There are special people and things in life that I love passionately. My daughter and wife, no question, but somewhere very high on this list is Pearl Jam. I have been a fan since I first saw Alive on MTV late one night when I was 15. I was already affected by the 90s Seattle music scene, as I was a fan of Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, but this band? This band was different. I went to the record store and picked up Ten, excited to hear the rest of the album.
From the minute I pressed play, my life changed forever. I became so wrapped up in this album that I listened to it over and over again until my mom called me down for dinner. After dinner, I went back to my room and listened to it a few more times.
The next day, I went to school and preached about this band to anyone who would listen. They started to gain some popularity, but it wasn’t until Jeremy became a smash hit that everyone boarded the Pearl Jam train. At that point in my life, I was switching high schools, and as I made some new friends, we were able to talk and bond over Pearl jam and how awesome they were.
Their second album, VS, released on vinyl a week earlier. Luckily, my parents still had a record player, and I was able to hear what I anticipated for so long. I sat there, once again mesmerized by what I was hearing. Some of my favorite songs to this day are on VS, like Indifference, Rearviewmirror and Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.
This continued with each album release. It always felt that wherever I was in life, the band put out an album that spoke to me at that stage in my life. It continues to this day, as they matured as a band and I matured as a husband and father.
Finally, in 1996, I was able to see Pearl Jam live for the first time. They were in the middle of their dispute with Ticketmaster, and to get tickets on this tour, you had to call an 800 number and hope to get through. I spent hours doing this, and when I finally secured tickets for the show, I freaked out. When the day arrived, I got together with a large group of friends and we went to Randall’s Island in Manhattan to see our favorite band.
Just as the show started, it began to rain, and did so through almost the whole show. Song after song, I didn’t care about the rain. This is my favorite band on the planet! What rain?
When the show ended, we sat in traffic for 3 hours to get off the island, and all we could talk about was the experience and the sudden revelation that we could never miss Pearl Jam concert. Ever.
This idea stuck with me over the past 20 years. In fact, I’ve seen Pearl Jam 22 times in the past 10 years alone.
Let’s fast forward to this past weekend. Actually, let’s go back a few months. When the 2 shows at Fenway Park in Boston were announced, I entered to Ten Club lottery like I do for every tour and was able to get tickets for the second night. As usual, when tickets went on sale to the public, I had no chance for night one. Since money is tight, I couldn’t afford a ticket on the secondary market, and came to terms with only going to one show. Due to some bad luck, the show that I miss usually has the extra good stuff. For example, I missed out on Release and Breath, two of my favorite songs, in concerts past. That said, I dreaded night 1 at Fenway.
Then, the news that changed everything! One of my friends, Matt, needed to sell his night 1 ticket because his wife was extremely close to giving birth, and they didn’t want to risk the trip. Being New York Yankee fans, the thought of having the baby in Boston was perhaps too much to bear. Would I take his night 1 ticket? Uh, yes!
Wow! Two nights at Fenway with my favorite band.
I took the road trip with my friend Sherm (nickname), who’s been a Pearl Jam fan since day 1. We were meeting some friends up there, and even more on Sunday for night 2.
We left Friday morning, the day of the first show, and the race was on. We had to reach the box office to pick up our tickets and check in to our hotel before showtime. Naturally, we hit traffic and slight panic set in. We brought stress levels down reminiscing about past Pearl Jam shows we’ve seen, and which songs we’d love to hear.
To explain, every big time Pearl Jam fan keeps a list of the songs that he or she hears live. After years of shows this list becomes bigger, and the rare songs become amazing moments. The fact that the band changes their set list every night makes each show a crapshoot, and that mystery is one of the things that makes Pearl Jam special.
Traffic be damned, we checked in to our hotel and I changed for the evening. My attire? A shirt with Eddie Vedder on it that says “It doesn’t get Eddie Vedder than this.”
Since we raced against the clock, we grabbed our tickets at Will Call and got a bite to eat inside. Turns out, we were in the 14th row! I must have looked at the tickets 5 times, and then went to Seat Geek to see if I was wrong. I was right! Fourteenth row! We walked in to the park like kings. So close to the band, the closest I’ve ever been.
Let’s take a minute to realize where we were. Fenway Park is one of the two oldest stadiums in the country, along with Wrigley Field. Talk about a special place. Between ball games, concerts and other special events, the history fills a book. Now it was about to add another historical moment.
We went to Fenway last year to see the Foo Fighters and discovered a tasty lemonade sold at the stadium. Granted, it has Kettle One, but that made it even better. So with a lemonade in each hand, we headed to our seats.
We get to our seats and hugged over how close we were. We were so ready for this show that we never sat down in those seats. We just stood there and waited with giant smiles from ear to ear. Our seats were in center field. Even a Yankee fan such as myself took a moment to appreciate this opportunity.
We discussed what we thought the opener would be. This discussion happens every show we go to. My dream opener has always been Release. It is still a slight rarity that is not played often, and even when I finally saw it live, it wasn’t the opener. I felt if there was ever a perfect night for this to happen, it was tonight.
Since it was still daylight out, there was no lights before the show.
Then, Baba O’Riley blared over the stadium speakers. Here they come!
OK, the band is about to rock Fenway. Wait until you see this incredible set list! Click the below link for part 2 of this epic experience.
Which Pearl Jam songs are your favorites? Share your ultimate set list.