Pearl Jam Haven't Been Relevant in Years, So Why Do We Still Clamor to See Them Live?

Categories: Pearl Jam

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The first album I was really excited for was Vitalogy.

I was 11. I wasn't much of a music fan as a kid, but something clicked in early 1994. I started hanging out with friends who liked music more. We'd ride our bikes to the mall and browse the CD racks at a music store calledThe Wall. If we were lucky, someone's older brother would drive us to Tower Records. Desperate to fit in, I started devouring music.

I would steal my parents CDs and listen to them, wanting to learn more about my new obsession. I returned them all except two of my father's: Ten and Vs. I had been aware of Pearl Jam before, obviously, but I hadn't realized how much I enjoyed them until I gave those albums a good listen.

See also: Do You Know the Difference Between Pearl Jam and Hootie? Take Our Quiz

I decided they were my favorite band. I needed to learn more. I'd peruse music magazines at the bookstore. When we got AOL, I'd read Pearl Jam message boards. I even loved some of the band's politics. I thought Pearl Jam was brave for its fight against Ticketmaster, even though I was sure I'd be too scared to go to one of their concerts.

When Vitalogy came out in late 1994, I was so desperate to hear it I bought the early vinyl release. My parents' turntable didn't have a needle anymore, so I played it on my Fisher-Price record player that had previously played Disney albums. I loved it. I eventually got it on CD for Christmas; I'm pretty sure I almost wore out my boombox.

While the band's popularity waned, I remained a fan. I liked No Code; 1998's Yield is my favorite Pearl Jam album. Turns out one of my closest friends in high school was a bigger Pearl Jam fan than I was, and we'd scout out the cheapest prices on the band's singles at various area Best Buy locations. (If you haven't figured this out yet, I'm a pretty huge dork.)

One thing was missing, though. Due to the Ticketmaster boycott, Pearl Jam hadn't played the Philly area since I became a fan. When they finally announced two shows in Philadelphia in late summer 1998 and my friend offered me one of his tickets, I was elated. We got a ride to the ferry downtown and rode it to the Camden amphitheater hours before the show; we had cheap lawn seats, so we needed to make them count by getting them right in the front row.

I was terrified. Most everyone there seemed impossibly older and bigger, though they were probably just in their twenties. A security guard told us about a recent wild brawl at a Jimmy Buffett concert. I was a skinny 15-year-old cross country runner, and I figured I'd end up getting killed. I counted down the hours to my death as the opening bands (Mudhoney and Iggy Pop) performed. Iggy Pop seemed to play for hours, and the length of his set deepened my anxiety.

My fears were unfounded. I had a great time! My friends and I came back with great memories. They played all the songs I had wanted to hear. They even played a bit of "Philadelphia Freedom"! (In a less fun moment, Eddie Vedder also said the next terrorist attack would be on the Liberty Bell.) The night remains one of my favorite memories from high school. Not too many people at my high school liked Pearl Jam, but that made it even better: We were firm in our beliefs, standing up to the Dave Matthews/Phish juggernaut that dominated in my high school class.

See also: Live: Phish Bring The Phish Experience To Jones Beach

I entered college. My musical tastes were changing. I was listening to Pearl Jam less and indie rock and hip-hop more. But I kept going to concerts. I saw them in 2000. I saw them three times in 2003, including a trek out to Hersheypark for a show with Sleater-Kinney. I even saw them on the 2004 Vote for Change tour in Reading, though I think we saw that as more of a political statement than a concert. (Whoops! We failed.)

2004 was about the last time I put on a Pearl Jam album to actually listen to. I'll give a new album of theirs a listen or two, but that's about it. I can barely name any songs on their post-2000 albums. I still occasionally do a terrible rendition of "Jeremy" or "State of Love and Trust" at karaoke, but I don't consider myself a big fan of the band anymore. I don't like their new stuff, and I've outgrown their old stuff. Pearl Jam is a childhood thing I've tossed away, much like x's on my wrists and a not-embarrassing waistline.

Yet I still go see them live.

Location Info

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Barclays Center

620 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Category: General


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32 comments
celtics187
celtics187

I wish PJ were not relevant so I could see them in clubs that only fit a few hundred instead of 20 thousand, but hey they deserve  the huge arenas.  Thank you for never selling out PJ and not having your music in Wal Mart commercials (ala AC/DC on Black Friday n shit)  or crappy car commercials.  Hell when they played Cincinnati this year and 2006 I never heard it advertised on the radio one time yet it was sold out both times.  I remember back in 03 when I was finally able to see them live 1st time at Rupp Arena how I thought the Kentucky area did not have a fanbase for them since only a few of my friends love PJ and the radio only plays  old songs from ten and Daughter or Betterman.  I was excited to see it packed and it was my favorite show still 11 years and many shows later.  Riot Act was amazing and so was Lost Dogs in 04 I think Avacado in `06, I`m not sure how you don`t like that.  It`s Evolution Baby!

Susanne6
Susanne6

Complete opposite for me. I guess I was casual fan in early 90s, but after hearing Sirens on the radio I've become an obsessed fan. Past six months listening to entire catalog and loving it!!

nyphonejacks
nyphonejacks

Do me a favor, you and everyone else like you should not buy tickets to see them next time they come to the city so that people like me can get better seats

PeaceLoveOkie85
PeaceLoveOkie85

Pearl Jam hasn't been relevant in years yet their newest album was number 1 on the Billboard Charts? Hmmm.....sounds pretty relevant to me.

christine1950a
christine1950a

Luv Pearl Jam and seeing them in concert tonight in Charlottesville! Hope I'm not the oldest one there. Used to listen to their music on my car radio in the 1990s with my three very little kids in the back seat. Was stunned by Vedder's voice, the music itself, and the lyrics. Why couldn't the DJ ever identify the band or the song so that I could buy a CD?! Years later, when I finally found out whose incredible music it was that I was crazy about, I bought the by-then old CDs to play in my car. My now older kids knew all the lyrics! They would practically scream the lyrics to Black and Better Man.

sberk54
sberk54

If pearl jam is not relevant, name one band that currently is. You cannot trap this band in your past- their music, all of it,means more to real fans than any current band going. Perhaps it is you and your thin perspective on music that has become irrelevant. If you were at either of the Philly shows, I believe you just may feel obligated to retract this poor excuse for an article. To be part of a show that has 22,000 singing each song at the top of their lungs for 3hours is testament to the longevity and relevance of pearl jam. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but it seems yours lacks a connection to reality.

ramram
ramram

'Yield' is my favorite Pearl Jam too! And I thought I was the only one. <3 

epac666
epac666 topcommenter

Dan - define "relevant".

MissPedula
MissPedula

By all means, then, please stop taking the place of someone who actually wants to be there and knows why they are.  You're entitled to an opinion, but why this particular opinion and execution thereof was given the benefit of publication anywhere but a personal Tumblr blog is beyond me.  It sounds like the extended musings of stoners in a college dorm.

davidrubinton
davidrubinton

Why is this an article in anything other than a high school newspaper?

tim.hosty
tim.hosty

Tastes change, or maybe you don't like Pearl Jam's music or politics. I can accept that. Please tell me another band that comes out with a different 30+ song 2 1/2 hour set every night? Again, if you don't like them, you don't like them. I love their music, and I love that no one else will EVER see/hear the same show I just experienced. That's why I love Pearl Jam. They show you how it's done, and you can buy the bootleg to experience it again. Yes they make $ on the bootleg, but it's $ well spent. My two cents.

de1061
de1061 topcommenter

Great live show, good songs, never appearing disingenuous to their fans....I guess if they sounded like Sleigh Bells or Vampire Weekend (or whatever lame shit is hip these days) it would make more sense to the douchebags at the Voice.

Lee Sakowicz
Lee Sakowicz

Well, VV brought my husband and I together, but perhaps you're right!

i_heart_yanni
i_heart_yanni

most overrated band, ever.

he sounds like he's still gargling kurt cobains balls

Detroit Funk
Detroit Funk

Village Voice has not been relevant in years. Everybody still likes Pearl Jam.

Christopher Onzo
Christopher Onzo

Pearl Jam is more relevant than the Village Voice is!!!!

Leesa Gaspari
Leesa Gaspari

There will be no resurrection of them in my world. Dislike. Always have.

Leah L.
Leah L.

Eddie used to hang from the f'n rafters. it was all about performance. Dave Grohl did it too, with the Foo Fighters. (i personally think they ripped off bands like The Germs, Iggy Pop (& the Stooges), etc. who had extremely...athletic...(for lack of a better description) front men. Granted Eddie didn't cover himself in his own blood...but same arena.)

gdock
gdock

Yes, because the band that will be #1 in sales in the US and 53 other countries next week means they aren't relevant.   Maybe they are not popular with the skinny jeans and too-tight t-shirt crowd, but they are the best live act in the world.   No other American band has done what they have for as long as they have.  

babyruth510
babyruth510

@gdock ever heard of guy named Springsteen?  I think he may have been at it a bit longer :)  I attended my first PJ show in Philly last night and was happy that the PJ experience is similar to a Springsteen show in many ways: reasonably priced tickets, no opening act, set lists are never the same, 3 hour show, great interaction with the crowd. Although given how intense much of their catalog is I'm not sure they'll still be able to put on the same show when they're in their 60s. 

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