as well. Most of us even missed the last metro back into the center because we couldn’t stop talking about what we had just witnessed. So we all had to pile into a night bus, which could barely close its doors because we were so stuffed inside.
As we rolled away from the venue, the entire bus suddenly began singing simultaneously. But it wasn’t Pearl Jam. It was some cheesy pop songs from Nickelback, Celine Dion, Avril Lavine and Shania Twain. They were unintentionally mocking my home country of Canada in my adopted country of Hungary and it was great. All I could see were smiles and happiness.
Soon afterwards, Dimitris from Greece so elegantly stated on his Facebook that “When it comes to a Europe tour there is one simple rule. You never miss a show in Berlin now there is a second rule… Never miss a show in Budapest and they need to play here every time they hit Europe.”
I couldn’t agree with him more and hopefully Pearl Jam agrees as well.