Pearl Jam Vault #1: Brett Eliason Takes Us Behind the Scenes at The Moore, 1992

by John Reynolds on October 11, 2011

Rolling Stone Cover from Jan 17 1992

Eddie Vedder on the cover of Rolling Stone, 1999, from from Jan 17 1992 concert featured on Vault #1

Pearl Jam fans don’t have much to complain about when it comes to Pearl Jam bootlegs. Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that hundreds of soundboard recordings have been released since 2000. In pre-internet days you traded or bought bootlegs, though commonly not the best quality or price. Post-internet, there are tons of sites that stream old shows.

But we do complain wish that one day yesterday Pearl Jam would release all some of their past concerts from “The Vault”. The Vault is the stuff of legend. Magazine articles have hinted at it, constant caller questioning on Siriux/XM Pearl Jam Radio has yielded lots of “we hope so one day” responses.

Fans don’t know a lot about The Vault; but if anyone does, it’s Brett Eliason – Pearl Jam’s uber-Engineer who ran Front-of-House in the early days, then recorded/mixed the Bootleg releases as well as recent Pearl Jam and side-project releases.

We care about The Vault now since we were pleasantly surprised at Pearl Jam Destination Weekend with, amongst other goodies, a single-CD in a cardboard sleeve labeled “VAULT #1” and containing the January 17, 1992 concert at the Moore Theatre. There has been no further information on its availability for purchase, either by Ten Club members or for general release.

Wanting to know as much as we could about this release, Brett took some time around his busy Fall recording schedule to answer some questions about this show, the technical hurdles it took to release it, and some insight into the mythical magical vault.

Brett Eliason Talks Vault #1 with Two Feet Thick

Two Feet Thick: The January 17, 1992 show at the Moore Theater is “famous” because of the popularity of the “Even Flow” video. As far as the origins of this being the first “Vault” release, did you suggest that show or did the band suggest it?

Brett: Actually, I dug that one up – though I had band approval as always. I had remembered bringing a multitrack tape machine and console into the basement of the Moore Theater to record the performance for the video shoot. We have precious few multi-tracks from those first couple of years as the modular systems did not exist as of yet. A buddy of mine actually watched over the recording during the show as I was doing Front-of-house. I wanted the first of that series to be a special show that had some real “historical” value to it.

Two Feet Thick: Did you have to dig out old machines to play the tapes or was it in a decent format to work with.

Brett: The performance was recorded to a now obsolete digital format, Sony PCM 3324 dash. The tapes had to be sent to a specialty transfer house to be transferred to a current working format.

Two Feet Thick: “Baba O’Riley” is cut (see below for full setlist). Having heard the audience recording, I know the performance isn’t “optimal”. Was it an editorial or technical reason that it was left off?

Brett: “Baba” was left off mostly due to the failure of Ed’s mic line. We lost part of the vocals during that song in both the house and monitors during the show. Once a new line was squared away the recording did not have it. Constant challenges of a live performance. The fact that all of that technology usually works at all is amazing.

Two Feet Thick: Fans probably have wild visions of what “the vault” looks like – a big steel door, people in white gloves, and security. Is it that glamorous? Do you have a special key or hand-print identification? A special password like “open sesame“?

Brett: The Vault isn’t quite that glamorous. It is not a clean room like you get with CD pressing plants or the like. However, it is a self-contained facility with very special environmental handling equipment that keeps it within specific temperature and humidity parameters. It is a secure facility. The system monitors entrances and exits, as well as the aforementioned environmental specs. Only a couple of people have security access as you really don’t want the door opening and closing much, besides the obvious value of the content. I am not one of the people that has access! Though there was a time when I had the band’s tape library in the office of my old home…

Packaged Good

The packaging for the CD is simple and direct. Images below are courtesy of the excellent PJCollectors.com

The front side of the cardboard sleeve shows the January 17 1992 Moore Theatre marquee.

Vault 01 - Front Cover

Vault 01 - Front Cover

The back side of the cardboard sleeve shows the famous Lance Mercer photograph of the band in mid-Jam. Stone grooving, Ed digging deep, Jeff getting some big air, Mike raging (and you’ll have to imagine Dave drumming). This photo has also been featured in numerous magazines (it was once a pull-out poster of a Guitar Magazine)

Vault #1 - Back

Vault #1 - Back

The CD is another simple graphic, its origins unclear.

Vault #1 - CD

Vault #1 - CD

The track list for this show is quintessential 1992 in all its glory – most of Ten, the two tracks from Singles plus an unreleased track (“Leash”) and a cover (“Baba”).  Each track sounds like you hope it would – sound bigger than life, Marshall amps blaring, Ed’s voice soaring, and great crowd energy. Although the technical difficulty mentioned above that kept “Baba O’Riley” off the CD now seems like a monumental fail, you have to consider that Baba then was very rough and not quite the explosive show-capper that it’s become in recent years.  Ending the CD with “Breath”‘s long jam does nothing to take away from the quality of the whole show.

January 17, 1992: Moore Theater, Seattle, WA

  1. Release
  2. Even Flow
  3. Once
  4. State of Love and Trust
  5. Alive
  6. Black
  7. Why Go
  8. Deep
  9. Jeremy
  10. Porch
  11. Leash
  12. Breath
  13. Baba O’Riley (omitted)
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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