Given the host and the advertised lineup for this show, alarm bells should have gone off for every Pearl Jam fan in the Pacific Northwest as soon as it was announced. It was probably a safe 50-50 bet that at least one other member of Pearl Jam (besides Matt) was going to show up at this event, and Mudhoney, the Supersuckers and Wellwater Conspiracy on the same bill should have been enough to get you out of the house anyway!"#29 - his name is Jack McDowell. In Chicago, he's known as "Black Jack." He can throw the ball probably about 90 miles an hour. Someday I'll be able to play catch with him and I'm really nervous about that time because I know he'll be really casual and then just whip one of those 90 miles'ers right at me - at my face. But I think I'm ready for him and if he does that then I'll just invite him out on stage in front of 30,000 people and see how he fares. But um, he's a good guy and I hope he just keeps winning as long as he does well, we seem to be doing well. And so again that's why I wear his number [pointing to 29 on helmet] in tribute." --EV, 9/20/92
Much of the crowd was probably the worst bunch of drunken rowdy inconsiderate and uninformed people I have had the misfortune of being at a show with. This was a casualty of the Seattle Times announcing Ed's participation in the Saturday paper. The decision to do this was likely because as of Monday afternoon, the venue had only sold half of the tickets available for the event; this being a charity, it was necessary to push the issue a little harder than that. Unfortunately, the result this produced was people turning up Monday afternoon, asking, "Is this the Eddie Vedder show?" and buying tickets. These were undoubtedly many of the same people who 1) missed Ed onstage because they were back at the bar; 2) chanted "Eddie" throughout the entire evening, no matter who was on the stage, and 3) discussed loudly and long how Ed had to come onstage and "really" perform, which meant singing "Elderly Woman" and "Daughter". (I'm not making this up. All this information came from conversations right behind me. Incidentally, these were the same people who started the "Eddie" chant during the Mudhoney encore break, not realizing that Ed was standing in the crowd right behind them.) To be fair, the extent of Ed's participation was not explained anywhere, but there was a clearly posted schedule of bands on the front door where you came in to buy tickets.
Luckily, the music and the spirit at this event overshadowed all of this. Everyone was supposed to get half-hour sets in order to clear the crowd out by the local closing time of 2am. Jack McDowell's band, Stickfigure, started the evening off. They were pleasant and tried really hard and played a set of solid, spirited rock. Supposedly, the band is named after Jack's appearance; I somehow suspect there's a Pearl Jam reference there too.
Wellwater Conspiracy, minus their bass player Jack Endino (off in Brazil producing), were next on the bill. The dynamics at a WWC show are always different, like it grows or shrinks to fit the room or the vibe. Onstage at Seattle II, the music was big and expansive. Seeing them at somewhere like the Sit n Spin, it seems almost cozy and intimate. Tonight it seemed somewhat cautious and a tiny bit tentative at first, like it was hard for them to find a groove. But find it they did; "I Got Nightmares" particularly, and that jazzy drumbreak I love so much did not disappoint, amongst others.
A very meaningful glance sidestage and Ed strides onstage purposefully, familiar marbled composition notebook (red cover) in hand as WWC starts up "Red Light Green Light". He props the notebook up on the monitor and opens to the correct lyric page, trying to keep other pieces of paper, newspaper clippings and the like, from falling out. Doesn't seem to really need the words.
Ed looks great. Healthy, tanned, relaxed, comfortable. He's really tan and his hair is super-short. And of course the voice sounds great to hear live. Even though I'd be happy as a clam to just have Wellwater, I'd be lying if I didn't say that there was something undeniably comforting about having 2/5 of the members of PJ onstage in front of me right now.
I'm not the biggest fan of Ed singing with Wellwater - I'm fine with Matt and Ben - but "Felicity's Surprise" has grown on me over the past few months so I'm really enjoying hearing it next. Ed turns to the next pages in the notebook and I am torn between wanting to look over the monitor to peek at The Notebook and wanting to watch Ed and wanting to watch Matt play. The latter two won. Ed finishes, bows, and walks off.
Ben Shepherd comes on for two last numbers, pacing the stage like a caged tiger. I love the dynamic of Ben and Matt in WWC. Matt does not take his eyes off Ben for one second. It's kind of a kid brother thing going on almost, there's a definite affection there. No, Ben's not the greatest vocalist in the world, but it's all about feel and his own unique delivery. And you never do know what to expect!
The affable and always delightful Pete Droge was up next, accompanied by Elaine Summers. He was gentle and personable and chatty, and soldiered on despite the incredibly loud room he had to compete with. And Elaine gave us her ice-in-a-towel when it was done (it was very hot. It was an 82 degree day in Seattle, and let me tell you that is not normal weather here, even in the summer).
The moment we were all dreading was next - Marcy Playground. While waiting in line, I kept asking about them, I couldn't even think of one song that they played. (I did end up recognizing the radio hit.) I didn't like them. I thought they tried way too hard and were way out of their league. I thought Stickfigure had better presence - it was certainly less contrived in my opinion. But the crowd behind us loved them and sang along and cheered.
They couldn't set up the stage fast enough for the Supersuckers as far as I was concerned. I had not seen them in what seemed like eons and right about now, we needed a blast of good solid real rock and roll. And that's what we got. They are always happy, always in a good mood, just real and down to earth. I was craning my neck to see the setlist and I didn't see anything that looked like either "Devil Doll" or "Poor Girl" and then I saw it - it simply read "x-song". Yay! But I was in no hurry to get there, and neither were the 'Suckers, who managed to cram in pretty much all the essential elements of a typical show into 30 minutes (or was it 45 - it was a very long night, at this point I wasn't counting).
Eddie Spaghetti starts to talk about how they've been able to do a lot of cool things - play with Willie Nelson on the Tonight Show, play with Steve Earle, among others - and one of the other cool things was - you guessed it - being able to record a song with Eddie Vedder. This time, pandemonium ensues as EV walks onstage. The other Eddie bows formally and elaborately (with a shit-eating grin on his face), removes his wraparound rockstar sunglasses and hands them ceremoniously to our Ed, who dons them with an equally big grin and the song just EXPLODES. It was loud and raucous and HUGE and noisy and thundering and tremendous. The crowd behind us breaks through the first few rows of folks and we find ourselves holding on to the monitors for dear life (there is no crash barrier at the show, we are right at the stage), both to keep ourselves in place and to keep it from pushing onto the stage. I am lying on top of the thing, looking up at Ed and Eddie, looking DOWN at that notebook again (it was just lyrics, so I really didn't feel like I was invading privacy, and fuck it was RIGHT THERE), and singing along as loud and hard as I could, laughing and singing and screaming and having the time of my life, to be honest. It was one of those big bright rock and roll memories that you carry with you for a very long time.
Needless to say, they NAILED the fucking thing with all the spirit and energy and power of the original. While Ed sounded good with WWC, those aren't songs you can sink your teeth into in a big rawk kind of way. "Poor Girl" as done by the Supersuckers is, without any doubt. I'd worn a X "Wild Gift" tshirt tonight for good luck and good luck indeed is what I had with it.
We're exhausted but happy at the end; I'm hungry more than anything. We'd been stealing the bands' leftover unopened bottles of water all night so we weren't thirsty, but god we were tired. And we still have Mudhoney to go. I'd considered moving out into the crowd for this set -- the place had really emptied out after the Supersuckers -- but they were onstage before I could motivate myself to make any kind of decision.
What's not to love about Mudhoney? Especially Mudhoney on a good night, which tonight undoubtedly was. Mark Arm was born to be a rock and roll singer, while Steve Turner is his perfect foil. Eddie Spaghetti (who had talked earlier, before "Coattail Rider," about how all they ever wanted to do was go on tour with Mudhoney) lurked sidestage at the very beginning of the set, camera in hand, and ran up to Mark at one point during the first number to take a very close shot of him leering into the camera. (Camera note: the Showbox were assholes about no photos, taking any cameras they saw away from people, so there won't be a lot of fan photos of this show, if any.) They were incredibly good and very much on. Steve Turner seemed especially inspired, attacking the guitar with his own individual laid-back brand of intensity.
They ended their set at 1:45 and we were waiting for house lights - usually they are pushing you out the door at 1:30 around here - and then the drunk silly Eddie chanting people behind me start their "EDDIE" chant. We are too tired to get really pissed or do something about it - I turn around to say something and then I see Ed standing right behind them. We burst out laughing and realize that he'll have that situation under control without our help. He then gets the crowd to start a chant of "Mudhoney, Mudhoney," even though I guarantee that most of the people in that crowd didn't give a damn. But it brought Mudhoney back out for a surprising encore of "Hate the Police" (surprising that they got an encore when no one else did), so thanks Ed! (Oh, and before you all write and tell us that Jeff was there -- yes, we know, Jeff Ament was there too in the back.)
Four months and counting to Bridge.
copyright © 2001 Caryn Rose