Escape to Wisconsin: Pearl Jam’s Alpine Valley History

by John Reynolds on May 16, 2011

Alpine Valley

The news if finally here: Pearl Jam Destination Weekend, September 3-4, Alpine Valley, East Troy, WI. After months of anticipation, there is a lot to absorb between the travel packages, the lineup, and the ticket information. Months of Alpine Valley rumors abounded, but did you ever ask: “Why Alpine Valley?”

Like many venues, Pearl Jam has played Alpine Valley a number of times – five to be exact. Starting in August with a Lollapalooza tour stop at the peak of their TEN popularity, then returning in later Arena / Amphitheater tours in 1998 (Yield), 2000 (Binaural) and 2003 (Riot Act) tours. Outside of Pearl Jam, Ed got a taste of playing Alpine Valley with a solo appearance with C-Average in 1999 at the Tibetan Freedom Concert.

To commemorate the upcoming announcement, Two Feet Thick plucked these shows from the Pearl Jam Concert Chronology for your consolidated reading pleasure. Since PJ20 is officially October 22, 2010 -> October 22, 2011 … we’ve backdated these appearance accordingly!

PJ2: August 29, 1992 – Lollapalooza

set: Why Go, Deep, Jeremy, Even Flow, Black, Hard To Imagine (teaser)/Improv/Alive, Porch/(Tearing), Baba O’Riley

“Why Go” kicks off a gorgeous sunny day at Alpine Valley, and Pearl Jam comes out with tons of energy. Ed especially screams with huge power on the opener, sporting the “famous” Corduroy jacket. From the seating area to the lawn, the crowd forms one big sea of people up to the sky. Ed says “Jesus, you guys look fucking beautiful from here. Let me tell you something, it started yesterday (the show) was number 10, today’s 9 we’re counting down these shows. All of us, this family, this big traveling circus, we’re gonna miss it. We’re glad you’re part of the family today.” Ed is very animated with his hands during “Deep”, and begins a whirlpool-like march around center stage up until the final notes. “Jeremy” ends with a profusely sweating Jeff Ament perched at the front of the stage.

“Feels like today might be the best show we’ve ever played. I don’t know if you know, but I was born in Chicago. And I could never figure out, I was trying to remember those bumper stickers. (Did they say) “Escape to Wisconsin?” or was it “Escape from Wisconsin”? During “Even Flow”, Ed starts to tire, but starts to make connections with the crowd up front. Mike McCready plays “Even Flow” on a shiny SRV (Stevie Ray Vaughn) Fender Stratocaster (Stevie Ray Vaughn died in a helicopter crash on August 27, 1990 while leaving the Alpine Valley grounds). “I’m looking out at all you guys; if all you guys voted you could change the world, I just know it. If you ever let the Republicans win it’ll be the last time you see me because I’m moving to another country and never coming back.” Ed introduces the next song as “kinda hard to play, and hard to sing” leading to “Black”, where from atop the drum riser, Ed smashes down the mic with a big crash to end the song. Stone jams on “Hard To Imagine” riffs with Ed before going into “Alive”. “Alive” is big and majestic, with Ed putting everything into the choruses, grabbing the mic with two hands, and up on his toes in his Doc Martens. Ed gives the lighting rig ladder a ride at the end of “Alive”, just a sign of things to come.

Ed acknowledges the date as the one-year anniversary of the TEN release date, and tells the crowd that when the next record comes out “just buy one and everybody make copies.” During “Porch” jam, Ed surveys the landscape, and seemingly gives Stone, Jeff and Mike a tap on the shoulder, saying “I’ll be right back”, and bolts down the lower section aisle to the base of one of the amphitheater’s giant columns. He proceeds to climb that ladder, to a landing, then finds himself perched atop the roof! The crowd on the lawn – the packed crowd – is going berserk, half-realizing the band is also in a deep jam, with Dave pounding out a steady groove. Ed headbangs atop a cable and manages to swing down into a pit of fans. Out of sight, the band slows it down, Ed reappears and is brought back hurriedly back to the stage by security guards as the band relaunches a jam, Ed returning to the stage like a victorious heavyweight fighter, and not missing a beat leading to a “hey!” chant. The lead-in to the last chorus includes “There’s something / There’s something on my mind, There’s something / I believe we can make a change this time” and a “Tearing” tag. With Jeff flying around the stage, one can see why he’s wearing a knee brace.

A fan throws up a shirt which reads “Eddie Vedder for President”, and he jokingly wonders “Are things that bad?”. “Baba O’Riley” is played “for all you mid-westerners. This is on radio, so we thought we’d play it for you.” Joined by a member of Ministry, the song – not yet an encore staple – thrills the crowd. “Thanks very much, have a great day” ends the nearly 50-minute set.

Later in the day, on the third stage (where an industrial noise band named ‘Sharkbait’ played during the Lolla tour), PJ band members got together with Soundgarden band members and did a little singing (‘Hunger Strike’-Ed & Chris, ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’-Ed solo, ‘Seasons’-Chris solo. This happened during Ice Cube’s set (3:30-4:30) and there were 1-2,000 people in attendance. Someone reported that this also happened at the Phoenix show.

PJ8: 06/26/98 – Yield Tour

soundcheck: All Those Yesterdays, Leatherman, Sometimes, Tremor Christ, Red Mosquito, Off He Goes, Smile, Mankind, parts of Brain of J
set: Do the Evolution, Animal, Last Exit, Brain of J, Given to Fly, In Hiding, Corduroy, Wishlist, Lukin, Even Flow, Daughter/(Stuff and Nonsense), Dissident, MFC, Better Man, Red Mosquito, Black
enc 1: Hail Hail, Mankind, I Got Shit/(Cinnamon Girl), Rearviewmirror, Alive
enc 2: Yellow Ledbetter

The band is in a great mood, laughing, joking and smiling (especially Eddie). ‘Last Exit’ is botched and Ed says, ‘Fuck that song … let’s get to the next.’ A series of technical problems are evidenced, both in Ed’s and Mike’s sound. Although ‘Leatherman’ appears on the setlist after ‘Better Man,’ it isn’t played. Ed says ‘hello’ to his brother in the crowd before ‘Daughter.’ The ‘Stuff and Nonsense’ tag is a Split Enz tune. After destroying a tambourine, Ed tries to give it to a female show attendee but a struggle ensues and Ed says, ‘Give it to the girl.’ (He makes sure that she gets a second one at the end of ‘Alive.’) Ed says, ‘Once upon a time, we made a record with Neil Young. It took about six days, and we played, but Neil did all of the singing and stuff. We wrote and Neil helped out to make a couple songs to make a single – and uh, all that proves is that in six days Neil can write 12 songs and we can only write two. This one’s called ‘I Got Shit’.’ A wild ‘Alive,’ with Ed hitting himself in the mouth with the microphone, anointing the crowd with wine and proceeds to the end of a video screen and points to it as if displaying Matt. He runs back to the mic and adds an improv/tag (something about ‘sometime …’). The song ends with Jeff bouncing a superball off the stage which he’d been toying with earlier. Before ‘Red Mosquito,’ he notes that Alpine Valley is the last place Stevie Ray Vaughn ever played. (SRV died in a helicopter crash after the show.) ‘Yellow Ledbetter’ is also for SRV and toward the end, Mike tosses in a bit of Jimi Hendrix’ ‘Machine Gun.’ The whole band watches Mike solo with Jeff standing behind his amp stack where he’s hung a sign from the audience that says ‘smile.’

PJ8: June 27, 1998 – Yield Tour

set: Interstellar Overdrive, Corduroy, Hail Hail, Brain of J, Last Exit, Tremor Christ, Given to Fly, Jeremy, Faithfull, Nothingman, Improv, MFC, Habit, Off He Goes, Even Flow, Once, All Those Yesterdays, Go, Immortality

encore: Do the Evolution, Leatherman, Better Man/(jam)/(RVM), Wishlist, Alive, Smile

The ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ instrumental intro is performed in the same fashion as the show. Mike smashes his guitar after ‘Brain of J.’ Ed performs the ‘back and forth’ dance during ‘Last Exit.’ ‘Faithfull’ is introduced as ‘a song about being careful with your trust.’ The improv after ‘Nothingman’ is mostly Ed with Matt and Jeff playing along. Tonight’s ‘Habit’ line is ‘speaking as someone who’s never worn a piece of orange styrofoam on his head.’ (Ed goes on to explain that the cheesehead comment wasn’t an insult and how he has a cheesehead hat at home and how he finds it ‘to be quite comfortable actually. Makes me look cool and I get chicks.’) ‘Better Man’ features two tags, including 2 lines from ‘RVM’ (‘saw things … clearer, clearer’). Ed chats about how Dennis from The Frogs wrote a page in Ed’s journal and it became ‘Smile,’ leading to that song and a spotlight is shined on Dennis, who is side stage. Wonderful setlist and performance.

PJ9: June 13, 1999, Ed with C Average at Tibetan Freedom Concert

set: Last Kiss (EV solo), Better Man (no tag), Watch Outside (Mono Men), Driven to Tears (Police), Running Out of Time (Dead Moon), Diamonds In The Rough (Dead Moon), Love -> Building on Fire (Talking Heads), I Am A Patriot

Ed takes the stage solo (with noticeably longer blonde hair), commenting ‘… this place holds fond memories.’ He starts clapping, getting the audience to put-on, saying ‘Well, I don’t know if this is going to work…’ pointing to the empty drum and bass positions, and pretends to ask random people in the crowd to join him on stage, prompting his bandmates C Average to come up from the audience to join him. They then go into ‘Better Man,’ which the band had not ever rehearsed! After ‘Driven to Tears,’ he jokes about how they’d been rehearsing, that they’d been putting us on, and hoped it was okay. The two Dead Moon cover songs are performed from handwritten lyric sheets. (Ed received permission from Dead Moon to play these songs in advance.) ‘Patriot’ is totally different–a very cool punk version with Ed having a blast and doing a lot of windmills. On the setlist but not performed: Naked Eye, Ship Song (Nick Cave), World Where You Live (Crowded House), Corduroy. However, the setlist was not necessarily a firm document – Ed called out the songs one at a time as the spirit (or whatever) moved him.

PJ10: October 8, 2000 – a.k.a “The Ice Bowl” – Binaural Tour

set:Of The Girl, Hail Hail, Breakerfall, Whipping, Corduroy, Animal, Elderly Woman, Dissident, Given To Fly, Faithfull, Even Flow, Untitled, MFC, Light Years, Off He Goes, Insignificance, Black, Jeremy, Porch

enc: Wishlist, State of Love and Trust, Go, Better Man/(Save it for Later), Daughter/(The Wrong Child), Smile, Rearviewmirror

‘Welcome to the ice bowl,’ comments Ed after ‘Hail Hail.’ ‘Whipping’ is an excellent, tight version. Ed fucks up the beginning lyrics of ‘Corduroy,’ so he changes the lyrics in the middle of the song indicating it is ‘too fucking cold to sing.’ After ‘Animal’ Ed starts talking about how when people listen to the boots later on, in order to understand how cold it is, if they work in a restaurant they should open the freezer, and if they live in Antarctica they should just open the screen doors. He mentions that if anyone who actually lives in Antarchita hears this, this song can be for them because it’s about a small town, leading to ‘Elderly Woman.’ Stone pogoes the entire ‘Even Flow’ solo, seemingly to keep warm. The extended version of ‘Untitled’ includes additional lyrics, including something about getting to somewhere warmer and then memories and forgiveness. During ‘Jeremy,’ Ed falls backwards over the monitor at the end. The bridge in ‘Porch’ includes several lines from Dead Moon’s ‘It’s Okay.’ When the band returns for the encore, Ed is holding a ‘Let Ralph Debate’ sign and tapes it to the front of his monitor. He also mentions that it is going to be a very memorable show, referring to the weather. Mike has guitar problems at the start of ‘Go’ and Ed changes one of the first lyrics to ‘where’s Mike McCready?’ At the end of ‘Daughter,’ Ed starts chanting at a rapid pace: ‘Thunder road, thunder road, thunder road’ (a nod to Bruce Springsteen). Ed makes a joke about No Code sales before ‘Smile,’ saying that the guy who wrote the lyrics in his notebook (Dennis Frog, who is side stage) receives 2/3 of a cent for each copy of the album sold … ‘so that comes to (laughing) well … No Code … like $20 (laughs), no $200?’ He turns to Stone, ‘How much money?’ and Stone says ‘$2000.’ Matt is on the large screen (and seems to know it) while the stage is darkened for ‘RVM.’ He exhales in unison with his kick drum, which draws a laugh from the crowd since everyone can see his breath. How cold was it? Mike is bundled up in a hat and scarf (scarf around his face all night); Stone has a hat on; Ed doesn’t remove the jacket the whole show; Matt is wearing a long sleeve shirt. Cold (28 degrees by show’s end). ‘Oceans’ was on the setlist as the opener but not played.

Enjoy these exclusive photos, provided by Dan Williams, who was front row that cold night

PJ13: June 21, 2003 – Riot Act Tour

set: Sometimes, Corduroy, Green Disease, Save You, Gods’ Dice, Faithfull, Immortality, Love Boat Captain, Insignificance, Deep, I Believe In Miracles, You Are, Better Man/(Why Can’t I Touch It?), Jeremy, Even Flow, Daughter, Rearviewmirror

enc 1: Go, Animal, Elderly Woman, Glorified G, Bushleaguer, Do The Evolution

enc 2: You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (Ed solo), Breath, Crazy Mary, Know Your Rights, Fortunate Son, Baba O’Riley

enc 3: Yellow Ledbetter/(Little Wing)

Pearl Jam takes the stage early (while it is still light) to a deafening ovation. Jeff has the standup bass out and the whole fan club section goes wild as soon as Ed hits the first note of ‘Sometimes.’ After ‘Immortality,’ Ed greets the crowd and recalls how cold it was last time they played Alpine, and how that crowd must be the ‘toughest audience in rock and roll history.’ ‘We made a pact after the show never to play that fucking place again.’ He jokes about the smoke and introduces Boom as coming from the land of the best smoke, leading to ‘LBC.’ During the break in the middle of ‘Insignificance’, the band stops but Mike keeps playing. He holds his hand up, laughing, as if to say ‘Yes, that was me that fucked up.’ ‘I Believe In Miracles’ is dedicated to Johnny Ramone. ‘Jeremy’ (introduced as ‘Here’s a new one for you’) and ‘Even Flow’ are both loaded with energy. Soothing ‘Daughter’ tag: ‘Hush my baby, don’t you cry. Sing yourself your own lullaby. Hush my angel, go to sleep. You have your own soul to keep.’ On returning for the encore Ed says they can’t go yet as it just got dark. ‘Go’ and ‘Animal’ keep the crowd frenzied. Ed says they want to make sure the show is longer than the drive for those who came from Chicago and anywhere else while ‘Elderly Woman’ is for those who didn’t have to drive far. Ed holds back the band and has them repeat the final ‘hearts and thoughts’ to let the crowd continue singing along. Introduced as the ‘president’s favorite song,’ ‘Glorified G’ is a big crowd pleaser and has modified lyrics: ‘Got an army; in fact I’ve got two. That’s OK man ’cause I love money. He reminds people about voting and to ‘stand up and be counted,’ leading to ‘DTE,’ which includes ‘Admire me, admire my home, admire my son, he looks like Stone.’ To quell the screams when Ed returns for the second encore wearing the silver jacket, he says, ‘Don’t be seduced by the jacket,’ and he tells about getting the jacket from The Frogs. He begins speaking about voting and being active and goes off on a big tirade:

‘Power to the people man…. The real people, the people that work, not the people that sit in their towers, and try to run the whole thing, thinking that we’re too stupid to notice what they’re doing! They get us in our little holes, and our boxes, and our cages and they show us American Idol and American Gladiators and American …. blowjob, buttfuck, whatever. And everyone watches with baited breath. Oh, who’s going to get a blowjob tonight? What American’s going to get a blowjob tonight? When in reality, you could be getting one yourself instead of watching the fucking TV, I don’t know. I digress. I’m going to get a guitar. But we were just talking in the back, and we were thinking that maybe uh, on the strength of a night like this, and uh, really, uh, so you understand how much we appreciate it, we were thinking that instead of uh, waiting 2 years or even, uh, after we finish the next record, maybe just next summer, we could come back and play, just a few places that we’ve been to and this would be one of them. And hopefully even in a year, the world will be a little more straightened out.’

Then he talks about how his Uncle’s friend and how Ed used to steal his Beatles’ records and sometimes kept them, He taught Ed how to cuss at age 4 and he dedicates ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ to him saying, ‘Thanks, you did a great fuckin’ job.’ Just before Boom’s ‘Crazy Mary’ solo, a big, drunk guy makes it onstage with security hot on his heels. Ed calmly shoos away security and lets the guy mumble a couple of things (including ‘God bless Eddie Vedder’) into the mic and Ed he dances a bit with the man, then spins him off into the arms of the security. The the conclusion, he says ‘Boom Gaspar,’ to big cheers, ‘and some drunk idiot!’ which gets laughs from crowd, band, and crew. Kerry Wood from the Cubs was there and Ed got mixed up and thought it was him for a second and Ed goes to Kerry’s side of the stage and laughs with him. With the house lights up, ‘Baba’ seems to be the show closer with Ed tossing tambourines to Kerry Wood and others, but after Ed says the goodnights, Mike stays onstage with guitar leading to a brief huddle and the ‘YL’ close, Mike adding a nice ‘Little Wing’ tag. Great intensity, beautiful night, awesome crowd with Ed obviously feeling better and the band rested, ready to play and having fun after a two-day break.

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.

Leave a Comment