TFT’s PJ20 Weekend Interviews: The Artists Speak About Pearl Jam

by Jessica Letkemann , John Reynolds , Kathy Davis on November 8, 2011

As two solid months of celebration of Pearl Jam’s 20 (now 21!) years together has finally wrapped up with the 10 Club DVD box set edition of Pearl Jam Twenty hitting mailboxes around the world, we’re presenting all the great Pearl Jam memories the OTHER performers at the PJ20 fest shared with over that weekend.

At the PJ20 festival Labor Day Weekend, an event almost as rare as a Temple of the Dog set occurred: all three editors converged to share two days of music, friends, and, just as special as the epic Pearl Jam shows we witnessed there: we sat down with several of the artists playing the side stages to talk about the fest, their music, and the Pearl Jam connection that brought them into the PJ20 celebration.

I don’t think we were quite ready for the breadth of the PJ connections, from talented heirs from famous musical families who became like younger brothers to members of PJ upon first meeting (Liam Finn, Dhani Harrison) to respected veterans connected to PJ first by a cause (John Doe) to iconoclastic contemporaries whose style provided PJ members pure inspiration (Joseph Arthur, David Garza). As Pearl Jam’s 20th anniversary celebration continues, these artists’ thoughts on PJ show, once again, that no great band exists in isolation: Just as important as their music is whose music touches them, and whose music they touch.

John Doe

Latest Albums: Keeper (2011), A Day At The Pass (w/ Jill Sobule, 2011)

PJ20 Moments

John, co-founder of X, really shined on Sunday (Sept. 4) when the sun broke through the clouds for Doe’s rollicking mid-afternoon set. Eddie joined him for a sweet run through of “Golden State,” and Doe paid back the favor hopping onstage for Pearl Jam’s set later that day to ‘cover’ another of his songs, “New World,” before jointing the all-band-jam on “Rockin’ in The Free World.” Poignantly, before “New World,” Doe took the mic to tell the tens of thousands gathered, “Never lose hope.”

The Doe/Pearl Jam Connection

John Doe

John Doe, Photo by Kathy Davis

“The first time we met was playing those shows together,” John Doe said at Alpine Valley of his first face to face with Eddie back when X opened for Pearl Jam in the summer of 1998. “He or Stone or somebody told [PJ's manager] Kelly [Curtis], ‘Let’s do this.’ I think I met Kelly maybe 3 or 4 years before that when I spent a little bit of time in Seattle doing a movie called Georgia [out in 1995]. But you know Eddie and I have become kinda friends over the last five years or something. He got involved in the West Memphis 3 — a friend of mine from Seattle got me involved in that first benefit record [in 2003] and Ed got involved.

“[Later, in 2010] He was signing with Natalie Maines singing [Doe's song] ‘Golden State,’ it was really great. “The version with Corin [Tucker of Sleater-Kinney] was great and really flattering. He did that right after I did that song and realized we had four or five versions of ‘Golden State,’ and the record company said if you got somebody really famous to do it, if you had another version that was a tentpole then, what if we did an EP of just that song. I asked Ed, ‘Do you want to this and he said sure I’d love to but can we wait until Corin has her baby?’ ‘Sure, When’s that?’ It was like three months. And then they did it.”

And Doe’s reaction to the West Memphis 3 now being free, after the years he and Eddie, and many others worked hard to their release? “It was just thrilling to know that they can possibly go forward. I don’t know what they’ll do but I know that it’s better than them being in prison. Justice is a weird, strange beast, especially in a capitalist society like what we live in, but good things do happen. I do think that people shouldn’t take this lightly and think oh this is just a one time chance. Realize that people do have some power.”

See John Doe Live: He’s on tour with X opening for Pearl Jam in Central and South America from Nov. 3 in Brazil through Nov. 24 in Mexico.

The Golden State EP, incl. EV and Corin Tucker

Liam Finn

Latest Album: FOMO (2011)

PJ20 Moments

You missed a wild loop-tastic Finn set if you cowered from the rain in the Expo center on Saturday (Sept. 3). but chances are, you heard a little something about Eddie V. getting behind the mic (and drum kit!) for a Finn-ified take on “Habit” during Finn’s set and a plenty of collab action during PJ both nights (night one backup on “Who You Are” and duet on “Education”; night two backup on “All Night,” and “Reach Down” duet on “Habit,” all-bands-jam on “Rockin’ In The Free World”).

The Finn/Pearl Jam Connection

Liam Finn

Liam Finn, photo by Kathy Davis

“A few months into 1995, [Eddie] got in touch because he’s that kind of guy and is a big fan of dad’s music,” Liam said at Alpine Valley of how he first connected with Pearl Jam personally, his dad, of course, being Crowded House/Split Enz’s Neil Finn.

“To be honest, I don’t think dad listened to much Pearl Jam at that time,” Liam continues. “[Ed] said he wanted to meet up with dad. Dad was really flattered. As soon as he met the family, he was kind of like a long lost cousin or something. He really fit in. And he was really unhappy at the hotel he was staying at so he came and stayed with us at my family’s house. I actually had to give up my bed for him; he stayed in my room. I had to wake him up the next morning and I was big Pearl Jam fan. I was about 11 or 12, so that was a big deal for me. He was so wonderful. I think he knew I was a fan and he’s always so good to fans. He gave me a little notebook of his with a drawing of a wave at the end. It really made me go, ‘Wow this guy has been so lovely to me and I love his music.’ So from there I was just an avid follower.

“[Pearl Jam] came back again [in 98] and I saw them again and he came back for Seven Worlds Collide [in 2001] and my band [Betchadupa] got to do those songs with him. Every time I’ve seen him it’s been the next tier of, ‘this is amazing, it’s one of my heroes.’ Betchadupa opened for Pearl Jam in Australia for a few shows [in 2003] and then I didn’t see him for [awhile].

“Whenever we would cross paths we would hang out because we enjoy each others company but it wasn’t until, by chance, he had a live CD of just my show on my own at Spaceland in LA. he listened to it on New Year’s Eve [2007 into 2008] with Boom in Hawaii and he started trying to figure out how the fuck I was making so much noise. Buzzed out, probably after a few wines, he was like, ‘ah fuck!’ He gave me a ring about a week later and said, ‘I just had the best time listening to your record and I’m going to do this solo thing for the first time and do you think you would want to come and open? I was like, ‘Fuck Yea!’

“I think he hadn’t seen any of that kind of looping stuff before and to be honest that was one of the first shows I did that had the whole looping thing and it just happened to get recorded. I was pretty new at it at that point, but he liked that spontaneity and that sort of aspect that felt like it could fall apart. He responded to it.”

The 2009 ‘Live At The Wiltern’ album, which captures Finn’s opening set during Vedder’s tour, Liam says is, “a little bit further in the evolution. That’s probably one of my favorite live recordings that we did. Quite often L.A. is tough so I don’t always have the best time, but that Wiltern show was really good. We were really lucky we got to use that. I though, ‘Fuck, the Wiltern, they won’t let us use that.’ But they were like, ‘Yup, that’s fine. You’re opening for Eddie, do what you want.’”


Latest Record: EP0O2, 2011. New album forthcoming in early 2012.

PJ20 Moments

Two solid mid-afternoon jams of delectable laptop-aided rock led by the Dhani Harrison, son of Beatle George and 1/3 of the also awesome Fistful of Mercy (along with PJ-pals Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur). Dhani brought his outsize guitar talents to the big stage on night two as he ripped through “Elderly Woman” with PJ and joined in on the all-hands-on-deck “Rockin’ In The Free World” jamboree.

The Harrison/Pearl Jam Connection

“We went to Seattle to play, and the first night after we got off the plane we went to play ax darts with Ed and old pals. Eddie said that night that the next day he was going to Arkansas to do the West Memphis Three gig. We all kinda turned around and said, ‘we should go,’ changed our flights and went. So the next day we ended up in Little Rock, weirdly enough, me, Joe Arthur and Ben [Harper] with Eddie. After that he said, “We’re having a festival.” I said, “give us a buzz.”

thenewno2, photo by Kathy Davis

thenewno2, photo by Kathy Davis

I’ve known Ed since I was 12. Bob Dylan tribute concert, Madison Square Garden! He did “Masters of War” with G.E. Smith and McCready. My dad was in the band with Bob, and so while my dad was rehearsing, Eddie and Mike looked over to me and took me around. And then when I saw them again, they were like, ‘I saw you when you were a kid.’ They were all so sweet to us. It was awesome.”

Joseph Arthur

Latest Album: The Graduation Present (2011)

PJ20 Moments

Arthur’s contemplative groove rocked the side stage both days, and you weren’t seeing things if you noticed Jeff, Matt, AND Mike joined him onstage for “When The Fire Comes,” the Ament tune handed out on CD to all fan club ticketholders, and tantalizingly labeled as being “from the forthcoming LP ‘While My Heart Beats.’”

The JA/Pearl Jam Connection

Joseph Arthur

Joseph Arthur, photo by Kathy Davis

“He sent me that track and said will you sing on it? I said, ‘Of course, man. Maybe I’ll do more, I hope, So far that’s it.” Arthur explains of his collaboration on ‘When The Fire Comes.’ He adds that the process started when Jeff “sent me a recording of a track when I was on tour. He needed it kinda quickly so I actually ended up doing that in Zurich in a hotel room right in the middle of the red light district. I thought, this is a good place to do it, getting that energy.
It’s like my live painting, you can grab energy from your environment. I think there’s a lot of interesting energy in those kinds of areas.

“The first time I knew Jeff was when he had this band Three Fish and I opened up for them at Wetlands in New York City. It was me and David Garza opening up. Also, there was a best of the decade list and he mentioned me and it’s just like man, that’s so fucking nice of him, you know? David Garza is here today and so am I. Pretty amazing. More recently I went to Seattle with Fistful of Mercy [Arthur's band with Ben Harper and thenewno2's Dhani Harrison] and meeting up with Eddie and then going down to do West Memphis Three event. It was amazing, incredible.”

David Garza

Buy Oversea on

Latest Record: Oversea (2011)

David on Jeff

“It’s very very humbling to walk around and playing shows with these guys. Seeing it from the side of the stage is one thing, but walking out among mudsliding people in the rain just singing every word to the most cultish obscure b-sides… They started in ’91 and I started in ’90, so they’re ‘younger’ in a way, but it’s funny to see this museum. Each of us has our own history.

David Garza

David Garza, photo by Kathy Davis

“It’s over ten years [since first meeting Jeff] and even though you see someone intermittently, the connection is deep. Me and Jeff ran into each other at ACL [Austin City Limits] a couple years ago, and I took him on a walking tour and it was epic in a great way. It was a nonstop exchange of conversation. We ran into people. He ran into David Fricke. We ran into mutual friends and musicians. We ended up jamming and playing all up and down Congress (Street). There’s a club called the Continental Club and a mutual friend’s band was playing so we got to jam. We had talked about the history of it all.

“We play very different music in a lot of ways, but a lot of times it’s very similar. He lays down such an undeniable bedrock for those guys, he’s a force of nature. I think that the fact that he’s so interested in new music and other music is a testament to how far reaching his scope goes. His bass in the band is large, dinosaur steps. The stuff he does with he jams with me and Joseph is like building bird cages or doll houses, such intricacy.”

Star Anna And the Laughing Dogs

buy from

Latest Album: Alone In This Together (2011), featuring Mike McCready on three songs (“Time,” “Wolves In Disguise,” “Alone In This Together”). It’s available on for $10.

PJ20 Moments

The Washington State native grew up playing drums but found her voice in her teens and brought the bluesy rock singer/songwriterly chops she’s honed ever since — now with her band the Laughing Dogs — to the PJ20 second stage early in the day, both days. With special guest… surprise… Mike McCready. She confided that while she’s friends with McCready and he appears on her album, PJ20 marked the first time she saw Pearl Jam live.

Star Anna on Pearl Jam

“Through some mutual friends Mike [McCready] and I were involved in some benefits, Hootenanny For Haiti. And we had met Mike before that, but that was the one where we really connected. Justin, my guitar player, and I did ‘That’s How Strong My Love Is,’ an Otis Redding tune. And Mike says that when he saw us do that, he was just like, ‘THIS is something.’ At some point in the night he leaned over to Justin and said, ‘When are you putting your third record out?’ We had no idea. We’d been kinda wanting to do it for three years and just hadn’t gotten there yet. And he said, ‘Let’s make it happen. Let’s do it.’ And so, I’m there. We’re on Local 638 Records, but [PJ's] Monkeywrench Records is distribution.”

Young Evils

Latest Album: Enchanted Chapel (2010). New album due in 2012.

PJ20 Moments

You missed some dark-sweet boy-girl pop if you didn’t catch The Young Evils during their early afternoon PJ20 side-stage set, but if you were at the fest, chances are you caught several of them wielding tambourines during the all-band “Rockin’ In The Free World” jam with PJ on night two.

Young Evils on Pearl Jam

“Mike [McCready]‘s been supportive of the band for a long time,” says co-singer Mackenzie Mercer, who, as the daughter of longtime Pearl Jam photographer Lance Mercer, has been around the PJ guys as long as she can remember. “Mike and my dad and Stone and Jeff go back way further than even Pearl Jam days,” she explains. “They go back to just being just kids growing up in Seattle. Mike went to Roosevelt [High] and my dad was kinda a little Ave rat hanging out skateboarding with Duff McKagan and this whole little scene of people.

Young Evils

Young Evils, photo by Steven Dewall

“Mike tells a funny story that my dad was in a skate gang called the Boppo Boys that had leather jackets. Mike said if you saw them at parties in their leather jackets you’d be scared of them. Then when my dad was in photo school at Seattle Central and to build his portfolio, he started taking pictures of his friends bands, which was Mother Love Bone at the time. He was taking pictures of Andy [Wood] and his girlfriend. So it was a natural progression. They were like 20 years old. They were a bunch of kids. So I’ve known them my whole life.”

It also seems fitting where Mackenzie and frontman Troy Nelson joined forces, and also where they all connected with manager Jessica Curtis, whose father is Pearl Jam manager Kelly Curtis. “Mackenzie and I worked at a record store together, Easy Street. I didn’t even know she could sing. We were already friends and I thought she was cool,” Nelson says. “Actually Jessica our manager used to work at Easy Street as well.”

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.
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.
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.

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