First, a foreword from Todd:
I can’t believe my live music luck lately (Exhibit A: Look at that photo). The concert gods have smiled upon me many times over the last year or so. From successful pre-sale ticket purchases to front row / VIP seats, I’ve had an incredible run. Actually all of us MoSS? dorks have of late. I’m still jealous of Chris’ front row spot at the Cure concert last month and Sam’s run-in with Sharon Van Etten last week. This Pearl Jam concert beats them all for dumb luck, though.
If you read my portion of the MoSS? 100 Undisputed Best Albums of All Time list, then you will remember I had Pearl Jam’s Ten ranked as my #33 album. Not too shabby. But you may also remember that I tired of them by their Vitalogy album. I actually bought tickets to see them around that time during their anti-Ticketmaster tour. I sold them at a tidy profit and bought a super sweet mountain bike. Still have the bike along with monstrous calf muscles.
Anyways, back to the subject at hand. Some months back I’d heard Pearl Jam were coming to the Quad Cities. I looked into tickets and saw they were already sold out. Flash forward to a week before the show. I was chitchatting with a co-worker and he offhandedly mentioned that he had a line on some tickets. Someone he knew worked at the concert venue and they told him that once the stage layout was finalized, they may be adding a few more seats. I told him to give me a call if he heard anything and walked away from the conversation thinking there wasn’t a chance in hell anything would come from it. I had all but forgotten the whole thing when he called me as I was sitting in a meeting. I rather awkwardly excused myself from the room and answered. This is how the conversation went:
MoSS? Todd: Hey!
Co-Worker: Hey man! You have seventh row seats reserved if you call my guy at the venue.
MoSS? Todd: Sweet! How much?
Co-Worker: I don’t know. Face value? Who cares? Call him. Like soon.
MoSS? Todd: OK. Cool. Seventh row, huh? Sweet. That’ll be pretty close. You think I could get four tickets? All together?
Co-Worker: All great questions … for the dude onsite. Call him. Now. He told me we had like five minutes … like three minutes ago.
MoSS? Todd: Ooh. Shit! Thanks. Click
So long story short, I got four tickets in the seventh row. I took Mrs. MoSS? Todd and our usual concert support crew friends. The seats were great and Eddie actually came out into the crowd just a few rows away from us.
The only bummer from the evening was the massive headache I got from the weed smokers around me. I sound like an old man but honestly, it was crazy. As soon as the lights went down it was as if someone started a tire fire a few rows in front of me. Aside from the stench of the sticky icky, we had a blast. Great music with great friends. Now back to you, Sam. – Todd
Sorry for the delay, folks. But I needed a few days to let this one marinate …
OK, I’m ready now.
As you may have heard, either here or on Twitter – which I repeatedly (or annoyingly) shared, ad nauseum, all over the various internets – after a 23-year wait that bordered on a Moby Dick-sized white-whale chase, I finally saw Pearl Jam in concert, on Friday night at the iWireless Center (formerly The Mark of the Quad Cities) in Moline, Ill.
(The epicness of this night isn’t even taking into account the always-entertaining prospect of another concert road trip and hotel stay with those wacky Dubs, punctuated with Skeet falling asleep flat on his back and eventually choking on his own saliva, which strangely seemed to trigger T-Dub’s spectacular, surreal bout of night terrors – which are not unlike this, except hornier and somehow arrogant, something to which the slumbering and annoyed Mrs. T-Dub will surely attest:)
As for the show, was it everything I had hoped for? After much thought and reflection, I’d have to say yes, most definitely. This is a battle-tested group of road warriors. They are unbelievably tight, full of energy, with an improvisational spirit. Plus, they seemed genuinely stoked to be in our hidden-away neck of the woods, which always feels good as a fan. And they hammered away until they’d given us a 36-song set clocking in at roughly three hours.
That’s how I feel about it now, after a few days of letting it sink in.
But I have to admit: I didn’t feel that way Friday night. At least not at first.
I mean, this is Pearl Jam. This is a band I had been waiting to see since 1991, so naturally, I had a list of songs in my head I was dying to hear. In fact, I chronicled it for posterity in my previous piece. Here’s the “Cliff’s Notes” version of that list:
- Please play “Oceans.” Please play “Garden.” Please play “Release.”
- Please consider “Breath” and “Crown of Thorns.”
- Either “I Got ID” or “Long Road” would be a treat.
- And finally, Yield … I’d piss myself with glee if you played “Faithfull.”
Remember, this is a band that never plays the same set twice. Every song in their catalog is fair game at any given show. That’s the main reason you can actually follow them on tour. This isn’t Kiss, who always play a 20-song combination, pulled from the same 40 songs spanning a 40-year career, every single night (don’t be mad, Kiss, I still love you guys). No, with Pearl Jam, you get something different at every concert. So, if they play a song one night, especially one of the more obscure ones, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t get it two nights in a row.
So I, of course, started stalking Twitter and setlist.fm in the days leading up to my show, hoping that they wouldn’t play the songs from my wish list.
On Tuesday in Memphis, they played “Garden.” More scarily, they played “Breath.” Two days later, in Detroit, they friggin’ opened the show with “Release,” followed by “Oceans.” Uh oh.
So, going into the show, I already knew that I probably wouldn’t get at least half of the songs I was absolutely pining to hear.
Still I remained optimistic. It’s Pearl Jam, after all. There’s still a ton of songs I’d be happy with, you know?
After worrying for months about our spot on the side of the stage, I took as a good omen that our seats turned out to be pretty damn sweet. And when they took the stage and opened the show with “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” all systems were go.
Shortly after, I remember they tore into “Hail, Hail” and immediately followed it with “Who You Are.” I did take notice of them playing these two songs back to back.
But after a while, even though I was loving what I was hearing, my attention started drifting. I started consciously thinking about my own personal wish list of songs, and about how I was afraid I wouldn’t get them. I mean, it was my first show. It’s hard NOT to be a little selfish, right?
The band soldiered on. They even played “Garden,” which was huge since they had just played it in Memphis. The set list was long and expansive, covering their whole career. They even gave us one of my favorite cover tunes when they blistered through Neil Young’s “Fuckin’ Up.” After playing their customary closer “Yellow Ledbetter,” this night that I had waited a generation for had come to a close.
Exiting the arena, I realized I only got one song from my wish list. For a few moments, I started wondering – out loud, even – if what I had feared was actually true: Were we just flyover country? Were we just the warm-up show for the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, and Denver? All because they didn’t play the songs that I wanted to hear?
But before I could actually truly debate this with my friends as we walked for a post-gig beverage, I finally turned my phone back on (yes, I turned it off after I was rightfully scolded from the stage earlier in the week at a club show at Gabe’s in Iowa City by Sharon Van Etten). And I had this tweet waiting for me:
I hadn’t even noticed. I was so preoccupied with hearing the songs on my list that I hadn’t even noticed. Like I said, I DID notice when they played “Hail, Hail” and “Who You Are” back to back. But, in hindsight, it went completely over my head when Eddie said “alright, end of Side 1” after finishing “Off He Goes.” How did I NOT put that together?
People, some of which I had reached with my blog about losing my PJ virginity, were responding. Almost immediately. With jealousy. Only then did I realize how special it was.
There’s a scene in the great Cameron Crowe documentary Pearl Jam Twenty, where you see a brief montage of fans saying just how many times they’ve seen the band live, with one guy saying something absurd like 250-plus times, over various countries and continents.
So yeah, I didn’t get the songs I wanted. This is true. But there’s some dude out there that’s seen Pearl Jam 250-plus times that has NEVER gotten this show, because in their entire history, this was the first time they’ve ever done the “entire album front to back” thing before …
(Yeah, in 1992, they probably played all of Ten … big fucking deal. They were a brand new band with exactly ONE album – I would hope they played all of it! Plus, at a show in Italy in 2006, they played the entire self-titled album (aka The Avocado) but according to Rolling Stone’s account, it was out of sequence.)
But on Friday night in Moline, they played the album that diehards cherish from start to finish AND in sequence. Would I personally have rather had Ten, Vitalogy or Yield front to back instead of No Code? Yes, I would have. But this is their beloved album, for some reason. And we got it.
Plus, oh yeah … let’s not discount the fact that Eddie Vedder wrote a FUCKING ORIGINAL SONG – a song he titled “Moline” and described as a companion piece to his classic Vitalogy track “Better Man” – for our show that just might, maybe, end up on an album someday.
Perspective, people. It’s really hard to complain when you put it in perspective.
Now, did I feel a little less special when, three days later, they repeated the stunt in Milwaukee, except the cheeseheads got Yield start to finish? Yes. Yes I did. But fuck it, it was still worth the wait. And I can’t wait to do it again.
And next time, I’ll be happy with what I get.
Your blog about the #PJMoline show inspired me to write you back about an experience that dated back 23 years to the date, October 17. I’ll try and keep you interested along the way….here goes…
October 17th 1991-I was a freshman at NIU in DeKalb. Your typical, poor, cheap beer drinking college kid who occasionally skipped afternoon classes to play some hoops at the University Rec Center. October 17th happened to be ones of those days and it turned out to be incredibly special. For whatever reason, the Rec was slow that day. So, like we usually did, we waited on an open court for some action. Didn’t take long before 5 long haired, flannel shirt, khaki short wearing dudes with hi-top basketball shoes walk in. Imagine that for a second…So, what the hell, we started to play. Now, back then the Red Hot Chili Peppers just released Blood Sugar Sex Magik. We recognized Flea and Chad Smith immediately. Flea had this crazy Mohawk that curved around the top of his head. Who we didn’t recognize was Jeff Ament and Eddie Vedder ( The 5th player I could never remember-could have been Mike or Stone….I can’t recall to this day). So we play one game…..and they kicked our ass, something like 15-1. I guarded Vedder the whole time-dude hit a jumper over me from the corner. The game finally ends and we all start shaking hands and introducing each other…I reach my hand to Ed and he says, “I’m Eddie” to which I reply, “I’m Jeremy.” Ed goes on to say he wrote a song named Jeremy, we exchanged some more small talk and they went on their way. I remember after they left, a smallish crowd had gathered to watch us play (they recognized who we were playing too) and we shared some small talk, then took off …..fast forward now to the show that night.
Like I mentioned, I was a broke college kid and couldn’t afford tickets to the show that happened to be Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, and the Smashing Pumpkins. …So you’re thinking, alright, this kid didn’t make the show, that sucks…but that’s where things get kinda cool. Late that night the people on my dorm floor came back and proceeded to almost bust down my door to until I opened it. They told me I missed a great show (awesome-just what I wanted to hear). They also told me this…During Pearl Jam’s set, before they played Jeremy, Eddie said, “This is for that cool guy Jeremy I played basketball with today.” And Shit! I missed it. I missed a shout out. I missed the show..,what shitty luck….
Weaving my way through the last 23 years, I always wondered if Eddie would remember that day, the moment, like I do. Since then, and up until Moline, I made 4 shows with the most recent being Wrigley. I always thought I’d write Pearl Jam to see if it would ever get to them about my recollection of “The Moment”. Perhaps I’d catch Eddie at a show, a one in a million chance I know, and I’d ask him if he remembers hoops and the shout out. It’s really not that important that he does though. What’s important is what it meant to me and how the music of Pearl Jam has influenced my life. Over the past few days I’ve read article after article on recent shows. I really can’t get enough. What I recognize though, is the commonality of theme in each article. This band truly loves what they do, loves their fans, and seems supremely content with their purpose. As a fan, you never know what to expect and you’re never disappointed (that is of course until the show is over). It’s really hard to explain-I think most fans would feel the same way. Hell, for me, one of the reasons my wife took interest in me was because I was wearing a ‘Stickman” tee shirt one night when we went out together as a group of friends.
So flash back to the present, last Friday, October 17th. My wife and I are headed out west to Moline, IL for the show. Super pumped about seeing them so close to the Wrigley show the prior year. The plan was to grab a bite, check in to the hotel, then head over to the Bier Stube for the PJ Wishlist Preparty. We found a cool place on the Mississippi up the road from Moline in Davenport called Front Street Brewery (great brew and food by the way). And, while we sit there on a Friday afternoon, she drops this on me….
She coyly asks me what I was doing 23 years ago. At first, I’m like, I was in college blah blah… and then it hits me. The date. She tells me the date. She tells me this is the exact date of “The Moment”. I’m here in Moline on the exact date 23 years ago that I play hoops with Eddie Vedder and missed the freakin’ show! She then tells me she wrote the letter I always wanted to write….are you kidding me? I’m almost in tears now..and I never cry. She tells me she wrote the band and told them my story and asked them if Eddie could do the shout out again that I never heard 23 years ago to the day… SO AT THIS POINT I’M FREAKIN’. First, what my wife did might be the coolest thing anyone’s ever done for me. Second, here we are, headed to the show, and this might actually happen.
As the night goes on, great PJ Wishlist Preparty, met some great people, great show, open with Elderly Women…No Code front to back.. and in the back of my mind, wondering will this happen. “Jeremy” comes and goes and now the lights are up at the end and Eddie starts doing special mentions, and I’m kinda waiting, thinking maybe….but it never happened. Now, in the grand scheme of things, I knew it was a long shot. There are plenty of others more deserving of a special mention, but man would that have been cool….Either way, the day, the night, one of the best I’ve ever had, one I’ll never forget. I’ve never felt more strongly about the music of Pearl Jam, the way it impacts me and my wife spiritually and emotionally. There’s a special connection there, so hard to put into words. Not sure what I would have done if I did get to hear the shout out live…heck not sure what I would ever say to Eddie or the band. I guess, when it’s all said and done, I really feel the only thing I could say is thanks…thanks for the music, the lyrics, the time, the commitment to each other, to keeping it real…thanks guys..thanks. @jselsky11
Awesome story, dude. As I mentioned in my previous piece, my missed opportunity was Oct. 19, 1991, in Ames. Two days after yours. I was a senior in high school.