Eddie Vedder, Jason Grilli, Roberto Clemente, and Franco Harris. And wine.

by Mark Wilkins on October 12, 2013

When Pearl Jam kicked off their Lightning Bolt tour in Pittsburgh last night, the band members flew into town early and spent several days practicing at the venue.  A couple of the guys were also seen out and about at night.

One stop for Eddie was Engine House 25 in the Lawrenceville neighborhood.  Duane Rieder bought an an old firehouse and converted it into a multi-purpose facility where he hosts parties and banquets, has a photography studio, and houses the Roberto Clemente museum, to honor the Hall of Fame baseball player from the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Oh, and he buys grapes from California and makes wine in the basement.

Franco Harris Pittsburgh Steeler legend Franco Harris

Eddie had dinner there with several members of the Pirates, who were in the midst of their first post-season appearance in 21 years.  So it made sense when Eddie brought Pirates’ closer Jason Grilli on stage right before “Whipping”, and Grilli did just that, whipping the crowd into a frenzy with a pep talk for next year, and remaining on stage during the song to dance and jump around.

But I want to get back to the wine.

I took my first wine tasting trip to California in 1995, and saw my first Pearl Jam show in 1996. I’ve spent a lot of time enjoying both ever since.  Having a family means I can’t spend as much time going to shows as I used to, but I do enjoy a nice glass of wine with my Pearl Jam.

One other important piece of information is that, as with many cities, we Pittsburgh-ers love our sports teams.  If you want to sell us something, you greatly improve your chance of success if you put a picture of one of one of our stars or a logo from one of our teams on it.  Rieder knows this, which is why his wine labels feature various Steelers (Football), Pirates (Baseball), and Penguins (Hockey).

So when Eddie brought out a magnum of wine at the beginning of the show with Franco Harris and the green, white, and red colors of the Italian flag (referencing “Franco’s Italian Army,” his cheering section in the 1970s) on the label, it wasn’t hard to make the connection back to Engine House 25 and the Clemente Museum.

I also thought, “uh oh.”  A magnum is a double-size bottle, 1.5 litres, or roughly 50 ounces.  Red wine typically has an alcohol content of 13-14%, which is 2-3 times that of most beer.  So a magnum of wine has a similar amount of alcohol as 8-10 cans of beer.  When I saw Eddie take a healthy swig from the bottle right at the start of the show, I hoped to myself that he didn’t try to finish the bottle throughout the show.  Fortunately, he didn’t.

But the label on the bottle was the reason for the Daughter tag of “Fran-co, let’s go!” and his subsequent story about Franco, including the joke many of us have heard that Franco was really Irish – that is, “Frank O’Harris”.

Eddie’s experience at the museum earlier in the week also explains the row of Pirates caps lined up along the front edge of the drum kit, Boom’s “21″ t-shirt (Clemente’s old number), and Eddie’s “21″ sticker on one of his guitars.

Do you have any other sports-related predictions for the rest of the tour?

Pearl Jam with Jason Grilli Pearl Jam with Jason Grilli of the Pittsburgh Pirates
Mark Wilkins is a huge Pearl Jam fan that also runs PAWineTalk.com, covering wines in Pennsylvania

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