Mar’s Midwest Journey: Following Pearl Jam On The 2023 Tour
Day 16: Ft. Worth Night 2 – 9/15
Shout out to Deep Sea Diver, who delivered a triumphant performance as their finale opening for Pearl Jam. As they cleared DSD’s gear from the stage, the sheet was pulled from the drum kit to reveal the return of Matt Cameron. With the band entirely intact, the setlist possibilities seemed endless.
It was the first time in our 23 years of friendship that Anthony and I were seated next to each other for a proper Pearl Jam show. We’ve done a few Bridge School Benefits and other shows, but not a Pearl Jam.
My first Pearl Jam brother, Anthony
My seats were high up in Section 126, but I clearly saw what was happening behind the scenes. The piano intro of Metamorphosis twinkled over the PA. From the side of the stage, flashlights guided the band up the stairs. And there was Matt. They started with Long Road. I knew it! I had a feeling this would pop up about now. After all, it is one of their common openers.
“I have wished for so long, how I wish for you today.”
During Just Breathe, I began to think of my partner, David. We were scheduled to arrive around the same time into ABIA the next day. He’s been so gracious and generous while I was away. It’s hard not to feel a little guilty, but that’s a “me” thing. He fully supported my decision to go on this journey, even though it meant he would be stuck with all the household chores and taking care of our spoiled cats.
“Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t, I’m a fool, you see
No one knows this more than me”
And I cried. I missed him so much.
The opening strums of Hard To Imagine knocked me out of my sentimental haze and into a bittersweet surprise! I finally got one of my white whales. My #2. This is a significant check. I screamed and grabbed Anthony’s arm. “THIS IS MY NIGHT!” However, I felt slightly sad because I had been chasing this for so long. One less experience for the first time.
Eventually, I gave up on taking photos
It’s like she lost her invitation to the party on Earth
Binaural came out just as I was graduating from high school. I connected with Breakerfall immediately. This was the perfect transition for me from Hard to Imagine. Underrated live song, IMHO. It’s powerful and loud. I danced the whole time. This was my third time hearing it; the other two were Halloween 2000 and 2018 at Wrigley (also the last time they played it.)
The girl’s wanna dance
The band’s back together! Gigaton can make it’s appearance again. Dance of the Clairvoyants is a brilliant live song. It’s so different than anything they’ve ever done. The light design that accompanies it is perfect. I hoped casual fans were impressed, but many considered it time for a beer run.
Who’s got the Brain of JFK?
We did!! Brother Randy, I held you in my heart while rocking out to this. [editor’s note: ughhhhhh]
If I had known then, what I know now
One of my favorite songs of all time, of any band ever, is Red Mosquito. Anthony looks at me and says, “This really is your night.” I didn’t hear this one; I felt it. I was bitten by it. I took my earplugs out and became entranced by the grooves.
It was done!
The Crown Jewel of the Night had to be Undone. It was requested in Saint Paul when Eddie asked someone in the crowd what they wanted to hear, to which he replied, “That will remain Undone.”
So I dropped it from my JamDuel.
I’m cool with a little egg on my face if it meant them playing this song for the first time in thirteen years. The person that Ed referred to as a “Nice enough guy” turned out to be Jason, who was dead center rail, a spot well-earned after waiting in line for two days. I befriended him on Randy’s birthday in Chicago. That guy is more than nice enough! I’m so happy he had an incredible night. He walked away with a wine bottle!
One poet inspires another
Night 1’s audience highlighted a NASA astrophysicist, and Night 2 featured Dallas’ Poet Laureate, Joaquín Zihuatanejo. Eddie read his heartfelt letter poem that honored his mother and the music of Pearl Jam. As a Latina, specifically a daughter of a Tejana several generations deep, I felt so proud that Eddie and the band spotlighted someone with a similar background as me and even spoke the Spanish words within the poem. It was so respectful and a beautiful moment.
None of the songs were dedicated to the back at Dickies. However, they kinda came close when a group of people dangled letters that spelled out “Spin the Black Circle” from the Reliant Club balcony. They started it, but it was a giant tease for a short song.
They tagged War Pigs in Chicago, but tonight I caught a little treat for me in the War Pigs tag. At the 6:04 mark, it was super quick, but Mike played a riff from Heaven and Hell, one of my favorite songs of all time. I love the mix of Ozzy and Dio eras of Sabbath. Heaven and Hell has a killer baseline, so maybe Jeff can join in next time.
It really was my night.
Mike was wearing his Thin Lizzy Black Rose shirt! My favorite TL album! Photo credit Chris Lee-Sye
6 down, 2 to go.
Day 14: Ft. Worth Night 1 – 9/13
It’s Show Day!!!
All of the insider murmurs confirmed that Wednesday’s show was a go. However, there was a bit of deja vu from Oakland 2022. Matt was sick, which meant Josh Klinghoffer was on deck to drum. My friends and I speculated on what that could mean for the setlist. My friend Anthony called it and said we’ll be in for a night of ‘90s albums.
I sat solo for this show in an aisle seat in Section 125. I looked at Ticketmaster, and row 8 was mostly PJ Premium, which made me think of the mixed company I would be in. I bought my ticket F2F, so I was in a section generally reserved for long-time Ten Club members. I had a feeling I would be next to casual fans or Normies. In my experience, since they are not in the PJ community, they keep to themselves, which was fine by me because I was socially spent.
I Will Be There Once More
View from my seat
Oceans is the first song I ever heard Pearl Jam play live. Finally, 30 years and 38 shows later, I got to hear it again, and it was goddamn beautiful.
Followed by Footsteps. Real talk: Sometimes, my auditory processing is slow when I hear the beginning of Hard to Imagine, Wash, and Footsteps.
I am dying to hear Hard to Imagine for the first time, so I was psyched out by this for a second. Then I thought it was Wash(which I finally got at Wrigley 2018) before realizing it was Footsteps.
All Those Yesterdays
Ed introducing Josh
I got a new check off the list! One of my high priorities is All Those Yesterdays. It was so much fun to sing along with. However, about this time, the Normies around me began to squirm, sit down, or get up to get a beer.
If you’ve kept up with me, you know I’m on Team McCready. Just like in Fresno last year when Eddie was feeling ill, Josh, Dave, and Richard subbing for Matt, Mike took the helm and dynamized the crowd with one of the best solos I’ve ever witnessed him play during Black.
Throughout the night, he melted our faces off during Present Tense, Even Flow, Rearviewmirror, Alive, and almost every song. He took a moment to shine with his rendition of Van Halen’s Eruption. Sometimes, I get annoyed with how underrated he is as a guitarist and performer. His energy is intoxicating, especially in his delight when he splashes the audience with picks or finds a person in the crowd to lock eyes with. During Not For You, he spotted me and gave me devil horns back.
Royalty Among Us
Eddie took a moment to call out “royalty in the crowd.” He paid tribute to a young girl who grew up in Bee Branch, Arkansas, where there’s little light pollution, who became inspired by the night sky. She grew up to become an astrophysicist at NASA. He expressed his inspiration for her work before introducing Dr. Amber Straughn to the crowd. He dedicated Given to Fly in her honor.
Talk about things that would never happen to an email marketer!
She caught a much-deserved signed tambourine. What an incredible moment to witness for her. She worked on the James Webb Space Telescope. Her work gives us a glimpse of our universe. And she’s one of us!!!
The second half of the show was peppered with ‘90s-era deep cuts. The Normies around me began to get antsy again, going in and out of their seats to get a beer because they may not have known (or liked) Pilate. I was excited to hear that for the second time since Vancouver 2011.
And then my second high-priority, never-heard check of the night: Satan’s Bed! As far as I could tell, he didn’t change the lyrics. Given his wife’s former profession, I wondered if he would continue to sing the jab at fashion models. I was devilishly delighted that he did! It’s such a sassy song. Do you think he checked with her? There was a little sloppiness for a moment, but they got it back on track. It was endearing.
We love Eddie’s long, meandering stories, don’t we? They always end with a rewarding point to remember or a punchline if it’s a funny story. This time, he went into a story of existentialism.
Quote from Ed from Nuture_Jen
“My Sister is a Texan!”
Eddie’s sister was in the audience, and much to his chagrin, she didn’t have the best seats. He once wrote a song for her in 1988, and it was an instrumental, to which he advised us to never write for the women in our life because they expected to connect with the lyrics. “This instrumental is gonna blow her mind!” I mean, he’s not wrong. Thanks, Sis, for being the catalyst that inspired Eddie to improve his lyric writing ability!
Someone chucked a prop severed hand (hardee har har), onto the stage. What a dicey move! He took the joke gracefully but with a gentle warning that it’s something you shouldn’t do. He teased a little girl in front, asked her if she threw it, and then playfully gave another person in the crowd shit for fessing up to it. They didn’t play Severed Hand.
His daughter Harper encouraged him to wear the sparkly blazer he wore at the Taylor Swift concert to hype him up for the show that night since he was feeling sick. She also recommended he wear the helmet she wore that night. During Wishlist, Ed was a literal Mirror Ball. There was something poetic about the reflections of light bouncing off him onto the crowd.
Thank You, Josh
The band congratulates Josh
Whenever the band cancels or postpones a show, they are deeply regretful. Eddie apologized to the crowd several times throughout the night. Every once in a while, he still apologizes for the Golden Gate Park show in San Francisco in 1995, where he got sick. He feels the disappointment of the fans very deeply. If you feel upset about the show cancellations, he feels just as bad, if not worse.
But instead of canceling Fort Worth, they leveraged the multi-instrumentalist talent that is Josh Klinghoffer. He saved a few shows on the West Coast last year, so I knew we would be in for an interesting night. Since he was the only drummer around, we had a Gigaton-free night.
It goes without saying how talented Josh is; however, filling in for Matt Cameron is challenging. Working for Pearl Jam isn’t his only job; he’s also toured with Jane’s Addiction this year. To be the drummer of Pearl Jam for one night takes a lot of courage. He could have said no. But he went in anyway and gave it his all, and the band was there to guide him through the tough parts. I appreciate his dedication.
What Year Is This?
I didn’t see Pearl Jam between 1996-1998, so the setlist from Night 1 was like traveling back to 1998 when I was 16. Yield was my favorite album for the longest time. The time jump with Mind Your Manners took me back into the 21st century again. What will the future shows hold?
5 down, 3 to go!
Day 11: Indianapolis – 9/10
Living In The Present Tense
As I mentioned in my first post, this is the first time I could afford to attend an entire run of shows for Pearl Jam. Nine shows is a small tour, but it’s a significant use of my resources financially. This is why I low-key get annoyed when someone dismissively says, “Well, it’s only nine shows.” Honey, I’m spending thousands of dollars—cash—to get me through three weeks of living. I am proud of myself that I have the opportunity to do this. You can’t take it with you.
I caught and recovered from COVID-19 early in August. It was perfect timing, since that boosted my immune system to get me through the summer surge of cases. During that time, I felt nervous, packing and preparing as much as possible. My illness was a stark reminder that I must be ready for whatever could happen on this tour, including possible cancellations amid new outbreaks.
I started this journey knowing that a cancellation or postponement of any of the shows was a possibility. So, when the Indianapolis cancellation was announced, I was disappointed first, concerned for the band next, and then moved on with the day. Someone in one of the PJ social media groups griped that “Pearl Jam is no longer reliable.” Sweetheart, that ain’t it.
We live in a different world.
We have a highly contagious, fast-mutating disease that is now endemic. There are things we could do to mitigate the spread, but no one wants to wear a mask indoors to catch all the spittle from screaming and shouting all night. Admittedly, I stopped wearing a mask, primarily due to sensory issues. After the Chicago super-spreader event, I knew several people, including our dear Randy, who contracted COVID-19.
Now, PJ didn’t expressly state which illness the band was inflicted with. There were tons of online speculation. Last year, I was supposed to attend Sacramento and Las Vegas, and back then, they stated it was COVID. I was crushed back then. This time, I could roll with it.
I actually found out what happened when I arrived to volunteer with the Wishlist Foundation. I was trying to find something to do when I habitually checked my phone and saw a text from Amy. “THE SHOW’S POSTPONED???” I said aloud.
“You didn’t know?” one of the volunteers answered.
Ugh… oh well. I’ve been here before. Nothing I can do about this. PRESENT TENSE.
So instead, I helped the Wishlist Foundation raise funds for The Vitalogy Foundation and the American Federation of Suicide Prevention. Having lost my father to suicide, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the day.
“Oh, dear dad
Can you see me now?
I am myself
Like you somehow
I’ll ride the wave
Where it takes me
I’ll hold the pain
I chatted with Pearl Jam nerds all day long and had moments I will never forget. At the end of the day, Amy and I went out to dinner with new friends we had known online. I got me a big-ass steak that would have cost 50 bucks in San Francisco.
It wasn’t the day I expected, but it was great.
Indianapolis was a delight. Perhaps I’ll return for the makeup show. Because—and I speak from experience— they will bring it tenfold when they do.
Check out my Instagram for more pictures, including my road trip from Indianapolis to Fort Worth.
Cornfields behind me at Deer Creek
4 down, and 4 to go. Halfway through.
Day 10: Chicago Night 2 – 9/7
You know, I really could get used to regularly attending Pearl Jam shows after a day’s work. Alas, this is just my life for a couple of weeks. I spent the afternoon listening to metal while working. “Sleepless Nights” by King Diamond came on. I decided to wear my Conspiracy dress to the show to represent my metal heart. Perhaps I could meet a PJ metal nerd unicorn?
Representing the King at Pearl Jam
And I did! While in line for merch, I met Emma and her brother… Mike(?) in line, and he gave me props for my dress. We talked shop about Death, Amon Amarth, and Mercyful Fate. Emma was collecting signatures on her poster tube and asked me if I could sign it, and of course, I was honored to oblige. She also saw me on the rail in St. Paul. Pink hair works, y’all.
I also met Levi in person. We had friended each other on Facebook, but I didn’t realize that was the same Levi. What a time to be alive.
Decisions were made at the merch line. The sales lady kept asking me, “What else?” after each item I requested, which caused me to panic and point to random things on the chart, including a duffle bag and a basketball I didn’t need. Oops. I thought my friend Robert needed some stuff, but he didn’t. People kept asking me how much the items cost, and I dumbly answered, “No idea.” After what turned out to be $300, my PJ sister and travel companion, Amy, and I found our seats behind the stage for night 2.
Chicago merch crew
Behind the Stage Round 2
Despite traveling for five shows, Chicago night 2 would only be the second show where Amy and I were seated together. And again, the lower bowl behind the stage is a fantastic and interesting view. We saw the crew set up instruments and organized the lyric sheets for Ed.
Andreana and her husband Jim, a friendly and super fun couple from Michigan, sat to the left of our seats. Amy and Andreana especially hit it off, and although I was happy to meet them, my introverted self began to space out of conversations after a week of non-stop social events.
Backstage crew organizing lyric sheets
We got Small Town as the opener, kicking off the night with a sing-along. After Daughter, he dedicated the next song to families who had lost their children. Of course, it was Come Back. About halfway through the song, as I sang along, I became choked up. “…the real possibility that I could meet you in my dreams.” With the stories of these families and my own personal losses, it’s cathartic to scream out, “Come Back.”
I zoomed in on this banner to get Steve Kerr’s name
I’m a casual basketball fan. Obviously, I root for the Warriors, but I am a child of the ’90s, so it was also cool to be in the house of the Chicago Bulls. When The Last Dance came out, I was shocked that they used Present Tense. Ordinary people are now exposed to one of the most influential songs of my life. No Code came out when I was fifteen, the week of my freshman year of high school. The lyrics of that song were edifying for me. I carried its lesson throughout my life. Then, to hear it decades later in the context of the hottest team of the 90s was especially poignant. Please excuse my lack of musical terminology as I write this plainly: The part with the sick-ass fast guitar riffs against the montage of Michael Jordan and the Bulls’ career provided the perfect emotional climax for the documentary. Before playing the song, Eddie mentioned that the band didn’t know the song would be used in that film, which surprised me!
Eddie’s Grandmother dressed to the nines while meeting Dennis. LOL at the kid frozen in time with his eyes closed
A few deep cuts popped up in the setlist, including these three, which I have only heard once.
The last time I heard this song live was in 1995; I was thirteen, attending the Golden Gate Park show in San Francisco, where Eddie had severe food poisoning before he left the stage after seven songs. It was high on my list of repeat songs to hear. Before starting, Eddie mentioned that they received many requests for the next song. You could feel the collective “FUCK YES!” in the arena with those opening chords. This is one of those songs that made the night special.
When the lights turned green, I thought, “Oh shit, they’re gonna play Green Disease!” Cut me deep with this track, guys. Mountain View, California, in 2003 was the last time I heard this one. This was another request granted.
Marker In The Sand
I love me some Avocado! But admittedly, I forgot about this song when they casually slipped it into the set. “This one’s Marker!” Eddie announced. Somehow, I remembered most of the lyrics. It was exciting to hear it again since the only other time I did was in 2006 at the Bill Graham in San Francisco.
The band set up for the “back of stage” song, which was the fan favorite, Smile. It was an absolute delight to sing one of my favorite lyrics at the top of my lungs, “I miss you already, I miss you always,” for the sixth time in my Pearl Jam concert history.
Street Fighting Man
Whoa, a Beggar’s Banquet b-side! What an exciting choice for the night’s special cover song. This was scratched off for St. Paul night 1.
“Everywhere I hear the sound
Of marching, charging feet boy
‘Cause summer’s here and the time is right
For fighting in the street, boy”
This song was controversial when the Rolling Stones released it in the ’60s, and honestly, it’s still relevant sixty years later. I wonder if they originally planned to play that song in Minnesota to honor the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests for George Floyd, but scratched it off because it didn’t quite fit the night’s tone. Regardless, I’m glad we got it in Chicago, a city known for protests and activism.
“It’s Baba O’Riley!”
Damnit, I love this song, and for 2023, it’s checked off of my list of covers that I will always want to hear. Blink, and you’ll miss me fist-pumping during the intro in the back of the stage. I live for any chance I could scream, “I don’t need to fight to prove I’m right; I don’t need to be forgiven.”
The guys are pumped up, so much so that Eddie begins running laps around the stage at the song’s end, and Mike joins in for the chase. Props to the stage crew, anticipating every movement the boys make.
Yellow Ledbetter means the night’s officially over
A fantastic night and one for the books. Personally, my favorite night is still St. Paul Night 2, but this one is definitely second. Amy and I watched the crew strike down the set as we savored the last moments of Chicago, a Pearl Jam town.
4 down, 5 to go!
Day 7: In Between Days – 9/6
Ten Club Day at Wrigley Field
I can’t say that I love baseball as much as Ed does, but there was no question that if his favorite team was playing my hometown team, I had to go. Like a good San Franciscan, I have a Giants shirt, so I was prepared to root for my home team. If they don’t win, it’s a…meh…I didn’t really care. Jokes aside, I grew up going to Giants games and loosely following them based on my family and friends’ loyalty. My friend Michael, in particular, caught me up and, well, let’s just say I wasn’t surprised.
For months, we knew that there would be a Cubs game on the off day between Chicago shows. Randy advised us to refrain from buying tickets in the chance that there would be a special Ten Club event. Eventually, one was announced with a special Ten Club jersey giveaway with limited tickets. Randy secured a few sections for a big group of us, and we were guaranteed jerseys.
I don’t know when I’ll ever wear this again, but I love it!
To do this entire run of shows, I must work remotely on some days. Hence, I arrived in the 6th inning. As I picked up my jersey, which was cool looking, although it felt like tissue paper, I noticed the score. Giants 2, Cubs 7. Yikes. At least there was Pearl Jam music played on the speakers. The Giants got creamed. Inevitable.
As I walked with my friends out of Wrigley to head to Murphy’s, a man behind me offered me 500 bucks for my jersey, saying he was serious. And I turned him down. I am definitely not someone who makes the best financial decisions. I really like it. I don’t know what to do with it past the day, but I like it!
Getting into Murphy’s was easy despite the bustling atmosphere. I ran into friends and was recognized by my hair. And while I was there, my friend and Chicagoan Heather bought me my first Malort. I’ve heard nothing but bad things about Malort. I was warned by others at the bar. The hype was real. And then I drank it. That’s it? Have y’all ever had Fernet? I finished mine and half of another that someone else wouldn’t drink. It could be better, but nowhere near as bad as it was made out to be.
This wasn’t at Louie’s, but it was apropos
After bar hopping with a few of my friends in town from Michigan, Amy and I made our way to Louie’s to join Randy and the rest of the LO4L podcast community for Pearl Jam Karaoke, a fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in honor of Sean Sullivan, a beloved member of the Pearl Jam community.
Me and Randy
The Malort definitely kicked in at that point. Someone sang “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes, and I crashed that. The crowd was mostly Pearl Jam fans, but a few normies were mixed in. Someone sang the hell out of “Si Una Vez” by Selena, which made my Chicana heart sing.
I can’t remember all of the songs Randy sang, but damn, he killed them. [Hi, Randy here. I sang Animal, Hunger Strike, Go, Tremor Christ and Yellow Ledbetter. I also had a supporting role on Everlong!] He was having the time of his life, and it showed. Good job, bud. I sang I Got Shit. If there are videos of that, please keep them to yourself. Thanks. [Hey, it’s me again. I have footage and I’m not afraid to use it!]
It also felt like some “Pearl Jam Celebrities” were present, like Sandra and Donna. You know their names from their PJ Ten Club group page posts. Sometimes, I’ll admit that I get confused when I see their posts so much that I forget that I don’t actually know these people and they don’t know me! Regardless, the camaraderie was high as the music was loud, and hugs were exchanged anyway. Thanks, Randy, for organizing a fantastic night. I felt it the next day, for sure.
Day 6: Chicago Night 1 – 9/5
A View From My Seat
From the front to the back
In St. Paul, I had GA both nights, but I opted for a different perspective in Chicago. I was initially assigned 300-level tickets through the Ten Club but decided to sell those once the 100-level, behind-the-stage seats opened up. That was a great decision. I sat by myself in Section 117, 6 rows up, dead center. It was perfect. I felt like I was on stage. It was low enough to have an unbeatable view when they dedicated a song to the back.
Sit Down Set
Once, I heard someone say, “If they open with Release, it’s gonna be a good night.” I definitely agree with this, even though they’re all good dogs, Brent. For anyone who has experienced grief, this song is significant. Half a song in, and I was already in tears. Then, Low Light. This was not on my list! How could I forget this song? To be honest, I was hoping they would save Just Breathe for Austin when David would be with me. One of the most beautiful songs they have written.
Retrograde is one of my favorite songs off of Gigaton. I have only heard it once before, at Ohana in 2021. With its crescendo, this song is excellent to hear live. I hope it becomes a staple. A wish granted, checked off of my list.
Main Set Highlights
The first real surprise of the night? Gods’ Dice! The geeks were geeking out. Another wish granted. Checked off my list. I’m thrilled Binaural is back. And this is a great pick since it’s fast and vibrant.
I am obsessed with The Bear. The first time I watched it, I wanted to rewatch it immediately with my partner David. They have used Animal twice, and the first time it came on, he looked at me and said, “Oh. THIS is why you love the show.” Well, it doesn’t hurt, Dave. But the other reason is because I have worked in restaurants, and like everyone else, including Eddie Vedder, this show resonated with me because it depicts that life accurately.
In St. Paul, I met a wonderful person named Alison, and while we waited in GA, we bonded over life stories, including the relentless, hard work of waiting tables. She said, “I still have nightmares.” Turns out, so does Eddie. Check out his full story, because I can’t do that man’s adorableness justice. But it is absolutely true that it was one of the best uses of a Pearl Jam song to a piece of visual media. Then they launched into the ferocious Animal and gave the crowd a shot of adrenaline.
Light Years for his aunt
In between St. Paul and Chicago, Eddie and his family attended a memorial service for his aunt. He spoke about her before dedicating Light Years. Whenever I hear this song, I think of my friend Annie, who passed away in 2018. As I watched the band, I thought of her, and honestly, I didn’t feel sadness; I felt comfort.
“Is that Eddie Vedder?”
The family that now lives in the apartment where Eddie’s grandmother lived. The young man to his left is now a medical school student!
Eddie always has great stories to tell, and I love that he finds humor in so many situations, like when he visited the building in Evanston where his grandmother lived. While he was there, he said he saw a guy looking at him in a way that could be trouble, but it turned out he recognized him. Sometimes, those faces can look the same, he said. He invited them to the show, and introduced them to the crowd. Reason number 1,000 why Pearl Jam shows are the best. You never know what will happen.
Surprise Deep Cuts
In My Tree, Comatose, and Down? In a row?? None of these were on my list, and regrettably so. I think it’s because I have heard them all multiple times. Regardless, hearing them together was a combination that lent a brand new way to experience these songs sonically.
Rearviewmirror for Frans
I didn’t know Frans, but I do remember his name in the Facebook groups. Unfortunately, our community lost him this year, but they petitioned on social media and the Ten Club Forum to have his fandom-defining song, Rearviewmirror, played in his honor. Eddie spoke about him and the love within the community. The song and the crowd were electrified, and it was a powerful tribute to a friend I’ll never know.
Encore – I got a pick!
Wishlist for the back
There was a moment between the start of the encore when the band was getting situated to perform for the back of the stage. If you ever wondered if the back was worth it, it absolutely is for moments like this. Mike surveyed the crowd, and because I was just low enough, I managed to catch his attention. With my bright pink hair and devil horns raised, he pointed at me, gestured behind him, and somehow telepathically communicated the question if I was the same person in front of him in St. Paul. I nodded, and he flicked a pick at me. Wow. What incredible aim. It bounced off my chest, but I was able to retrieve it.
One of the most meaningful songs to me is one of Mike’s. I have heard Inside Job only once before in 2006, during Pearl Jam’s three-night run of shows at the Bill Graham in San Francisco. It was on my list of high-priority repeats, and they delivered. I love the reverence Eddie lends to this song as he touched Mike’s heart while he sang.
As I’ve mentioned before, I will always love Alive, even though it meant we were at the end. This time, we got a War Pigs tag. Black Sabbath is one of my top 3 favorite bands, the other being Soundgarden. I wish I could have been throwing horns up from the rail at that moment, not gonna lie.
Mike put on his Cheap Trick bomber jacket and I immediately clocked that they would do Surrender. A perfect way to end a night filled with a lot of joy and high energy. I’ve never heard them play this one, but apparently, it was a staple on the 2016 tour.
And then it was over.
Chicago night 1 had seventeen tour debuts. Phenomenal.
Three down, six more to go!
Day 4-5: Quick Jaunt Home
My partner David and I on a ferry to Oakland with San Francisco behind us
The morning after St. Paul, I flew home to San Francisco. It felt a bit surreal. After the prior four days, I felt like I woke up from a dream. I was buzzing from my interactions with Eddie and Mike, and from all of the new friends I made.
My partner David picked me up, and I struggled to express how that entire experience impacted me. I felt like I changed. I felt different. He casually likes Pearl Jam, and he’s such a good sport with hearing me talk non-stop about the tour, especially when we would see our friends later on that day in Oakland for a two-day underground metal concert with Bronx thrashers Demolition Hammer and Decrepit Birth from Santa Cruz. Musically, that show couldn’t be more different from Pearl Jam, which cracked me up. However, I still love my metal community. Most of my friends don’t like Pearl Jam, but they showed me so much love because I was happy. I also had a full-circle moment: the guitarist of Demolition Hammer was wearing a Thin Lizzy shirt like Mike McCready and I did in St. Paul!
One of our favorite local bands, Ludicra, played their last show ever the next day. It was emotional, and everyone showed them tons of love for the decades of great American black metal. It was also David’s birthday, which I wouldn’t miss for all of the Pearl Jam tickets in the world (ehh…probably). If you’re keeping track, I went to four consecutive days of live music with a couple 2,000-mile flights in between (kisses earplugs).
Day 3: St. Paul Night 2 – 9/2
Waiting For The Rail
Amy and I made sure to get a good night’s sleep before night 2 because we joined the GA line at 6 a.m. Yes, I had GA for both Minnesota nights! Months ago, when the fan-2-fan resale opened up, I woke up randomly at 5:30 a.m. PT and instinctively grabbed my phone, opened Ticketmaster, and there they were. I smashed that purchase button and texted Amy, “I’m sorry, it’s early, but we’re gonna be in GA night 2!!!” We relisted our tickets, which sold immediately. Knowing she would be down to wait all day in the summer Minnesotan sun to try for the rail was such a comforting thought. After all, we did meet in a GA line for Eddie Vedder in Las Vegas last year. I hope you all find someone with the same zeal for getting as close to Pearl Jam as possible.
Our line buddies did! In front of us at 6 a.m. were Alan and his 23-year-old son, Danny, from Iowa. It was their first time trying for the rail. Still, they are hardcore fans who attended many shows together, including the epic 2014 No Code show in Moline. Behind us were Dustin and Jeff, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who had been BFFs since kindergarten. They were also trying for the rail for the first time! Now that Amy and I were seasoned GA pros, we could pass on our knowledge on surviving the day: take care of each other. Shortly after, Kelly and her crew of locals arrived. It was also her first time waiting for GA, but she did her homework. She arrived with several chairs to share, drinks, and more. Her generosity was humbling to witness. And you know what Jeff and Dustin did later on that day? They DoorDashed a whole damn tent to shield us from the blazing sun! Amy and I can’t wait for another West Coast tour so we can pay all of this generosity forward.
The day flew by, and before we knew it, it was time to get ready to enter the arena. Isaiah, Eddie’s guard, came out to explain the process of getting everyone inside. For night 2, it was much more structured. They walked in the first 50 and then the next, which was our group. We got to the rail!
Then, I met two new people. Justin and Ben were beside me on the rail on Mike’s side. They wore blue shirts that Justin designed with a silhouette of Eddie’s iconic jump from Wrigley. They brought an extra shirt to give to Eddie.
Deep Sea Diver
Sometimes, when I have never heard of an opening act, I wait until the show to experience their music for the first time. That’s what I did for Deep Sea Diver, from Seattle. Now, having seen them twice, I am a converted fan. I was very glad I brought earplugs, though. For an indie rock group, it was impressive how they nearly reached Motörhead-level loudness. The bass was throbbing! Lemmy would be proud.
I always feel so excited when a lesser-known band has the opportunity to open up for the artists that influenced them. Band leader and guitarist Jessica Dobson described the experience as an honor and that she too was a fan, having received Vs. on cassette at 9 years old. One of us! One of us!
I heard the Pearl Jam influence in a few of the riffs, along with other artists such as The Cure, Arcade Fire, Sleater-Kinney, and the Pretenders. However, their sound is fresh and not derivative of these influences. I totally enjoyed their performance.
As Eleanor Shellstrop would say, holy motherforking shirtballs. They opened with Pendulum! At that moment, I knew this night would be special, especially when the crowd cathartically sang, “Easy left me a long time ago!” It’s crazy to think about everything we experienced in our personal lives in the decade since Lightning Bolt was released. And collectively, we experienced the trauma that is the pandemic. We needed to hear this song.
Elderly Woman kept the sing-along momentum going, as did Off He Goes. Then, a smoldering, decadent version of Nothing As It Seems. I am freaking out at this point. I forgot how much I love this song! It wasn’t on my list, but it should have been. This set closed with Daughter, tagged with Chaise Lounge by Wet Leg. I love this tag because it’s a modern song. Does that make me sound like a patronizing old lady?
Kick Out The Chairs
The next set began with Do The Evolution. So this is on my list of songs I don’t need to hear again but would still sing along with. You know what? My mind has changed in this instance. Although I anticipated its appearance, it was the perfect place to kick off the list of their harder-rocking songs.
Next was Last Exit, Once, and Who Ever Said. For a second, I thought they would continue to play the first track of each album, but then I heard the familiar intro to Brain Damage by Pink Floyd. I’ll give myself a pat on the back for cheering for it immediately ahead of others who recognized it when the verses began.
When I Am Mine began, I noticed we were getting close to hearing almost every album. I wondered if I was observing this correctly. Then, holy crap…Severed Hand! I was stoked about this Avocado appearance. Let’s keep that going, guys!
Eddie asked someone on the rail what they wanted to hear, and they asked for Undone, to which he quickly vetoed, “That will remain undone.” Sad face. But he had a better idea. Unthought Known begins, and now we have each album represented, and a perfect choice from that album, as we all love to shout “…WITH GEMS AND RHINESTONES!”
Unpopular opinion: I freaking love when they play Last Kiss. It’s fun to sing along with, they seem to have fun playing it, and most of all, it reminds me of the many Bridge School Benefits (I’ve attended a dozen) when he dedicated the song to Maricor, who would glow with joy every time.
Mar’s Metal Moments with Mike
I promise this will be relevant to the show tonight, so bear with me. Pearl Jam influenced a lot of my musical taste. They listened to everything, which shaped the kind of listener I have become. My fandom for Pearl Jam is a part of my identity. Still, so is being a metalhead, which includes earlier influences like Thin Lizzy, UFO, and Deep Purple. In my experience, the Venn diagram of metalheads who are also Pearl Jam fans is pretty slim. When I meet one, it’s like a unicorn sighting. Fun fact: I met Robb Flynn of Machinehead at the Oakland show last year. I asked him, “What are you doing here?” He said he loves Pearl Jam and that they were one of his favorites. He was such a cool dude. We rocked out together throughout the night, and he even took a selfie with me.
I always knew that Mike likes metal, and I wanted to find a way to connect with him about it, so I wore a Dio shirt in Fresno last year to attract his attention. I was on the furthest to the right on Mike’s side of the rail for Fresno. My friend Darcy and I didn’t have to wait all day for that spot. It was obstructed, and no one wanted to stand there. It was perfect. Would he notice me? At one point during the show, he sees my shirt and looks surprised. “Dio?!” And I think he mouthed that he had the same shirt. He gave me a pick. It was amazing. I tried this again last month at the Rockfords show in Seattle, but with my Iron Maiden shirt. After the show, I waited outside to meet him. He pointed at me and said, “I saw you! I saw them in 1982!” And I said, “That’s when I was born!” then he joked that he knew that. I took a photo with him and told him he was my hero, to which he looked me in the eyes and said, “Thank you for that.” I asked if I could hug him, and he was kind enough to let me.
I’ve always had a massive crush on Mike. I love his dark, expressive eyes and his smile. This infatuation has never gone away, and that’s because I also have a deep respect for how he shared his journey of the struggles he faced in his life, his activism, and how he’s so gracious with his fans.
Minnesota Twinning With Mike
So, back to the show. Let’s see if I can get 3 for 3. I chose my Thin Lizzy shirt with the cover of my favorite album of theirs, Black Rose. I’m on the rail before him and have bright pink hair, so I’m pretty conspicuous. He saw me for sure, but didn’t acknowledge me just yet. During the encore he returns on stage, wearing his jacket without the striped shirt underneath. It was a T-shirt, but I couldn’t tell right away what. It kinda looked familiar.
Then, during Jeremy, he steps to the edge of the stage, leans a little forward, and opens his jacket to reveal his Thin Lizzy ‘Live and Dangerous’ shirt! I immediately shout “fuck yeah!” and throw up my devil horns. He smiled and winked at me. He really got a kick out of my reaction! It happened so quickly, but it was a fun coincidence that he had his Thin Lizzy shirt with him that night. Usually, when a band is on their encore break, they freshen up, so I was touched when he decided to change his shirt for me and make a fan feel like the only person there for a moment.
Encore End: A Perfect Night
I don’t want to say I dreaded a Purple Rain cover, but I did hear them cover it several times within the last year. However, after visiting Paisley Park and learning more about Prince, I felt like I heard Pearl Jam’s cover of it for the first time. I was able to absorb it differently because I was in Minnesota. They brought out Deep Sea Diver and the doctors from the Mayo Clinic. Jessica from Deep Sea Diver sounded great with Josh on this song.
And then they left the stage. Since I will see them in Chicago, this didn’t upset me. Otherwise, I would have felt like my partner left for work without kissing me goodbye.
I messaged my partner David after the show, telling him that I just had one of the best nights of my life. A setlist with at least one song from every album. Several fun interactions with fans throughout the night. My little moment with Mike. Getting the GA newbies to the rail. I think this is my new favorite Pearl Jam concert. Will they top it soon? I have seven more to go!
Day 1: St. Paul Night 1 – 8/31
When I put in my Ten Club request for tickets, I didn’t think about the priority of the shows. I just went straight up, 1st to 9th, according to date. In retrospect, I would have put first priority on Indy, but St. Paul 1 turned out to be my night.
Getting To The Rail
My friend Amy and I arrived to the GA line straight from the airport just before 7 am in the morning. Honestly, I felt a bit of anxiety ahead of the show. I knew I wanted to be at the rail, and I knew it was going to be competitive.
I hate competition! I pushed past that because I have never been on the rail before. One or two people back, sure. In Fresno I planted myself along Mike’s side with a completely obstructed view, but at least he gave me props (and a pick) when he noticed my Dio shirt.
We were about 60th in line by the time we got there. My social anxiety melted away when I met the people around me. People were so friendly, and generous, offering to share seats, snacks, time, and space.
Over the course of 12 hours, I bonded with other PJ fans over the band, life experiences, and anything else. As an introvert, it was the kind of social experience I crave. As a fan, it is incredibly special to be with others who get it. The Faithfull.
With Dani King, Live On 4 Legs Patron
Still, since I was putting in the time to get to the rail, I decided to make a sign. Actually, I had it professionally printed. And I basically wrote a book. Oops. But I couldn’t help myself. I had one shot. My heart is printed on vinyl.
When the time came to enter the Xcel Energy Center, I low-key felt a little panicked. My new friend Alison took me under her wing and helped us secure a spot on Stone’s side. When we got through security, the line order shuffled, and a few people who were behind us, were then before us and had more middle rail spots. So I secured a spot, just barely, but it was at least in front of the speakers where Ed would undoubtedly serenade us from. I had a place for my sign. Sigh of relief.
A Mellow Start
When their crew started setting up, I knew we were in for a mellow start when the stools pulled out. Would it be an acoustic set? Oh, how I miss attending the Bridge School Benefits!
Then the moment finally arrived—after the stress of getting tickets, multiple charges, refunds, seat reassignments, travel plans, upgrading seats, selling original seats, and prepping— they opened with Indifference for the third time ever. Fun fact: When I first saw them in 1993, they closed the San Jose show with it. It was close to Halloween, so I still remember a woman dressed like a cat dancing to it.
Buckle Up was next. A creepy song, but it was cool to hear regardless. Eddie sounded amazing.
And then a first checkmark for me! One of my high priority never-heard songs, Sometimes! And I had the appropriate attire for the occasion: my custom-printed No Code dress.
Ed had great banter tonight, but a highlight for me was the adorable revelation that he had never fully watched the iconic Unplugged performance. He only recently saw it because his girls happened to be watching it, and although he mentioned he has no memory of the experience, he deemed it to be “really fucking good,” before launching into Black. These are the moments I love with this band. It’s hard to imagine (no pun intended) what that must be like, to have given a performance that seared itself into the minds and hearts of a generation, but for decades be unaware of what you actually did. He’s so humble.
Given to Fly, Mind Your Manners, and Why Go: it’s time to jump and scream. At this point, the show is picking up the pace. None of these made my spreadsheet, and I can’t believe why, especially Given to Fly, which would be under Staples I Always Want To Hear. It was an incredible trio of rockers, but I couldn’t help but notice that while they were killing it, it felt a tad restrained, but not in a bad way.
I wondered—and this is just my speculation—if he was getting over an illness, and maybe that’s why he seemed to be a little more conservative with his voice at times. He was blowing his nose, and appeared to be drinking some kind of hot beverage. or, maybe it’s just because it was the start of the tour. I just felt a vibe that there was a little energy conservation going on, which still translated to an impactful performance by this band.
Eddie Saw The Sign
I kinda felt a little dumb and embarrassed to have a sign, especially since it’s so personal. I felt a bit vulnerable, a little nervous. This is definitely out of my comfort zone. But here’s how Eddie saw my sign.
During Even Flow, the place went OFF! It was an interactive experience. The crowd helped Ed out when asked, sang in unison words etched into our hearts.
At some point he came over to Stone’s side of the stage and stepped onto the speaker in front of me. With a mask of confidence, I held my long-ass sign for him to read, all the while feeling anxious and hopeful. It all happened so fast. I saw his eyes read over all the text, and he tapped his heart, and I thought, “He gets it!” But then he coughed and I thought, “wait, did he?”
Mid-Set Banger After Banger
I’m low-key freaking out the rest of the set, trying to enjoy the rest of the show. Singing along to every word to Dance of the Clairvoyants, goddamn banger. They played a little of I’m Open, which is on my list of never-heards. Hey refs, can I count this one? [yes – ed.]
Then they went into Insignificance and I feel like I’m 18 in the year 2000 again. Adding that to my list of “Oh yeah! I forgot how much I love this song!” I’m hoping this continues a trend of Binaural blasts. Please play Grievance at some point on this tour, guys! There was a beautiful rendition of Daughter, and one of my new favorites, Superblood Wolfmoon. This life I love is moving way too fast. I have this on my sign, and at this point, waving it around again.
Before LBC, Eddie talks about loss and grief, and how someone in the audience lost their spouse recently. He got a little choked up, and so did I. In that moment, the entire arena of 20,000 people felt intimate, and a safe place to be vulnerable and open. This is why we keep coming back.
State of Love and Trust followed by Porch is the reason why I have a bang-over today, and I didn’t even drink.
The encore began with Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” before they played Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town, which they directed towards the back. I took a short video of all the beautiful faces experiencing this classic. Singing at the top of their lungs, feeling every bit of emotion from that song. I can’t wait to join them back there in Chicago.
The Moment Of The Night
Elderly Woman ends, and Eddie makes a beeline towards me. Oh my god, it’s happening. He leans forward to give me his pick, but can’t reach me. Hilariously, we are both struggling to reach each other until he lightly hits the security guy on the shoulder and gestures to him to give it to me. I think it was the one he had just used for Elderly Woman. Please excuse the fact that I was in shock from that moment on.
I had met Eddie before, about 12 years ago, and I told him how much his music meant to me.
Luckily, the amazing people I shared space with, and only just met that day, got my back. Shout out to Heidi and Jen for taking photos and confirming what actually happened. He tapped his heart because he was moved, not because he was coughing. What can I say? I’m a bit of an over-thinker.
Of course the rest of the set was amazing, and for that, you can listen to the Live On 4 Legs reaction episode about it, but I just need to conclude my thoughts on this concert.
He read my words, and although it took a few songs later, he made sure to acknowledge me. This morning, I cried. I’m trying not to cry right now as I write this while in a public place. For the second time in my fandom, I had an opportunity to tell this person directly the profound impact his creativity, insight, and perspective has helped me through this life. Wild AF.
8 more shows to go.
This life I love is going way too fast!
Day -1, Part 1: From the West Coast to the Midwest
I’ve finally done it. I’ve reached a point in my adulthood and career where I can afford to follow Pearl Jam for an entire tour segment. Sure, it’s only nine shows in five cities, far less than some past tours. No matter, I’m still going to live it up.
I first saw Pearl Jam in 1993 when I was 11 years old. It’s wild to think I’ve been a fan for most of my life. At ten years old in 1992, Ten and the Singles soundtrack pulled me away from boy bands and into hard rock, but Vs. solidified my identity as a jammer, especially after I saw them on that tour. Here I am, 30 years later, approaching my 34th show. It would’ve, could’ve, should’ve been more, but it makes much more sense to live in the present tense, right?
With the blessing of my partner and concert companion David, I’m off to follow my favorite band for three weeks while he watches our cats, Dio and Lemmy. Well, except for the two days after St. Paul night 2 when I fly back to San Francisco to spend his birthday with him. We’ll be at a two-day metal concert, and then it’s a one-way flight to Chicago for me. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
So, follow me, a West Coast girlie, on my adventure through the Midwest. Will I have culture shock? Will I get a tambourine? Probably not, but who knows! Anything could happen. I’ll be in GA, behind the stage, along the sides, towards the back, and all over the place. I’ll be volunteering at a Wishlist party or two, and at a few events our friend Randy has lovingly organized. I don’t have a ton of expectations or predictions for each night. There are songs that I’m chasing, but other than that, I’m just riding the wave where it takes me.
Hope to see ya there!
Day -1, Part 2: My 2023 Wishlist
Like many of us, I’ve made wishlists for the shows, although my list is collective since I will be at all the shows. I am chasing 3 songs specifically: Fatal, Hard to Imagine, and Who You Are, the latter of which would be so much fun to hear live. The only song I want to hear on a specific night is Sirens in Austin. My partner David will be flying out from San Francisco to attend the end of the tour with me. We identify with that song as anxious people who are in love. You may see us drunkenly dancing in GA on night 1.
Like a true nerd, I’ve made a spreadsheet. The categories are inspired by the Pearl Jam Podcast Community Facebook posts of setlist wish lists for the tour. I’ve expanded a few categories since I have nine opportunities to hear some of these tunes. Welcome to my brain.
- Never heard and chasing: The list of my very favorite songs, ranked by priority, with a few rarities that I predict could surprise and delight the crowd.
- Never heard, but nice to have: A shorter list. But who knows? Maybe I would love these songs live!
- Want again: My favorite songs to hear live ranked by priority! The ones in bold I’ve only heard once. I always lose my mind when these come on.
- Staples I will always want to hear: Slightly different than above in that I may have seen these live the most, but I still get energized when those intros start.
- I could live without it, but I will sing along anyway: Honestly, I wouldn’t be mad if they didn’t play these, even though two of them will definitely be on the list.
- Covers I love or hope for: Yes, I have some generic ones on this list, but I know what I like. Also, I would LOVE to hear Can’t Hardly Wait by The Replacements in St. Paul. I think Pearl Jam would slay the fuck out of that song. OMG—wouldn’t it be cool if Paul Westerberg came out as a guest??? LOL J/K we’ll probably get Purple Rain.
- Oh yeah! I forgot how much I love this song: Songs that were not on my 2023 Bingo Card. What will be on it?
This spreadsheet also has its own sheet for every night so I can see which show granted most of my wishes. Overkill? Maybe. This is what ADHD hyper fixation looks like.
Wanna play along? If you could pick one song for each category, which would you choose?
- A song I never heard and chasing:
- A song I never heard but nice to have:
- A song I want to hear again:
- A song I will always want to hear:
- A song I could live without, but I will sing along anyway:
- A cover I love or hope for:
Let me know!