I’ve been obsessed with Pearl Jam since I was 11 years old. I’m still not sure how I got into the band, no one in my family or age group was a fan, but being born in 1995 had always made me feel cheated somehow. Not being able to experience the band’s younger, angrier and intimate shows because of my age drove me crazy. It furthered my desire to make up for lost time by going to as many concerts I could afford. At age 16 I finally was able to go to my first PJ show and dragged my dad along. He wasn’t the happiest parental chaperone when, even before the band came on, two people behind us were already throwing up and another reached in front of him to offer me a joint. He hated every second, but it was everything I hoped for and more.
Flash forward four years and I am still obsessed with all the music that guides my emotions daily. When I saw the 2016 tour dates released, I knew this was my year to finally get another live experience. At 20 years old I clearly don’t need a chaperone anymore, but none of my friends wanted to go along with me to see the shows either. At first I was hesitant about going alone, but after the recent death of a friend who valued living in the moment, I knew it was an experience I couldn’t pass up. I wanted to see the world while I still could and hear my idols play along the way. Here are my memories from each of my trips:
- Nashville- Pearl Jam played a show at Third Man Records with Jack White and I happened to be on a family vacation in the area. I wasn’t lucky enough to get inside, but I hopped on the back of a bike wagon and sped to the recording studio. The biker thought I was crazy and adored me for it as I shouted out directions from my iPhone “Turn left! Please pedal like your life depends on it, if you’re tired I can take over!” I got there just in time to see the band as they left the studio, and got to meet new friends who let me see their memorabilia like the private show’s setlist. My craziness to get a piece of the musical action allowed me to see a part of the city I never would have otherwise.
- Fenway- Driving to and from Boston for 10 hours in a day couldn’t have been more worth it. Night one of Fenway was hot, crowded and wonderful. The passion in the air was contagious and as Eddie belted “the waiting drove me mad” every single person was bouncing along to Corduroy like their life depended on it. As the lights twinkled from thousands of phones across the stadium to Better Man I knew it couldn’t be the last Pearl Jam experience of my summer. The pinnacle of my musical existence was in the works knowing Wrigley was just around the corner… and I was going GA.
- Wrigley- Do you ever feel more accepted by strangers than peers who have known you for years? That was my entire Chicago experience. Even before boarding the airplane I found myself trading show stories with people I had never met but instantly connected with because of the concert t-shirts they were wearing. People gave me their numbers and were sending me advice of where to go while visiting all week. I explored the Cubby Bear, had my first deep dish pizza at midnight, and flirted with the guy dressed up like a pirate on a sailboat. Every day leading up to the show I met new friends in the Pearl Jam community. We waited outside of Murphy’s for hours as the band recorded on the bar’s rooftop. People waited in merchandise lines for entire chunks of the day. And then before I knew it, the night I had been thinking about for months was about to happen… Night one of Pearl Jam at Wrigley field.
- I sprung from my bed at 7:30 a.m., and would’ve woken even earlier if it wasn’t for an email saying fans couldn’t start lining up before 9 a.m. Most people would probably think that standing alone all day in the torrential rain would sound awful, but I was trembling with excitement. By the time I arrived I was about 40 people back in line. I brought two ponchos, a folding chair, a protein bar, and a book. The first hour I was shy and reserved. I didn’t talk much and listened to the amazing stories of those around me. But as the hours went by, I realized I was sitting with friends. People were offering snacks and beer, extra ponchos when the other was soaked, holding each other’s places in line, and talking about experiences they had with the band that changed all of our lives. I was sitting next to people from California, South Africa, Oregon, Colorado, and Texas. It wasn’t until half way through the day that my friends realized I was there alone. When I shared my age I was naturally met with “Aw you’re such a baby!” comments. But to my surprise, that quickly turned into respect for what I was doing. My group of new friends took me under their wing and said we would all stay together. I was having heart to hearts with people I just met, in a city I had never been to before, and I couldn’t have been more content.
- Come showtime we rushed to the stage. We were greeted with more rain but at that point everyone was so excited that, as long as the band could still perform, it didn’t even matter. When Pearl Jam took the stage my heart was full. The energy in the air of 40,000 friends coming together for music was intoxicating. I pointed at Mike as he shred on the guitar throughout the night cheering him on, and when he pointed back I was in such shock that he nodded and laughed assuring that yes-it actually did just happen. I got great videos of Mike playing behind his head in front of me and Eddie screaming the lyrics to Porch above our cheering heads. I even was able to throw myself to the ground fast enough to get one of Mike’s guitar picks. Because I got such good footage (it must be a millennial cellphone thing) everyone around me gave me their emails to exchange concert videos. I left with a smile from ear to ear and friends of all ages to text about the awesomeness we just witnessed. In the following days, my friends that were lucky enough to go to night two as well sent me tons of updates and livestreams so I could feel like I was there.
I had never been to Chicago but I immediately fell in love. It almost hurt to leave and go back to New Jersey… there’s so much of the world I want to see. I knew it was risky to go to all of these places at my age, but they were without a doubt some of the best days of my life thus far. I still keep in touch with my fellow Pearl Jam fan friends and we plan to meet up at future shows. One of my videos even made it to the band’s official re-cap video! The entire experience showed me the importance of really living. If you want to do something, do it. Besides obviously needing money the only thing you truly need is passion. Life is too short to be afraid to go out and explore or to live without vigor and excitement. Don’t stay stagnate and just go through the motions. Go follow your favorite band, meet people, discover new places, and live a life you won’t regret.