It was spring of 2004. My Rock and Roll Kickstarter friend Jared Nelson convinced me that I needed to nearly overdraw my Washington Mutual (RIP) checking account and purchase a $200 secondary market ticket to see Sonic Youth. They were playing the Showbox in Seattle, and the gig hand been sold out for several weeks. It was fantastic. Thurston Moore seemed like he was 6’10” and each time he traded guitars between songs they literally were on fire. Kim Gordon, Sonic Youth’s bass player and Thurton’s wife at the time, had an incredibly confident New York strut and moved onstage with such style and substance that I have not forgotten about it since.
Before the show started, we were having a beer at the Showbox bar when I noticed Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam’s bass guitar technician George Webb near me. Now if you know me, you know that Pearl Jam has been an inspiring and dominant force in my life. Their 1996 full length release “No Code” still reigns as my favorite record of all time. I can fully admit now that a big reason I moved to Seattle was because of Pearl Jam, and more importantly to be exposed to music and see all these amazing bands that I had only read about and existed only in their CD that I owned. To take it even further, I probably moved to Seattle so I could be somewhere and run into a guy like George Webb. Come to think of it you almost need to be borderline insane to recognize a bands’ bass guitar tech. But it is what it is. So of course I went right up to him.
“Hi George, I’m Joe and I just wanted to say hello and thank you for what you do. I saw you on the ‘Live From The Garden DVD’.” I don’t exactly remember his response, but it was something to that effect of “Cool, man. Thanks” while shaking my hand.
About 6 months later, I ran into George again. This time I was at a bar called the Rendezvous, which for the sake of this story is borderline irrelevant. So same thing:
“Hey George, I’m Joe I don’t know if you remember me but I saw you at Sonic Youth. Awesome show.” He responded something like “Yeah, I remember you. That was a great show.”
A couple years later, I’m at I don’t remember where. But sure enough, George was there too. So I went up to him again: “Hey George, I don’t know if you remember me but I’m Joe and I saw you at Sonic Youth in ’04, and at The Rendezvous a year or so ago” And sure enough he says:
“Yeah I remember you, man. You’re the only one that ever does this.”
Well that was great! He remembered me. I took it as a tremendous and deep compliment, and I heard it as the bass guitar tech of Pearl Jam essentially told me I was pj’s biggest fan. “No other Pearl Jam fan ever recognizes me other than you” is how I heard it. It can be argued either way, but that’s certainly how I heard it and I’m sticking to it.
I started college in the fall of 1998. The first time I ever skipped class was in my third year in the fall of 2000, when some friends and I road tripped to East Troy, Wisconsin and to Chicago to see two Pearl Jam shows on their Binaural tour. The Chicago show still stands out 17 years later as the best show I’ve ever seen, they opened with my favorite song “Release” and finished with “Baba O’Riley”. There was an energy in the building that was hard for me to wrap my twenty year old mind around: “What did I just see?? How am I going to apply to this to my life going forward. Nothing will be the same again” were my thoughts afterward. More than that, I wanted more live Pearl Jam experiences.
It would take nearly 3 years for the next one. This time in Vancouver, BC. (hi Barry!) It was phenomenal and unique in it’s own right as well. As were the other PJ show’s I’ve seen, and I’m lucky and proud to say 12 total. Most recently in Philadelphia with my beautiful wife Stephanie. Forgive me for the sappiness but I will say that experiencing that with her and seeing her enjoyment and sharing that pure stoke feeling with her afterward was pretty special.
I’ve sat on how to end this piece for a few days now, and it’s been difficult. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not fair for me to write words on how a silly rock band has impacted and inspired my life in the most positive way possible. You know what, it’s actually not silly. In reality I don’t really have the words. The truth is, it’s an emotional thing. I love that the late, great Joe Strummer of The Clash gave a theme to the band as “The only band that matters.” Well hey, Pearl Jam matters to me man. Matters a lot, and rock and roll matters to millions of people. (Don’t believe me: check out any live Iron Maiden video from any South American country on you tube).
I’ve seen it all over the place. In fact, a great bond I shared quickly as an expat living in Germany was through connecting and talking with Europeans about Pearl Jam. All of a sudden I was plugged in and had friends. Although I’m not sure how many of them would recognize my friend George Webb though.