February 3, 2013, posted by Crumbs.


Machine Head


Just rented the Pearl Jam ‘20’ documentary on iTunes via Apple TV. Directed by Cameron Crowe it chronicles, first 20 years of the Pearl Jam story and even goes back quite a ways to document the pre-PJ line up of Mother Love Bone. As a long time Pearl Jam fan, I was surprised how little I really knew about this era and found it all quite informative. It is an amazing documentary, and even if you are not a PJ fan, you would be well worth it to watch this exhaustively detailed story of one the last truly great American rock bands.

Actually, truth be told, "long time Pearl Jam fan" isn't exactly correct. Big fan of "Ten" and "VS.", loved these albums, liked “Vitalogy”, but I really only know a handful of songs past these albums. I enjoyed the newer songs when I heard them, but I haven't checked out all the huge discography they’ve amassed. I was kinda Pearl Jam-ed out for a few years there but I've made an effort to catch them if they came thru, or in the rare chance we shared the same Euro Festival bill I always tried to catch their set. Simply put they are rockin' live!

And let me say that again, THEY ARE ROCKIN' LIVE! In fact, watching this documentary reminded (and I needed reminding) me of just how god damn rockin’ they were when they hit the scene back in the 90's. Watching some of the old footage from the “Ten”-era was thoroughly invigorating; they were spell-binding, goin' OFF onstage. I forgot how nutzo, and daring and exciting they truly were. Vedder hanging from balconies, the light truss, the ceiling, the water pipes, we’re talking 30, 40, 50 feet above the stage, then dropping into the crowd! That’s some serious daredevil shit back then and still now! The rest of the band seemed unaffected by this and just continued rockin, bashin' and headbangin', runnin' around doing what a “band” does, PLAY!

Anybody who lived through this era, can remember how Grunge just took over the WORLD for a minute, but watching (or re-watching) this live footage makes you remember why. The MTV Unplugged sesssion they did is fucking jaw-dropping. I was stoked to see the Unplugged DVD in the “Ten” re-issue a few years back. How they managed that much intensity acoustically?... so good.

I'll tell you my Pearl Jam story. I got into the Grunge scene early, I was drawn to punk rock vibe of it (and believe it or not, there was a lot of punk spirit in early Grunge) bands like Skin Yard (pre-Gruntruck who featured Tommy Niemeyer from The Accussed), Melvins, Tad, early Nirvana (though I never got into Green River or Mudhoney), I even kinda lump in Souls At Zero-era Neurosis probably just cause I saw Melvins and them together a lot. Anyway, Alice In Chains is opening for The Screaming Trees at The I-Beam in San Francisco. I was really digging AIC and in fact we caught them the night before to 30 people (!!) at The Omni in Oakland.

I walk into the above mentioned I-Beam and there is this band called Mookie Blaylock on stage. I think they suck! But as they finish, Rob Cavestany from Death Angel proceeds to roar to me how fucking amazing they were, and that they're the future of music! I tell him he's trippin', and that he’s he's on crack (Note to self, tell Rob he was right). A few months later I hear they're now called Pearl Jam and their debut album just came out and I check it out, because EVERYONE is talking about them. “Ten” is awesome and I flip out on it! I catch them when they headline the Warfield and it's electrifying! Later I catch them at the 1992 Lollapalooza… and the rest is well, history.

So the last time that I saw them was, man… horrible. Not the band, but the day itself. It was the tragic Roskilde Festival of 2000. We were playing the tent stage and it was Machine Head and Willie Nelson (I shit you not!), Machine Head was direct support to Willie fucking Nelson! It was awesome! Willie was cool as shit, let Dave and I hang out on his bus for about 15 minutes while he rolled / smoked joint after joint. After that I made my way over to the main stage to catch Pearl Jam who was supporting headliners The Cure. Who, coincidentally I got WAY into during ‘The Burning Red’-era despite the best efforts of my friend Gary to turn me on to them during the ‘Burn My Eyes’-era. But that’s another story.

As Pearl Jam started, the rain, which had been coming down all day, turned brutal and it was now fucking pouring down. I remember them starting and the excitement of the crowd, and then a few songs in, it just stopped, the promoter came out and began pleading with people. Eddie Vedder was up onstage begging the massive ocean of people to take three steps back, and then at one point the camera for the Jumbo-tron side-screens zoomed in on Eddie's face, tears were streaming down, and the camera just held on his face for what seemed like an eternity, a scene in a Quentin Tarantino movie... literally they were the longest two minutes ever. I'll never forget the look on his face as long as I live... it was horror.

I kept thinking to myself "fuck, just show something /ANYTHING else", it was all so public and impersonal.

People were dead, trampled to death after slipping underneath each other in the rain and mud.

It wasn't their fault.

That they held together after a tragedy like that is admirable, honorable, and deserved of a lifetime of respect.

When you’ve done this as long as I have, even if you don’t like a band, you respect the shit out of bands for the grace with which they handle their valleys, and every band has valleys. It’s a hard life, harder than most people know. Dimebag once said to me, “it’s not how you roll through the highs, it’s how you roll through the valley’s, and come back out outta them with class”.

That’s some solid advice.

I want to see Pearl Jam again. I don't want that to be the last time I see Pearl Jam. I don't want it to end on that note.

Just, like when I saw Muse the other night, I have now gone back and Spotify-ed a bunch of older and new albums, re-dug into the catalog. FUCK they're awesome! For anyone too young to remember or not up to speed on Pearl Jam check out this Spotify Playlist, or just watch the YouTube clips below.

Pearl Jam “20” Trailer


"Black - unplugged"

"Indifference- fan video"

"Animal - live at the VMA's '93"

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