Forever Faithfull: Memories From The Road featuring Joel Egger

By: Randy Sobel | April 28, 2023

Joel Egger Retraces Pearl Jam Memories From The Road

Forever Faithfull is a series derived from daily Facebook posts on the Pearl Jam Podcast Community group. These tour stories were shared by Joel Egger. He’ll reminisce about spending time with his brother at shows, and getting to see them with his wife opening up for her favorite artist.

6/24/1998 – Soundcheck – Rapid City, South Dakota

This one was my first Pearl Jam show and I got to go there with my big brother, Colin, who introduced me to them in 1991. We have both remained close as brothers and friends, and I believe we have Pearl Jam’s music to thank for that, in part.

I remember going to the Ticketmaster counter at Sears or JC Penny (I can’t remember which) in Lincoln, NE to buy these tickets and I was wildly excited for this road trip with him from Lincoln to Rapid City. Pearl Jam was, and still is, my absolute favorite band, and to be completely honest, I hadn’t been to a lot of large shows at this point, let alone Pearl Jam. At the time I just didn’t think it was going to be possible to be in the same room with those guys. It didn’t compute. I had had several 90s dreams of PJ’s bus pulling up to my house in Small Town, NE and taking me with them, but I never thought I’d have the real experience of seeing the maelstrom of their shows live.

The trip across South Dakota was weird. We kept seeing these signs for a place called “Wall Drug” and the billboards did nothing to really describe what it was. We just kept laughing at them, then we mused about it being a place that would suck us in, never to let us go. “All Roads Lead To Wall Drug!” We were perhaps a bit “smokingly” nervous. It just so happened that we needed gas in the car, so we had to stop. We still joke about how maybe we’ve never really left Wall Drug after all.

Upon arriving to the venue, we were very early and one of the first ones in line to this GA venue. Only person ahead of us in line was a familiar face, our coworker Adam. He beat us. We all sat in front of the doors, sweating, smoking cigarettes and wide-eyed with pure stoke about the show. We could hear the soundcheck outside when a security person came out, and that’s when I heard them live for the first time. My stomach was in knots with excitement.

We were mere feet away when we ran towards the rail. The lights eventually went down. The most important music artist of my life at the time (Ed) came out in a shiny sport coat and introduced the opener Frank Black, who we were also excited to see being Pixies fans, too. Starstruck doesn’t begin to describe it. I was in awe. He left the stage and the opening band ripped into “Los Angeles from my memory. The pit was a little much for me at the time. We were getting smashed. I yelled to Colin that I needed to get out. He understood, but there was no way to really coordinate the escape together. I found some seats in the bowl and spent the rest of the time kinda wishing I would have stuck it out. But when Pearl Jam opened with a ripping Do The Evolution which was owning my ears that whole summer, I was quite content to sit and enjoy the whole show fixated on them. I specifically recall Eddie talking about the “Man Trilogy” and thinking that this was a special night for me to see them for the first time. The whole show was great. I can’t remember specifics. Their guitars, Ed’s voice, and holy crap the drummer from Soundgarden was now in the band! I was blown away.

We met up at the car after the show, thankfully reunited with the brother I abandoned. I remember being very grateful to finally see him walking to the car. No cell phones at that time to coordinate the rendezvous. We drove just outside of Rapid City, parked at a rest area, slept a few hours in the uncomfortable car seats, and eventually made it back to Lincoln, and hopefully out of Wall Drug.

Serendipitously, there isn’t any show footage on YouTube that I can find, but, there’s this recording someone grabbed of the soundcheck which is perfect. It was the first music I ever heard them play live while standing at the glass doors of the Mt. Rushmore Civic Center. It will always give me chills.

6/13/2003 – Crazy Mary – Council Bluffs, IA

This was my first Pearl Jam show as a sober person and all that entails. The Binaural and Riot Act albums were in heavy rotation for me at this time in my life, and I could palpably sense that their music was maturing as I was starting to do… barely. Also, the recent 9/11 tragedy and following ridiculous wars at the forefront of all of our minds as Ed goes on to rant about at this show. His Bu$hleaguer performance art with George Bush mask et al, was deliciously delightful to me, but not everyone. His antics were getting booed by the Faithfull. An interesting time to be a fan, especially on this Riot Act tour. I really love Jeff Ament’s comments on getting booed on this tour from the PJ20 documentary. I listened back to this show yesterday and I couldn’t hear any boos from the Western Iowa crowd, but I’m sure there were some. I know my part of the country at that time. Anything skeptical of that administration was seen as unpatriotic. I was proud of Pearl Jam and their unapologetic stance. Still am.

As Ed screams at the beginning of the first few chords of the show, “HERE WE GO!” What I was struck by this performance was the absolutely ripping opening 5 songs. Save You, Hail, Hail, Animal, Green Disease and a perfectly seamless transition into Grievance by Matt F’n Cameron. They all were seeming to state to the Great Plains, “Wake up, folks. We’re here to shock your systems!” And the surprise sucker punch of those songs, “my jaw left hurtin’” for sure.

The most significant song of the night for me was the 9:07 version of Victoria Williams’ Crazy Mary. This song held a very special place in my heart as an older girl I had a crush on once gave me a dubbed cassette with Pearl Jam’s studio version on it while wearing an OG Stickman PJ T-shirt. I wore that tape out. But in 2003, I’ll admit I thought it was kinda strange at the time that PJ added an organist (BOOOOOOOOM!!!), but all my uneasiness was assuaged when Boom Gaspar absolutely destroyed all of us there with his Hammond B-3 organ solo during that song. I was blown away and it was like he was always in the band.

There’s so much more about this show to talk about. From Ed joking about auctioning off Mike’s hair to the crowd. To almost busting into a Buddy Holly song. To the Ben Harper tribute. To the Beatles cover. AND The Police cover Driven To Tears, that I didn’t know that well and has come to be one of my favorite songs thanks to this show! The Youtube link is set to drop you right off at the beginning of “Crazy Mary” but, definitely check out the whole show. The official bootleg is out wherever you dig that stuff.

7/2/2006 – The Waiting – Denver, CO

This concert will always be in my top 5 shows of all time. The summer of 2006 was a wonderfully exciting time in my life as I was head-over-heels in love with my girlfriend, Kjerstin and looking ahead to the fall where I’d move back to Los Angeles to start an MFA program at California Institute of the Arts. I was nervous at the time, because that meant a lot of questions about the future of Kjerstin and I’s relationship. She was planning to move out there eventually to be with me, but, it was still scary as I knew what we had was unlike anything I’d experienced. We’ve been married since 2008 and couldn’t be more in love to this day! One of our favorite things still is to go to concerts together.

Then this show was announced. My favorite band, Pearl Jam, was playing with HER favorite band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Playing together on the same bill in that beautifully uncertain time. It was almost too good to be true, just like us. We snatched up tickets and counted the days until the show.

That morning we drove up Mt. Evans with her uncle, Lee, and took in the splendor. He has since died of cancer, and that time with him in the car taking in his “church” (the mountains of Colorado) will always be a treasured memory that opened our hearts for the evenings music.

We were giddy the whole time. She got to finally witness me on the emotional rollercoaster that is a Pearl Jam show. She has come to admire my unwavering dedication to this band. I’ve come to fall in love with Tom Petty and associate his whole vibe with her.

A specific moment from this show that sticks with me is hearing Present Tense and how important those lyrics were to me at that time. To be present and not get stuck in the past or future. To be right there with Kjerstin, come what may. I also recall getting excited to tell her the Bee Girl story as soon as they started in on that. Another amazing moment was Mike Campbell coming out to play with Pearl Jam on So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star was pure joy with her by my side.

Ed then joined The Heartbreakers for The Waiting during their set. It was absolutely perfect. What a serendipitous song to hear with her at that time in our lives. “You take it on faith, you take it to the heart, the waiting is the hardest part.” Ed starts with letting the crowd know, “Tom said I could dedicate this to my girl. This is for Jill.” I just noticed this in the playback. It’s just amazing to relive this knowing what I know about my girl, Kjerstin.

7/19/2013 – Chloe Dancer/Crown OF Thorns – Wrigley Field

This one was a doozy.

When this one was announced, my good pal Steve and I were primed and ready for the lottery situation, which I got shut out of, but he got in! I’ve been a lifelong Cubs fan since kindergarten where the only baseball I could watch was on WGN, so I was convinced as a kid that Wrigley Field was the only place baseball was played and other teams would travel in to try and battle the Cubs. When I watch them now, I still see it that way.

The cool part was that my brother Colin and our pal Adam (who was in Rapid City) were going to pile in with Steve and I to hit the road from Lincoln to Chicago to see Pearl Jam play Wrigley Field! What a trip. We had a blast laughing and chatting it up. Some gnarly traffic made us all pretty tense pulling into the outskirts of Chicago. We headed immediately to The Chicago Getaway Hostel to check in and walked the mile to Wrigley. We got to our seats with maybe 20 minutes to spare before the show started. Little did we know we’d be there until well after 1 or 2am.

Seeing the PJ setup in front of the scoreboard was wild. Like a dream. The opener, Release, was just perfect after the madness of getting to Chicago the day of the show. We were underneath the upper deck and initially I was a little peeved I couldn’t take in the whole view. Until the storm came. Watching the evacuation of the entire field from my dry seat was a sight to behold. As the delay went on, we kept refreshing the PJ Twitter to check for updates. We chatted with folks around us and some pals that came to the show from Nebraska stopped to say hey. There was a fun sense of camaraderie in the stands. I’ll never forget just kicking back with a Diet Coke and a few cigarettes in the stands at Wrigley. Wild.

There were also some Old Style-induced shenanigans. We watched one very drunk man decide that he couldn’t handle the line to get down from the upper deck ramp to the bathroom, so, he proceeded to drop trow and “rain” some more down on folks milling about the “Friendly Confines.” I was pretty sure that if they kept selling Old Style, things would get worse. When the Wrigley security finally came to get that guy, he decided that lasers would shoot out of his middle fingers on the onlookers. Colin, Steve, and I still bust out the “Fuck Lasers” every once in a while. I hope that guy’s ok. I secretly hope he reads this and shares his side of the story.

There were some ding dongs sitting in front of us that probably got free tickets from their daddy’s work, because they legit talked most of the show. Steve got a video of them as a good example of how not to behave at a show.

The delay finally ended and the show continued. Which was a miracle because I think Bjork and Phish were also playing in Chicago that night and both cancelled. The fact that we got a full-ass show (including a duet with Ernie Banks!) that transcended curfew thanks to the Mayor was amazing! To get to hear Lighting Bolt for the first time that night was absolutely perfect. State Of Love And Trust sitting next to my brother was extra special. Bugs was a fun addition too. The ultimate highlight for me, though, was getting to see the Mother Love Bone cover of Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns.

I’ll never forget that walk back through Wrigleyville to our hostel, stopping for late night food at Dunkin Donuts, on Cloud 9 with those guys. We had a fantastic day the next day at the Field Museum, record shopping, walking around the city, enjoying the high from seeing PJ in the Friendly Confines. “F-Lasers” and all.

9/18/2022 – Life Wasted – St. Louis, MO

For my last entry into this trip through the past of selected Pearl Jam shows I’ve been lucky enough to attend, I’ve chosen this one. It was up against seeing them in my hometown of Lincoln NE in 2014 where I got to stand in the GA Pit with my brother, Colin, whom I’ve journeyed with Pearl Jam from the beginning. I believe it earned at least an honorable mention here. That was a special night, for sure.

I recall vividly buying this single ticket in 2020 before the world ended. It was originally slated for April 4th, 2020 and we all know how that turned out. I was devastated. I was going to go to this show by myself, driving from Nebraska, and listen to all of their studio albums on the way. I timed it out. I was stoked.

When everything known to man got cancelled, I was determined to hold on to this ticket until they cancelled it officially. Throughout the the first 2 years of Covid, the show remained “postponed.” I would often look at the ticket in my digital wallet as a placeholder for the great emergence from that horrific time of no gatherings, no concerts, no theatre. I’m a theatre artist, so not having communal live artistic experiences was really existentially challenging. Would we ever get together again? I’ll never take another show for granted.

When the rescheduled dates were announced, I grabbed the added show of Las Vegas, but that one got thwarted by Covid again. I was so hoping that wouldn’t happen to the STL show. With my flight voucher for Vegas I got a flight to St. Louis and a great Airbnb by myself. I have come to love going to shows solo. I had struck up a friendship of sorts with Brad Blazek (From the great Single Podcast Theory, we miss you guys. Come back.) I was stoked to shake that guy’s hand and thank him for the good PJ vibes over the last two years. That happened and I’m grateful we got to hang a bit before the show.

The day of the show, I enjoyed some local record shops, a morning yoga class and treated myself to a fantastic vegan early dinner in preparation for the show. Got in what I thought was the back of a large line, which ended up becoming the very front of another line. Grabbed some good merch and took my seat very early to watch the arena fill up. I struck up a chat with the woman next to me who had been struggling with serious health issues, but she wasn’t going to pass up this show. I knew the vibes were set for a special night. None of us were disappointed.

I think this was the best setlist and show of the tour. Getting to hear I Am Mine at that time was deeply special to me, and I’ll always hold that dear. Getting to hear State of Love and Trust coupled with Breath on the anniversary of the release of the Singles soundtrack was such a treat. The emotional wave of tears came for me while singing along to Life Wasted. I didn’t expect that one to hit me so hard, but, I was a crying, screaming, mess. It was one of those moments where the live experience of hearing a song you’ve listened to a thousand times takes it to a whole other universe. I’ll never hear that song the same again.

I could write for hours, but, it’s time to close up this journey. Thanks for anyone who’s been reading this. I miss you already. See you on the next tour. I’m hoping to hit Minneapolis. Enjoy the time we get with this band. All of our days are numbered.

Randy Sobel

Concertpedia Managing Editor & LO4L Host

The first time I heard Yield, I didn’t know it at the time but it changed my life. 10 years later, I saw Pearl Jam for the first time at Madison Square Garden and haven’t looked back. I’m still holding out hope that W.M.A. will one day be played as a full song more consistently in setlists rather than just as a tag off of Daughter, and you won’t ever find a bigger homer for the band’s Hartford shows than me. Top 10 Pearl Jam crowd, fight me on it!

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