Summer Break: Pearl Jam’s July 1991 U.S. Tour

by John Reynolds on July 12, 2011

“School’s out … for …. Summer!” sings Alice Cooper in his signature anthem. In July 1991, “school” for Pearl Jam was Ridge Farm Studios in Dorking, England, where the final touches on the mix of Ten were being made. To release that energy that only a 9-month-old band can have, Pearl Jam embarked on a promotional summer tour of the East Coast and Midwest United States — it’s first trek away from the west coast — to further develop as a growing live act.

In this article, TFT explores the extent of this tour, uncovers some previously unlisted shows and photos(!), and digs deep with retro-reviews of those shows that were recorded by fortunate tapers.

We mentioned earlier that the July 4, 1991 show at RCKNDY not only featured a new man behind the soundboard, Brett Eliason, but also Matt Chamberlain on drums. Following Dave Krusen’s departure from the drum kit, Matt Chamberlain was brought quickly up to speed on Pearl Jam’s repertoire, Matt’s first appearance on drums was immediately followed by this quick small club jaunt, getting the young band more used to the road prior to “Alive” and Ten‘s unveiling in August and the Epic promotional schedule to follow.

Travel Itinerary

Until recently, we concert geeks were 100% sure we DIDN’T have all the 1991 Summer Tour dates in the can. Luckily two great publications came out to help fill in the gaps. The first was the 2009 Ten Super Deluxe Box set, whose composition book filled with graphic artifacts sported a collage of early tour schedules including the “1991 U.S. Jam.” In that version, the tour list was partially visible, but some guesses had to be made about some of the dates listed since the “DATE” column was obstructed on the collage.

Around the same time, though, 10 Club’s Deep magazine included a different version of the collage with the tour listing visible in all it’s glory, including Matt Chamberlain’s contact info!

Pearl Jam 1991 Summer Tour itinerary

Pearl Jam 1991 Summer Tour itinerary, from Deep Magazine

We know that most of these shows actually occurred, but there are a few discrepancies. Without the aid of a time machine, a ticket stub, or your eye witness accounts, we can’t tell you if some of these shows happened for sure. If you have additional info, please contact us! But we do know a good little bit about some of the shows…

07/10/91 – Citi: Boston, MA
Capacity: 1350 – Originally listed at being at Avalon, this show was actually held at Citi as part of a concert series promoting a Russian Vodka. Pearl Jam was early on this bill (poster link) which also featured The Lemonheads, Buffalo Tom, 7 League Boots, Venus Beads and Stress.

07/12/91 – JC Dobbs: Philadelphia, PA
Capacity: 250 – This is the first show of the tour with a known setlist. The “legendary” JC Dobbs was a another venue that Mother Love Bone had played before. Checkout the trailer for “Meet Me on South Street – The Story of JC Dobbs”; freeze it at the 2min 45s mark and you’ll see a concert calendar with Nirvana playing 10/1/91 and Pearl Jam w/I Love You on 10/16/91, which was later cancelled.

07/13/91 – The Marquee Room: New York, NY
This date is originally listed as Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ, but Pearl Jam was instead inserted into a lineup featuring Sub Pop bands Rev. Horton Heat, Afghan Whigs, Gorilla, Beasts of Bourbon, Codeine. Could Pearl Jam have played a later set at Maxwell’s? Possible, but we’re not entirely sure. We are particularly amused that the same general period that Pearl Jam played the Marquee Room, so did Tribe After Tribe (whose frontman Robbi Robb went on to Three Fish with Jeff), The La’s (whose “Timeless Melody” was a favorite PJ cover in 2000), not to mention Firehose (fronted by Mike Watt, who Ed recorded and toured with four years later).

07/15/91 – Club Baby Head, Providence, RI New addition!
Capacity: 450 – Pearl Jam played Providence, RI, on this Monday night. The show was listed in a local music paper as “Pearl Jam – featuring members of Mother Love Bone,” and only garnered 20-30 fans in attendance.

07/17/91 – Wetlands Preserve: New York, NY
Capacity: 750 – After a few days off in New York City, Pearl Jam headlined this gig with “The Bogeymen.” The ad in the Village Voice and the Aquarian listed them as “Formerly Mother Love Bone.”

Ed with Wrigley Turf!

Eddie at The Metro July 21, 1991, picture from Ten Super Deluxe Box Set

07/19/91 – Staches, Columbus, OH New addition!
Capacity: 350 – The only known info on this concert is from the tour listing above. If you were there or have other info, please contact us!

07/20/91 – Empire Club, Cleveland, OH New addition!
Capacity: 250 – The only known info on this concert is from the tour listing above. If you were there or have other info, please contact us!

07/21/91 – Cabaret Metro: Chicago, IL
Capacity: 1000 – This show is a part of the Metro’s eighth anniversary weekend, the venue is packed and PJ is first on the bill, with Naked Raygun, Urge Overkill (who would open for Pearl Jam two years later), Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, The Jayhawks, Soul Asylum

07/22/91 – First Avenue Club: Minneapolis, MN
Capacity – 1250 – Unannounced on a bill with Trip Shakespeare (headliner), John Eller & the DT’s, and Walt Mink.  Check out this eyewitness account!

With help from Concert Chronology junkie Andrew Brenner, we’ve taken a deeper dive into the three shows from this tour where recordings actually exist.

Philly Fanatics

Eddie Vedder - July 12, 1991

Eddie Vedder - July 12, 1991, photo by Tim "Skully" Quinlan

By Andrew BrennerPearl Jam is three days into the tour, and this show at JC Dobbs is one of their first gigs as a headliner and starts off with the (then) standard “Wash,” one of the earliest examples of the “Wash” -> “Once” opening combo that would be a trademark of many 1991 shows. The particularly intense “Wash” with Ed screaming the crescendo which then voraciously kicks into “Once,” packing the force of a freight train at this stage. It’s clear that Pearl Jam has something to prove, and knows that Philly is a major test on the road to the big time. On the recording, you can hear a female fan say “Oh my God!” after “Once”. Ed says “I can’t believe I’m in Philadelphia right now. Jesus. This whole thing’s a trip for me, six months ago I was out surfing.”

Eddie tells the crowd that Mother Love Bone played there once, and asks if anyone was there – when there’s loud applause, Ed says “That can’t be right, cause Jeff said there was only about 10 people here. OK, if you were, what was Jeff Ament wearing that night?” The question is dropped and Ed says “We’re glad you’re here with us. This song’s called ‘Even Flow’”. “Even Flow” is much faster than the Dave Krusen versions, and McCready’s early solo is looking for a comfortable range, but isn’t there just yet; he’s packing as many notes as possible into the measures early in the solo. The transition from the solo section of “Even Flow” to the final chorus is a bit messy, with Mike and Stone not quite on the same page. Jeff’s bass is rock solid, and Stone’s groove is on point too.

“State of Love and Trust” is introduced by “We’ve played this song together like four times; you’re gonna hear the fifth.” The song is still morphing into the final version it will take – a mix between the early 1991 demo version, and the January 1992 version that will become it’s permanent form. The bridge has Ed singing “State of Love and…” three times before coming into McCready’s solo.

Jeff Ament - July 12, 1991

Jeff Ament- July 12, 1991, photo by Tim "Skully" Quinlan

“Stoney wrote this; guitar playing madman. It’s called ‘Alive,’” is Ed’s introduction to the song that will become their signature hit. It’s likely that this is one of the last shows where this song won’t be a massive singalong. The chorus is still in its early form, with Ed’s cadence a little quicker, and not holding the notes as long. “Alive,” clearly the tightest song in the set, is punctuated by a great, albeit short, McCready solo. Ed thanks the opening bands Carnival of Souls and Mellow Vibes before the first known version of “Oceans,” which sounds much more fleshed out than “State” at this stage.

Ed, loosening up, says “I just gotta tell you this whole set is dedicated to Weasel, the drummer who blew my mind tonight. There are drummers, and there are weasels; that man is both. This song’s called ‘Jeremy.’ Stone.” In keeping with the theme of the night, “Jeremy” is significantly faster than later versions with other drummers. In short, Matt Chamberlain would have taken this band in a very different direction. “Why Go” has a different drum intro and is also just a little faster, but also features the best McCready solo of the night. Ed is clearly taken aback by the overwhelmingly positive audience reaction, saying “Oh come on, you never heard that song before. You never heard any of these songs before. It’s really great to have you… I just want to tell you this. 1, 2, 3, 4…”

After the first verse of “Porch,” Ed sneaks in “for Andy.” After “Porch” ends, he says “I think when we get to New York we should tell everybody at the New Music Seminar to go fuck off. That is, except for people from the [indecipherable]. Well at least we got to play for you guys, that’s cool. Next time we come around, we’ll be all stuck up and I’ll be doing costume changes like Diana Ross and stuff – Diana knows how to put on a show.” Ed loses his place in the second verse of “Alone”, and says “sorry about that” right after the verse is over. “Breath” closes this extremely loose and fun set (with some different lyrics), and the foundation is laid for a long and fruitful relationship between Pearl Jam and the City of Brotherly Love.

Marquee’s Mark

PJ @ Marquee, July 13

Village Voice Ad for PJ @ Marquee, July 13, courtesy of Jessica Letkemann

By Andrew Brenner – Pearl Jam’s first New York show is a showcase gig at the Marquee Room, and the opening “Wash” is definitely more on point than its predecessor from the previous night in Philly. Ed’s tone is much more serious as he asks “Alright, are we ready to go?” before launching into a furious “Once.” Afterwards, Ed makes his memorable ‘industry handshake’ joke. “Hey let me show you guys the industry handshake. ‘Oh, hi, nice to meet you.’ ‘Oh yeah, it was a pleasure. Sorry, I see Slash.” He changes the “Even Flow” lyrics to “people that he meets” to reflect the joke. Mike’s “Even Flow” solo is markedly improved from the night before, and the band is on, seeming to understand the importance of the gig.

“How many times we play this next song? Four, five?” Ed asks before “State of Love and Trust,” adding sarcastically, “Oh wait! There’s industry people here, we don’t wanna fuck up!” Despite Ed’s jokes to the contrary, it’s clear from their tight performance that they are well aware of the pressure of an industry showcase. Ed mentions after “State” that he sees “some Mother Love Bone shirts out there.”

“Alive” is a little bit longer than the night before, with McCready’s solo coming closer to the length of most 1992-era performances. “Ok, let’s start getting into… I think all the industry guys left,” Ed says, leading to a powerhouse “Garden” that sounds tight and well rehearsed. Interestingly, this is one of the only songs Matt Chamberlain plays with relatively the same tempo as Dave Krusen. “No Alone! No Alone! Deep! Let’s play Deep” Ed says after “Garden.” He tells the crowd that he needs to go surfing, and says he needs someone to show him where to surf. “Any surfers in the audience, come see me after. I’m serious!” Jeff’s bass really stands out in “Deep,” and it’s one of the best versions yet.

The “Why Go” drum intro is new, different from even the night before, and Stone’s backup vocals work better on this version. People in the crowd are obviously familiar with Pearl Jam, despite them having never played there before, as you can hear a few requests for “I’ve Got a Feeling” before “Porch.” Ed declares “Hey mama, I played New York City!” before remembering it was on him to start the count into “Porch.” This show is perhaps Pearl Jam’s tightest to date, and leaps and bounds better than the show from just a night before, signifying the rapid pace at which they are coming together as a live band; an excellent start to Pearl Jam’s 20 year run of New York City supremacy.

Wetlands Preserved

Pearl Jam at the Wetlands

Pearl Jam ads for Wetlands from The Aquarian - courtesy of Jason Burneyko

After a run up to Providence, RI and a day off in New York City – presumably including a visit to to their label, Epic/Sony in midtown – Pearl Jam headlined a show with a band called The Bogeymen. Taking the stage at midnight, “Wash” starts delicately but there’s some squabbling in the crowd as Ed shouts at some to “Hey … mellow out” during the second verse. At the song’s close, he reiterates the point, saying “everbody be peaceful up here, enjoy yourselves. It’s a beautiful place. It’s a beautiful fuckin’ vibe. Don’t fuck it up. Now let’s rock the fuck out.” leading to “Once,” which includes the low volume “You think I got my eyes closed, I’ve been staring at you the whole fuckin time” during the bridge.

Ed talks about life in New York City and that he respects the city’s weaknesses and strengths, “On the way over, there was a wheelchair in the middle of one of the busiest streets I ever saw, just a guy in a wheelchair in the middle (of the street). Cars just barley missing him. It sounds so crazy, I’m just exahused. I have respect for everyone one of you,” leading to “Even Flow.” Ed is gracious in accepting praise from fans, saying he’d “be happy to be playing in a coffeehouse by myself, the fact that there’s people here is pretty cool. There are ‘HIGs’ in the audience too .. Huge Industry Giants. I just want to tell them to all fuck off .. just kiddin’”

“State of Love and Trust” starts out with Jeff playing a different bass line and Ed cites New York again, singing “Sin still blazes and preaches / but only here in New York.” Ed’s voice is sharp and nails all the notes. Shouts for “EDDIE!” already come about and he wonders, “How do you know that’s my name? Nobody knows my name. I’ve never been here before.” And he replies “I’ll tell my mother” when someone screams “Eddie Rocks!”

Fresh off the recording of Ten and with little time to rehearse with Matt Chamberlain, “Black” sounds fresh, with Ed sticking to the “All the love gone bad, all my world turned black” lyric which was soon modified live. Chamberlain excels at the nuances of the track with excellent cymbal work. “Why Go” – features a drum-solo type intro. The Wetlands, like many clubs on a summer day in New York, is hot and steamy, with Ed confessing he “didn’t take my herbs right before the show and I’m feelin it right about now.”

The back of the standing area at the Wetlands included three small risers for fans to stand on, and Ed dedicates “Garden” to them as “this is for the people on the lawn.” Ed insists that Sony executive “Michelle Anthony was gonna do some staging diving. I keep waiting. This was the song she was gonna do it to,” leading to “Porch.” Stone and Jeff step up to the mic to say thanks and a fan yells “TEMPLE!” Mike asks “We’re doing ‘Wild Thing’, right?” and Ed shockingly suggests “Let’s do ‘Wishing Well‘!”, a Free cover. “Alone” has a false start, and even during the verses, the band just can’t seem to sync up.

A terrific “Breath” ends the set and Ed shares the band’s sentiment by being “totally humbled by this whole thing… thanks again.”

Where are they now? The venues, that is

One remarkable thing to consider with these shows is the size of the venues. If you add up the capacities of these nine venues, it doesn’t even add up to the number of fans that could fill up, say, the floor of Madison Square Garden. Unsurprisingly, some of these venues weren’t really around for too long, or have since morphed into different forms. Let’s take a look at where (or not) these clubs are today:

  • Citi (Boston) – This venue is now the House of Blues® Boston.
  • JC Dobbs (Philadelphia) – This venue changed names a few times but recently re-opened as “The Legendary Dobbs,” evoking the venue’s rich history.
  • Marquee (New York) / Maxwell’s (Hoboken, New Jersey) – The Marquee is now the 303 Art Gallery, but Maxwell’s is still thriving.
  • Club Babyhead (Providence) – now hosts shows as Club Hell.
  • Wetlands Preserve (New York) – This venue closed in 2001, and a documentary Wetlands Preserved – featuring Pearl Jam photos – is available on DVD.
  • Staches (Columbus) – This venue has since been torn down.
  • Empire Club (Cleveland) – This venue only hosted shows from 1990-1992.
  • Metro (Chicago) – Alive and well and still hosting shows. Eddie returned there on May 6. 1995 to play guitar for Mike Watt.
  • First Ave (Minneapolis) – At 41 years old, still Minneapolis’ “downtown danceteria

School’s Out Forever

In just over a month after the last show in Minneapolis, Pearl Jam would film a live video (“Alive”), release Ten, and embark on another tour. While these shows were held in small places, it was very clear that Pearl Jam had big talent and potential to blow up huge. Touring weeks and sometimes just days ahead of Pearl Jam in 1991 were the likes of Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana, building energy an excitement that would bring them all together in an sonic collision, much sooner than anyone could have imagined.


Special thanks to Andrew Brenner, George Reilly, Tim “Skully” Quinlan and Jessica Letkemann for their contributions to the writing and photos in this article.

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