The TFT Guide to Fan Participation

by Jessica Letkemann , Kathy Davis , John Reynolds on June 22, 2006

Anyone who has ever been to a Pearl Jam concert has noticed that it’s not only the band putting on a show: the crowd plays their part as well. Well beyond applause and cheers between songs, over the years, several unique rituals of PJ audience participation have evolved. Somehow, everytime they play “Do The Evolution,” for example, 20,000 strangers know to raise their arms and wiggle their fingers when the bright white light goes on and Ed and Stone sing “Hallelujah!” Rock writers have likened this crowd participation phenomenon to everything from a revival meeting to a tribal gathering, but Eddie Vedder himself had the funniest metaphor.

Entertainment Weekly: Your live shows are amazing to watch, just what the fans do and how they react. I’m wondering how much you see and perceive what’s around you. Do you know they have coordinated hand gestures?

Eddie Vedder: So it’s like Rocky Horror or something? I love that. We’re less Grateful dead and more Rocky Horror. [Laughs] 1

With that in mind, TFT is proud to present — tongue wedged firmly in cheek — the first ever attempt at cataloging all of the strategic arm waving, finger-counting, soul clapping, and coordinated singing along of the Pearl Jam fan in his/her natural habitat: at the show! And just like any field guide to bird watching or tent building worth its salt, there are handy TFT pictograms to illustrate. September 1, 2011 Note: updated for Backspacer.

So stand there with your arms crossed if that’s your style. But just so you know, we’ll be the silly folks singing the “oh!’s” in “Jeremy” with our arms raised in a V. And hey, c’mon, who hasn’t done a little “Last Kiss” clapping or “Ledbetter” waving?


Includes: hand gesture, shouting
Level of Difficulty: Low
Description: After the last chorus and after the four bars where Ed sings “Yeah, uh-huh (repeated) … Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!,” simultaneously throw your fist in the air and shout “Yeah!” on the beat. Listen to any 2003-to-present bootleg and you will hear this chant en masse.

Origins: The fist-pump is not something new at a rock concert, but if “Alive” is played near the end of a show, the house lights will often be up and it’s fun to see tens of thousands of fans simultaneously pumping their fists and shouting “Yeah!”! The band has even recently put extra emphasis on the music during the end of “Alive” with Matt adding appropriate drumming to highlight the audience chanting. If we had to bet, our bet on the origins of this go back to PJ’s set at the Pinkpop festival in the summer of 1992 when tens of thousands of European PJ fans decided to do this. And PJ wasn’t even the headliner! It didn’t catch on in the States then. Though the VHS did make the rounds among die-hards in those days, we’re guessing it’s more than a conincedence that the rise of this move at US shows in 2003 came shortly after the video of Pinkpop ’92 made the rounds online in a big way for the first time.


Includes: hand gesture
Level of Difficulty: High
Description: “Animal” contains a fast and intricate hand gesture at the beginning and end of the song. This gesture is very difficult to do if you’ve knocked down a brewsky or two in parking lot, if ya get our drift. After the intro riff of “Animal,” Ed sings “One, two, three, four, five against one / Five, five … five against one” (with slight variations). During this line, raise your fingers in time with the words. Start with your pointer finger (“One”), then the middle finger (“two”), then the challenging ring finger (“three”), then the pinky (“four”), and finally the thumb (“five”). Return to just the pointer finger when the “one” in “five against one” is sung. Then flash all five fingers twice when “Five, Five” is sung.

Origins: This gesture was done by Ed during the earliest performances of “Animal,” and was also televised when they performed “Animal” at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards. Don’t be surprised when you get to the show and see that Ed still often does the gesture.

Baba O’Riley

Includes: singing
Level of Difficulty: Medium
Description: Among the many PJ sing-along oppurtunities, “Baba O’Riley” has a few lyrics which the crowd is guaranteed to sing. There is a musical pause in the middle of the song, then the lyrics “Don’t cry / Don’t raise your eyes / It’s only teenage wasteland.” Ed will usually sing the “Don’t Cry” line and then taper off, and with the house lights on this can be quite a site to see tens of thousands of fans not just singing along, but singing a capella on our own. Ed will then come back in and scream the “Yeah!!!!!!!” before the last verse and chorus. “Medium” level of difficulty because the “It’s only teenage wasteland” does venture into the upper register of one’s voice and sometimes 20,000 folks find it hard to sing exactly in time with each other.

Origins: “Baba O’Riley” was performed as early as ’92 and audience participation often varied on the level of interaction between the crowd and the band that night. As Pearl Jam started to perform “Baba O’Riley” more frequently, fans took over, drowning Ed out to the point he let the audience take over. It’s a lock each time for the audience to sing these lines.


Includes: singing
Level of Difficulty: Medium
Description: This is another classic sing-along. Everyone if familiar with the “do-do-do do do-do do”s sung at the end of “Black.” Use your best falsetto voice and join in.

Origins: Jeff and Stone traditionally sang these parts live, though we do seem to vaguely remember some early ’92 European show bootlegs where it seemed the crowd took over singing. In recent years “Black” has been extended and beautifully and gradually winds down to the point where often the last voices heard are the crowd singing this very part.

Better Man

Includes: singing
Level of Difficulty: Low
Description: Being one of PJ’s most played radio hits, fans might know the lyrics to this song better than their wedding anniversaries and kids’ birthdays. With Ed starting this usually just on guitar, he often steps back from the microphone after the first “Waitin …” because the crowd is overpowering him. The crowd sings the first verse and chorus, and lol, we actually cheer ourselves. Ed usually follows by saying “good singin” or a nod of acknowledgement. If you’re in a loud crowd at a show, you will often get to sing the first chorus all by yourselves.

Origins: You can find fans singing along to almost any song at any time during a show, but after the song was released in ’94, the singalong took on a life of it’s own. You pay good money to hear Ed sing, but there are certain times – and “Better Man” is certainly one of them – where trading verses with him comes off terrific.

Crazy Mary

Includes: singing (well, spelling!)
Level of Difficulty: Medium
Description: “Crazy Mary” is a another big singalong, as the addictive melody bends like the “curve in the road”. Many fans note that they do various gestures during the “…And Mary rising up above it all” line, but a unified action is tough to achieve without achieving levitation (another pun intended). In growing frequency though, crowd’s have enjoyed loudly spelling the “L-O-I-T-E-R-I-N-G”, with Ed often putting his hand to his ear or pointing the microphone out to the crowd. “Medium” level of difficulty if you attemped forming the individual letters with your hands.

Origins: This song was given new life in 2003 when Boom came on board, and brought this spelling test to life. Here’s your chance to shine, because it’s much more difficult than just spelling “G-R-E-E-D”.Thanks to Tom Witiak and others.


Includes: singing
Level of Difficulty: Medium
Description: “Daughter” participation involves many forms of singing, and all of it doesn’t even pertain to the actual “Daughter” lyrics. “Daughter” is famous for its tags, and most of its tags include call and response play between Ed and the crowd. If Ed yells something and asks you to repeat it, well … do as the man says! Other times Ed will sing the first line of a verse and ask that you sing the rest. See these examples:

  • “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” – aka “ABitW-II” is one of Pink Floyd’s most famous songs. Ed will usually start “We don’t need no education” and the crowd will sing back “We don’t need no thought control,” followed by “No dark sarcasm in the classroom” (Ed) and “Teacher leave those kids alone” (crowd).
  • “It’s OK” – this “Dead Moon” song made it’s debut at the August 3, 2000 Virginia Beach show. Ed prepared the crowd for the tag, instructing them that their part was to echo “It’s OK” after Ed sings it. After performing this many times since (even in Spanish), the crowd will usually sing their part without the need for guidance.
  • “Blitzkrieg Bop” – this tag revolves around the Ramones trademark “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!”, and is simply done by singing along with Ed while he sings it, often singing the line in higher and higher notes until his voice cracks. Like any good soccer chant, this chant is always welcome in-between songs, during encore breaks, or after any mention of The Ramones by Ed.
  • “War” – this Edwin Starr classic was introduced as a “Daughter” tag in 2002 while the U.S. was at war in Afghanistan and appeared many times in 2003. It hasn’t been played in awhile, though many fans would like to see it come back. At the Ed December 6 Showbox show, Ed gave some easy-to-follow instructions on what the crowd’s part was. This one is tricky but fun, and here’s how it goes:Ed: “War (crowd: Huh!!) What is it good for?”Crowd: “Absolutely nothin’!!”

    Ed: “Say it again, I said … War!..”

Origins: “Daughter”, barely a 4-minute studio song, started becoming a “jamming vehicle”2 in 1993 and usually hovers in the six- to ten-minute mark when Ed breaks out different tags. The audience participation aspect is, and always has been, prompted by Ed. Often played in the main set, it can be a catalyst to great interaction with the band if the audience is l-l-loud!

Do The Evolution

Includes: hand gestures, singing
Level of Difficulty: Low
Description: “Do The Evolution” has two opportunities to participate. Following the line “There’s my church, I sing in the choir,” sing along with Stone (and Ed) while he sings “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” raise your hands above your head and shake your hands in mock worship. The second item is more subtle, but during the last verse, sing the Blur-like “Woo-Hoo!” along with Ed: “It’s evolution, baby, yeah … Woo Hoo! / It’s evolution baby / Do the evolution”
Come on, come on, come on

Origins: The “Hallelujah” during “Do the Evolution” is one of the most obvious calls for audience participation, often sung with bright lights on the crowd, Stone raising his hands like a conductor, and Ed often changing the lyrics to “Let’s sing in the choir” The “Woo-Hoo” part is not on the studio version, but after Ed sang it repeatedly on the 1998 tour and it wound up in the live version of DTE on Live on Two Legs, it became common for fans to woo hoo along at the shows in 2000.

Elderly Woman…

Includes: singing
Level of Difficulty: Low
Description: This may be the most recognized of all audience participation tasks. During the third verse, Ed sings “I just want to scream … HELLO!”. Yell the “HELLO” along with him. It’s that simple. A “hello” is often accompanied by a “wave,” so feel free to “wave” as well.

Origins: Crowds have been screaming “Hello” almost as long as the song has been played live, and these days is often accompanied by bright lights focused on the crowd.

Even Flow

Includes: shouting, fist pump
Level of Difficulty: Low
Directions: “Even Flow” has two spots where you can test your shouting ability. Give a big shout of “Yeah!!” along with Ed at the end of the second and third choruses: “Gently lead him away / lead him away .. him away … Yeah!!“. Optionionally, some folks choose to jump as high as they can, mirroring what Ed often does on stage. That gets tricky because if you jump and you’re cramped among fans, you might have to apologize for bumping your neighbor.

Origins: “Even Flow” – Pearl Jam’s most played song live – has been highlighted throughout the years by its full-throttle start, Mike’s soloing spotlight, and even Ed’s penchant for forgetting the words. Jeff and/or Ed will often accompany the “Yeah!!” by catching big air.

Given To Fly

Includes: hand gesture
Level of Difficulty: Low
Description: “Given To Fly” is a song of highs and lows. The song’s second verse contains the line “Arms wide open with the sea as his floor”, so raise those hands as high as you can!

Origins: Pearl Jam fans are nuts about the band’s lyrics, and identifying this line as a chance to have some fun has been a part of the song’s performance from day one since the start of the Yield tour in 1998.

Hail, Hail

Includes: clapping
Level of Difficulty: High
Description: Ed prompted this one all by himself. Following the line “Bandaged hand in hand”, there is a short musical segue before the final chorus. During this time, raise your hands up and soul-clap vigorously until the final chorus starts. Being a fast clap, getting the beat down might be tough for the rhythmically-challenge, so the level of difficulty is “high”.

Origins: Since its debut in 1996, Ed would frequently demonstrate the clapping during performances. Whether Ed does it now or not, you will spot many in the audience clapping along unprompted whenever this song is played.


Includes: singing
Level of Difficulty: Low
Description: Sing the line “I will scream my lungs out, ’til it fills this room!” with lots of emphasis. Could this one be more obvious?

Origins: Often closing a show or played near the end, this songs really highlights Ed’s vocal range. During recent tours, Ed has stepped back during this line and allowed the crowd to sing it all by themselves.

In My Tree

Includes: waving
Level of Difficulty: Low
Description: Another obvious lyric. This fan-favorite song includes the line “Wave to all my friends”, to which Ed will often wave, but the audience almost surely will wave back en masse.

Origins: Played often during the 1996 No Code tour, this song had a dry spell when Matt Cameron assumed drumming duties, but eventually made its way back into the PJ repertoire – reworked slightly, but no affecting the crowd waving.


Includes: singing, hand gesture
Level of Difficulty: Low
Description: “Jeremy” is another song that contains multiple pieces of audience participation – one a shout, the other a hand gesture, then some loud singing. The first chorus contains a description of Jeremy with “arms raised in a ‘V’”, so when this YMCA-like line comes around, raise those arms like the alphabet’s 22nd letter. Then, during the line “Seemed a harmless little fuck“, give the f-bomb a little more emphasis and shout it as loud as you can! Lastly, as the song hits its crescendo, sing the loud lengthy “Ohhh”s at the end.

Origins: “Jeremy” was Ten‘s third single, and one of Pearl Jam’s most popular live songs during 1992. The band at that time was starting to fight their popularity somewhat, and often took out their frustrations during this song which is powerful enough in its music, message and delivery. Well, nothing says angry like profanity, and Ed often will not sing that word, instead turning his microphone towards the audience who will finish it off for him. The “Ohhh”s at the end are often requested to be sung when Ed’s throat gets a little tired.

Last Kiss

Includes: clapping, singing
Level of Difficulty: Medium
Description: “Last Kiss” contains a classic pop melody, and Matt hitting his snare drum in a “rat-tat, tat” phrasing over the beat. This beat is punctuated for two measures following each verse and Matt accentuates the beat. Join Matt with clapping during this time, and mimic his snare beat. Towards the end of the song, sing along with Ed during the “Oh, Oh”s.

Origins: “Last Kiss” came out of nowhere in 1998, but became an easy sing-along quickly, often played during a show’s encores and often played with the band facing backwards to the crowd behind the stage if there was seating there.

Love Boat Captain

Includes: shouting
Level of Difficulty: Low
Directions: As the song dies down, Ed sings the last verse solemnly as Boom’s B3 echoes through the arena. The sentiment of the song is summarized by the last line “All you need is love, love, love”. Shout those last “love!”s out loud and the crowd will take over for Ed.

Origins: When song was played heavily during the Riot Act tour, Ed started asking in a re-assuring way if the crowd knew what we all needed, often including this exchange “All you need is love … What? (crowd: Love!) What? (crowd: Love!)”.Thanks to Seth Dolled

Participation Geneology

Although Ed’s Rocky Horror Picture Show reference is fun way to nudge and wink at the phenomenon, Pearl Jam audience participation – for now – is a far cry from throwing toast and hot dogs at a movie screen while dressed in character. In the rest of the music world, audience participation is characterized by slight extensions to normal audience reactions: signing and dancing. Genres like Hardcore and Rap often include multiple instances during a given song where the singer will point the microphone down to someone in audience to sing (or in most cases, shout) a backup vocal. Among typical song structures such as “verses”, “choruses” and “bridges”, many Thrash Metal songs usually contained a distinguishable “Mosh Part” where the audience would start or be prompted to mosh, if they weren’t already.

Phish probably has the most widely documented audience participation guide full of fun and often intricate practices such as “secret language” and the Macarena-like “Meatstick Dance”.

Save You

Includes: clapping
Level of Difficulty: Medium
Description: Added by popular demand, the breakdown before the last verse/chorus features Matt and Jeff taking the spotlight and driving the song’s main riff home. Before Ed starts singing, clap along in this special pattern: “clap, clap, clap-clap-clap”.

Origins: During this breakdown, Ed has often stepped off mic to guide fans to clap at a frenetic pace. Similar in difficulty to “Hail, Hail” – almost as fast, but with the tricky triplet at the end.Thanks to many who wrote in.

Severed Hand

Includes: singing
Level of Difficulty: Low
Description: This new song is a narrative about temptation and many luring questions are posed to the protagonist. Is it a sheepish “Yeah!” answer to any of these questions? No way! So scream “Yeah” along with Ed. Come on .. who wouldn’t want to see dragons after 3 or 4?

Origins: Played at every show of 2006 Leg One, this big response evolved naturally, with “Severed Hand” starting or occurring early in the main set, with the crowd eager to hear the latest album tracks.Thanks to John Kudla and others.

Soldier of Love

Includes: clapping, shouting
Level of Difficulty: Medium
Description: “Soldier of Love” is another cover from the sixties, and is similar to “Last Kiss” in rhythm and melody. Fans can clap the same “rat-tat … tat” phrasing that is more prominently played in this song by Stone’s guitar strumming. At the very end of the song, there is a singing/shouting part. After the song’s final note, sing/yell “Cha-cha-cha” as if it’s a quick count-off of “1-2-3″

Origins: “Soldier of Love” was included on the 1998 Fan Club single and was recorded during the 1998 Tour. After the last note of the song, Matt always hit three quick drum beats. After awhile, fans caught on and started yelling “cha! cha! cha!” along with the drum beats. Matt and Ed picked up on this, and you can even hear Ed laugh and acknowledge the crowd at the end of the version on the Christmas single. Unfortunately this song hasn’t appeared on a setlist in awhile, so there might not be any chances to do this in the future.

Soon Forget

Includes: not clapping
Level of Difficulty: High
Description: “Soon Forget” is one of the few PJ songs without any drums, and since the earliest performances, it’s hard to resist the urge to help Ed keep the beat by clapping (thus the high level of difficulty). More often than not, though, Ed’s strumming would get out of synch with the crowd and, sadly, he would have to stop the song. In jest, he would often beseech the crowd to refrain from clapping, often giving smiling “sssshhhhhh” if clapping did start. So help our favorite lead singer out, and don’t clap during “Soon Forget”!


Includes: hand gesture
Level of Difficulty: Low
Description: Ed sings the line “fifty million hands upraised and open toward the sky”, so take the opportunity to stretch and raise those hands high! Similar to “Jeremy”‘s “arms raised in a ‘V’”.

Origins: Another case where the lyrics speak for themselves, and fans have been raising their hands since this song debuted live in 1998.

Why Go

Includes: singing
Level of Difficulty: Low
Description: During the first chorus, while Ed is singing “Why Go Home” by himself, Ed tapers off and depends on the audience to sing the remaining “Why Go Home”s.

Origins: From its earliest performances, fans have sung these lines at shows. Even with the song’s resurrection after being played only sporadically since 1995, fans have picked up right where they left off, and loudly sang it during the recent 2006 shows.


Includes: hand gesture
Level of Difficulty: Low
Description: A new participation element is emerging from this funky new song. In the first verse, Ed sings “He’s got a big gold ring what says ‘Jesus Saves’ / And it’s dented from the punch thrown at work that day”. In time with the word “punch”, ball up those fingers and punch your fist into the air.

Origins: With any new song, unless there is a lyric that prompts audience participation, sometimes things just evolve. “Unemployable” was played at nearly every show during Leg One, and since the shows were within relatively close geographical location to each other, you saw a lot ot fans attending a lot of shows, and the “punch” started to gain popularity, with Ed doing it on occasion as well.


Includes: shouting, fist pump
Level of Difficulty: Low
Directions: In the last few bars of the song, Ed will shout “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”, then expects the crowd to sing the next “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”, then he’ll sing the last “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” that leads to the final notes of the song. Throw in a fist-pump while you’re at it.

Origins: This guide was created following the 2006 tour for the S/T tour, and 2009′s Backspacer has since been released. “Supersonic”, while not one of the most oft-played songs on the album, is a real rocker. Aside from your own crazy dancing, there is short part at the end where Ed wants your help. If you blink, you’ll miss it. On the studio recording, he does all this singing himself, but when performed he pointed the mic towards the crowd looking to us to chant along.

Unthought Known

Includes: singing
Level of Difficulty: Low
Directions: When Ed sings “Gems and Rhinestones”, you sing “Gems and Rhinestones”. Simple.

Origins: No other song on Backspacer has resonated more with fans than “Unthought Known”. With a lot of musical buildups in this song, Ed’s vocals peak during the “Feel the sky blanket you / With gems & rhinestones” line. On the studio album, there’s extra echo added for effect. In concert, when all of us sing along, it’s an amazing crowd effect.

Yellow Ledbetter

Includes: waving
Level of Difficulty: Low
Description: Although the lyrics are traditionally indistinguishable, one part of the chorus “I see them / out on the porch / but they don’t wave” can be clearly heard. Although the people in the song aren’t waving, there’s no reason why fans can’t, so raise that hand in a big wave.

Origins: Appropriately last in alphabetical order and most commonly played last at a concert, the wave in “Yellow Ledbetter” is usually a “wave goodbye” to signal a show’s end as the house lights in the venue illuminate both the band and the crowd.

1 – From Pearl Essence, by Whitney Pastorek, Entertainment Weekly, June 21, 2006 (Go back to where I was)

2 – The phrase “jamming vehicle” is a jam-band genre term referring to a song that usually results in an improvisational jam. The phrase’s etymology comes from the military where a “jamming vehicle” is a vehicle specifically used to jam an enemies VHF frequencies. (Go back to where I was)

Jessica Letkemann ( Twitter: @Letkemann )
TFT co-editor Jessica Letkemann is a New York based digital music journalist & editor. She's currently VP & Editor-In-Chief of Digital at Fuse Media ( and was previously managing editor of She has also been on staff at Spin and Premiere magazines. Her first Pearl Jam show was at Lollapalooza on August 2, 1992.
Kathy Davis ( Twitter: @CrookedArm23 )
A Bay-Area based entrepreneur, co-editor Kathy conceives and writes her share of TFT’s articles and sections. She was co-editor/co-founder of one of the first Pearl Jam fanzines "Footsteps" (1992-1997). Kathy’s first Pearl Jam show was at the Bridge School Benefit on November 1, 1992.
John Reynolds ( Twitter: @jjjrrr )
A New Jersey based programmer, John handles TFT’s programming and technical aspects. He also conceives and writes his share of TFT’s articles and sections. John’s first Pearl Jam show was at Lollapalooza on August 12, 1992.

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