The draw of Pearl Jam’s music live is such that once it grabs you, it never lets go! To mark his 20th Pearl Jam show anniversary, Jeff Blagg – creator of the free Pearl Jam show statistic app PJ Stat Tracker - shares a few words about his own personal PJ20 on Nov. 12th, 2013. (Ever wanted to know HIS stats? See bottom of the post!) Here are a few words from Jeff about that first show and what Pearl Jam means for him today.
I have a confession to make. I bought the ticket to my first Pearl Jam show from a scalper. I know, I know…I hate them as much as the next fan, but I have several points to offer in my defense:
1. I was 15 years old. Vs. had just been released and, after selling more than 950,000 copies in its first week, Pearl Jam was unquestionably the most popular band in the world. They were a must-see.
2. Al Gore was still putting the finishing touches on the internet, so helpful face-value ticket resources like Twitter, Facebook groups, and Pearl Jam forums didn’t exist yet.
3. The show was in 9,000 seat capacity basketball gymnasium on the Southern Methodist University Campus in Dallas, TX – just a three hour drive from my hometown. Not going simply wasn’t an option!
So, after spending a couple of hours getting the busy-signal of death from Ticketmaster, I did what I had to do. I flipped to the classified section of the Dallas Morning News and started calling ticket brokers to find the best “deal”. I think I paid $75 – a significant mark up from the face value of $18.00 (!!!).
On November 12, 1993 – twenty years ago today – I saw Pearl Jam live for the first time. The show was, of course, incredible. King’s X and Butthole Surfers opened and, despite being “sold out”, the floor seemed half empty. Other than the obligatory 1990s mosh pit at the front, I was able to walk around with ease without ever being far from the stage. It was perfect.
Pearl Jam opened with “Rearviewmirror” and played a blistering 21-song set that included three encores, 75% of Ten, 60% of Vs., “Sonic Reducer”, “Rockin’ in the Free World”, an improv, and an ultra rare performance of “Angel”. The show was powerfully simple. In fact, it felt like there was no “show”. There were no spotlights – just shadows against a constantly changing colored background. It felt unrehearsed, a young band playing a seemingly random collection of their songs with raw intensity. My 15-year-old brain was barely able to handle it. I left that show a fan for life.
I know now that my experience is not unique. I’ve met countless fans on the road and the story is almost always the same. It’s not like any of us sat down with a list of bands and logically decided that Pearl Jam would be our favorite. No…at some point their music made us sit up and pay attention. And we are so lucky. We won the lottery. Most other bands either burn out quickly or fade to obscurity, forcing their fans to eventually move on.
But Pearl Jam endures. They’ve never had to reinvent themselves because they’ve always been themselves. Their own activism and generosity often make me feel proud to be a fan. Eddie once said there’s only one rule in the church of Pearl Jam: “Don’t be an asshole” – a mantra they consistently live up to.
Twenty-three years later, the band is still releasing great new music and somehow still pushing their live shows to new heights. The longer format of the Lightning Bolt tour allows them to play enough new songs, hits, and rarities to make everyone happy, pushing an already great concert into the stratosphere. Even after all this time it seems they have only just entered their prime as performers. I don’t find myself clinging to the glory days, because these ARE the glory days. It’s not hard to imagine that we could look back twenty years from now and see this as their best tour.
Unfortunately, all this reflection on my PJ20 is a bit bittersweet. I’m traveling overseas and will miss the entirety of this tour – the first major US tour I’ve missed since that first fateful show in 1993. It can be painful to watch these amazing setlists roll in and it doesn’t help when my show buddies let me know how awesome “Other Side” is live – a song I think I will chase forever. Still, I’m incredibly grateful for the twenty years of passion, music, and community the band has given me.
So a huge thank you to Ten Club and Pearl Jam. I don’t think I’ll ever pay another scalper for a Pearl Jam ticket, but I’ll never regret the day I did. Here’s to another twenty!
P.S. I’ve had many PJStatTracker users ask me what my personal stats are, so here they are!
55 shows (and counting)
First show: November 12, 1993 – Dallas, TX
Last show: July 19, 2013 – Chicago, IL
Favorite show: October 28, 2003 – Santa Barbara, CA
147 Unique PJ Songs Seen
80 Unique Covers Seen
Backspacer – 100%
Binaural – 100%
Lightning Bolt – 25%
Lost Dogs – 66%
No Code – 100%
Pearl Jam – 100%
Riot Act – 100%
Ten – 100%
Vitalogy – 78%
Vs. – 100%
Yield – 92%”