When I was 14, I practically begged my brother to get me Pearl Jam’s VS on tape. That was by far the most memorable Christmas gift that year.
Even though I lived in the Caribbean, far, far, FAR away from the flannel shirt set in Seattle, I got way into the grunge scene via MTV. I was a dancehall queen and hip hop head by day and an Alternative Nation, 120 Minutes wannabe rocker by night — I definitely hid my growing rock music collection from some of my friends. It just wasn’t cool to like rock music amongst them. And I desperately wanted to be cool back then. But now I don’t care what people think — Pearl Jam’s got a lot of haters, and I hear it all the time. “They suck,” the cashier at CVS told me when I told him what show I was going to next. (he’s more of a death metal guy, apparently).
In a certain sense — and feel free to argue with me — Pearl Jam has never really been a “cool” band. They were earnest and political and vocal long before most other bands of their era were. They were angry, more than angsty. They took their musical cues from classic rock — The Who and Neil Young, rather than The Pixies and The Germs. In the early days of grunge, the media pitted Pearl Jam against Nirvana — Kurt Cobain claimed he liked Eddie Vedder as a person, but couldn’t stand their music. Tragically, Nirvana’s long gone. But Pearl Jam rocks on, long after almost all of their peers in the early Nineties alternative scene have broken apart. Now some of those bands — I see you, Stone Temple Pilots — are coming back together again. My money’s on Soundgarden being the next big Nineties rock band to reunite to a chorus of cash registers).
Anyway — I was always a Pearl Jam fan already, but when I saw them live for the first time, I became a Pearl Jam fanatic. (That’s probably the only thing Dennis Rodman and I have in common). I love live music that just blows me away, I love when an audience is so entranced that they sing all of the lyrics, and I love when a band engages in between song banter between themselves and the crowd. I’d say Pearl Jam ranks in the top five concert experiences I’ve ever had, alongside The Roots and Barrington Levy.
They can be relied upon to unleash at least one classic Who cover, and my fingers are crossed that they do Neil Young’s Rockin’ in the Free World — another band favorite. I’m hoping that Eddie Vedder performs his searing version of “Here’s To the State of Mississippi, which excoriates each member of Bush’s government by name and deed.
I was at odds over which video to share, here. Alive is always amazing, but too obvious. Do The Evolution is one of the best music videos ever, IMO — but way too dark and depressing. Yellow Ledbetter is one of my faves, but I think I found the one. Better Man. It’s such a great experience, being there, live, singing along. I love the song, I love the message, and I’m happy to share with the world what I hid from some of my friends back in high school — I love Pearl Jam. Now and forever. There, I said it.
No shame. Are you a closet PJ fan? Do you have a favorite song, or album? Share!