Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Twenty Years

I know I've mentioned it before on my blog but my favorite band is Pearl Jam. Favorite as in...if I was stranded on a deserted island, I'd want to listen to nothing but Pearl Jam. Favorite as in...I have been in their fan club for about 16 years. Favorite as in...I will drop everything when I hear they are touring and will scout out the closest concert to my house. Favorite as in...I don't care that most people about my age "outgrew" the band towards the end of the 90s. I have held firm in my belief that they are the GREATEST BAND EVER.

To celebrate 20 years since the band formed, they released a documentary, PJ 20. It was released last night in select cities, for one night only. Thankfully C-bus made the list! The first show sold out so I was stuck with the 9:30 pm showing...waaaay past my bedtime, especially on a "school night." I had a horrible day and considered not going at all, especially since I would be going alone (so goes the life of a pilot wife ) but I didn't want to waste the money for the ticket by not going. I'm so glad that I went. For two hours, I sat in an old, local theater and got to travel back in time... Bear with me as I take a trip down memory lane. If you don't care about PJ or the last 20 years of my life, tune in another day when I go back to whining about marathon training. :)

I honestly can't say how I was introduced to Pearl Jam. My guess is that I somehow heard them from my older brother either riding in the car with him and heard it on the radio or he may have owned their first album, Ten. It really doesn't matter,I just know that sometime around 1993 (I was only 12), I started to realize that there was so much out in the world other than just what I could see around me. For whatever reason, I latched onto the sound of this band. I remember saving my allowance to buy Ten and their second album, Vs. at the same time. I remember having to convince my mom to let me buy to Vs. because it had a parental advisory on the cover. Thankfully, she did. It's not like I hadn't heard curse words before!

Sure, I suppose I fell under the spell of "grunge" in the 90s and I liked just about all of the music in the genre but something about Pearl Jam always brought me back to them. Even today, as my musical tastes vary wildly, Pearl Jam is always the band I come back to. It's almost like catching up with an old friend when I hear one of their songs.

I was in the 6th grade when I first heard Pearl Jam and it was perfect timing. I was starting to get picked on in school, which continued until about 9th grade when I finally started to find my place in the world (and I slowly learned to stand up for myself). Despite being picked on, I still had a great group of friends so I wasn't ever isolated, but Pearl Jam's music was something that I could relate to. I felt connected to the message in their lyrics and I felt like I wasn't the only kid out there having a tough time.

I joined the Pearl Jam fan club around 8th or 9th grade and was always looking out for the band to come to my town or at least nearby. I finally got my chance to see them in 1996. Unfortunately the show was over 2.5 hours away (Toledo) and I didn't even have a drivers license yet. Luckily I have the greatest parents in the world. My dad drove me and my best friend, Lauren, to the show and then he waited in the parking lot during the entire show and then drove us home. To this day, this act of generosity is brought up in my family and I am forever thankful! That show might as well have been a religious experience! I had been to concerts before (my first was David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails in an outdoor amphitheater) but this was in an arena, which brought a much different atmosphere and it was the most incredible thing I had experienced up until that point. The last song of the night was my all time favorite (and still is to this day), Indifference. That's just one of those moments that I'll never forget.

When PJ toured again in 1998, I was old enough to drive and my parents trusted us but it was a concert over 2 hours away (Cleveland) from home and we were only 17. Once again, my dad stepped up and offered to drive me and Lauren to the show. This time we got a hotel room and he hung out there while we went to the show. Iggy Pop opened, which was quite an experience, but again, Pearl Jam was unbelievable. I remember that they covered The Who's, Baba O'Riley that night. I had heard Pearl Jam cover the song during a live concert that I had recorded off the radio (hello, tape deck!) and I knew it was a cover, but I didn't know who did the original. I remember Lauren and I calling into the local rock radio station and trying to "sing" the lyrics to the DJ, who immediately identified it as The Who. (Hey, I wasn't around when The Who was in their hey day and keep in mind that this was before you could Google anything!)

I don't remember which album it was (either No Code or Yield) but a local record store did a midnight release party. I was still in high school and it was a school night so my parents wouldn't let me go. But my older brother came to my rescue. He was in college and went to the store, bought the CD and brought it home to me. I stayed up late listening and remember my dad practically dragging me out of bed for school the next morning. Again, could I have asked for a more wonderful family??

I saw the band twice in 2000. I used my fan club tickets to see them in Pittsburgh with a college friend (who was recently my matron of honor) and then again in Columbus (the first home town show!). I didn't request fan club tickets for the Columbus show because I had recently been selected for an internship at Disney (a whole other life-changer!) but I didn't know when I would be starting and didn't want to buy tickets and then not be able to go. The Columbus show was at an outdoor amphitheater and without the fan club tickets, I had to buy lawn tickets. It didn't matter, it was my Pearl Jam!

In 2003, I was living in Orlando and I got a phone call from my brother. He was at a baseball game in Chicago. "Amber, you're never going to guess who just threw out the first pitch. Eddie Vedder." I'm not sure why I was as excited as I was but I wished I could have been there. The excitement went through the roof when my brother called me back a little while later. "Amber, how much do you love me?" My heart about stopped. "I just got Eddie Vedder's autograph. He was heading to the bathroom or something so I just walked up and asked him to sign my ticket." As the little sister, I've been jealous of my big brother many times in our lives but never more than in that moment. I wanted to jump through the phone and be there. Obviously my brother gave me that baseball ticket or I probably would have disowned him.

In 2006, the closest they were coming to Columbus (and on a day I was available) was just outside of Detroit...on a "school night." I was obviously a "grown up" by then and had a full time job. I couldn't talk anyone else into taking a day off work to go with me but I bought the two fan club tickets anyways and took a day off work. One of my brother's friends, Seth, was living in the area and was also a fan but he already had tickets to the show. We agreed to meet up for dinner and then go to the show together. Being in the fan club, I had 3rd row seats (seats are awarded to the fan club based on seniority) so we opted to sit in the seats I had. :) For some reason I don't really remember any specific songs about that night other than what happened before the show started. We were sitting in the 3rd row, just waiting for the opening act to go on (My Morning Jacket). Seth wanted to get up to walk around and get a drink. Always expecting the unexpected, I told him I wanted to stay at the seats but he should go ahead. I'm not kidding, just then, Eddie Vedder walked onto the stage and played an acoustic song. I don't remember the song but I'll never forget standing there, just a couple feet from him and surrounded by just a handful of other people. Every once in awhile when I see Seth, he brings up that moment and he is so glad that he didn't get up to get a drink!

The most recent show was May 2010, here in Columbus. The Pilot and I had only been dating a couple months at that point but he was in town that night and agreed to go with me. We went down to the arena to pick up the fan club tickets. The closest I had been so far was the 3rd row and I was really hoping for 1st row some day. I got the tickets from the box office and immediately found the seating diagram. Fifth row! Boo. The Pilot told me he didn't want to go to the show anymore because I had his hopes up for "better" seats. Ahhhh, sarcasm. I later found out that the first two rows are almost always reserved for contest winners. Hmmmm....I might have to start calling into radio stations or something!

I nearly jumped out of my skin when I watched the trailer for the documentary and even more so when I realized there was going to be a local showing. That movie felt like a time capsule of my life so far. It brought back so many memories (good, bad, painful, happy, sad, all of the above).

Pearl Jam continues to provide the soundtrack to my life and most recently, at my wedding to The Pilot. Their song, Just Breathe, was played during our wedding reception. The song has one of my favorite lyrics of all time, "Oh I'm a lucky man to count on both hands the ones I love. Some folks just have one and others they got none." Well said! I completely feel that way.

Thank you for the last 20 years, Pearl Jam. I look forward to what the future brings!

1 comment:

  1. AHHHH! Thanks for commenting on my blog so I can find a fellow PJ lover! :-) They have been such a huge part of my life, and it sounds like you know just what I'm talking about. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I did go to the PJ20 concert at Alpine Valley, and the month before that I actually MET Eddie at his solo show in Chicago! It was just a quick handshake as I stalked him outside of the venue, but it was amazing. Hooray for PJ lovers worldwide!