Ten years of Pearl Jam concerts, documented and charted
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
I don’t know how many folks have had today circled on their calendars, but July 2 is a personal milestone.
I can’t remember the exact day I graduated from high school or college — I could probably get it right within a day or two, though. But I remember I saw my first concert on March 26, 2000, at the then-Fleetcenter in Boston. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were at the beginning of their first tour in more than 25 years, and by the end of the night, after watching Neil Young and Stephen Stills rip through an hours-long “Down By the River” among a million other highlights, I was hooked on the whole live music thing for life.
Three years after that, after seeing so many favorites live, from the Black Crowes to Jimmy Page to Ryan Adams to the Who and on and on, I finally checked the biggest fish off the list — I saw Pearl Jam in concert.
It was a long time coming. At 16-years-old, I wasn’t old enough (in the opinion of the folks that mattered most — my parents) to see them when they came through Mansfield, Mass., in 1998. In 2000, I was old enough but not lucky enough — I couldn’t get tickets.
That changed in 2003. I got tickets for more shows than I knew what to do with (five, in this case), made travel arrangements and, on the afternoon of July 2, made my way up to the Great Woods amphitheater or whatever it was called at that point and waited for the band. There may have been a chance run-in with frontman Eddie Vedder on a bike, and I may have screamed that story into every cell phone number in my phone as soon as he rode off back to his bus or wherever it was he was heading.
And, yes, as thrilling as that was, what had brought me there was the music and the chance to finally see this band live, this band on which I’d spent so much time and energy, from making tapes to mailing away for CDs and arguing on the internet and everything else that goes into being a devout music fan with nothing but time to spare.
The pre-set opening “Dead Man” by Vedder was something of a tease and confirmation that this was, in fact, going to happen and not likely to be canceled by a freak hurricane or a smallpox outbreak or whatever else could have kept me from seeing the band at that point. But what really drove it home was “Oceans,” the opening song that night that came off of the darkened stage. Vedder was in his green jacket and hanging off the microphone stand and rocking gently as the words flowed out. It was a calm, gentle introduction that belied just how heavy and powerful the moment felt.
That power was made all-too-apparent a few moments later, when the band wound down “Oceans” and hurtled head-on into “Go.” From there came “Hail, Hail,” “Save You” and “Deep.” I was dizzy. I didn’t want to lose any of it, and I worked to make sure that wouldn’t be the case.
I had the entire night documented. Along with a small Sony tape recorder in my pocket, I tracked the setlist on a small notepad I’d carried with me, and from there transferred it all into a notebook as soon as I got in the car. If I didn’t have the notepad, I’d scrawl the setlist down my arm, starting at the top of the bicep and, if it was a good show, working all the way down to the wrist. All of this information was collected and stored. Of course, with all the statistics and details online, it would have been easy to just get it all later, maybe the next day or the next week.
But that went against my natural tendencies, the ones that pushed me to collect baseball cards and write down lineups as a kid, the ones that had me take meticulous and quick notes in high school, the ones that eventually pushed me into journalism and editing and writing. I had to have my own version of it, and I had to present my findings in some way.
At the end of that night and the four subsequent shows I saw over the course of the next 10 days, I turned the tale into a newspaper feature. Another four shows turned into a sprawling 4,000-word piece for this site in 2006. More shows turned into more reviews, each one catalogued in my personal notebooks and an ever-growing collection of bootlegs that have served as a personal archive of the band’s work live.
I like presenting information in different ways, too. And, on the verge of seeing them for the 15th time in a couple of weeks in Chicago, I wanted to take that information and turn it into some sort of statistical project, and from there, a visual representation of my time with the band.
And here they are. Each and every song I’ve seen, when I’ve seen it and where I’ve seen it. Shrunk down it’s really just a blur of bars and colors. Expanded, it’s detailed to the point of losing context or scope. But I like that. Because sometimes, looking back on the time and emotion I’ve spent immersed in this band’s music, it’s easy to lose myself and forget exactly where I am and where I started.
July 2, 2013
Email Nick Tavares at firstname.lastname@example.org