PJ live at AROspace, 5/7/98
I spent yesterday battling a horrible bug of some sort, struggled to work today, came home "early" (read: 6:30pm). Went straight to bed. Read. I was half-asleep when the phone rang at 8:52pm.
"You're home, so you must not know."While this is going on, I am somehow getting myself dressed, totally on auto-pilot, I am literally shaking, I manage to grab my license and ATM card and wallet and keys and the camera, jump in the car. I am shaking at every red light, so much so I have to put the car in park each time because I can't keep my foot on the brake. I take the back way down to the club and park on a side street, jump out and RUN.
"PJ, tonight, AROspace."
"Surely I'm not going to get in! Is it on the radio?"
"I don't know, I'm heading there now".
Huge line alongside the club. But, there are maybe two hundred people, the club used to hold five hundred, and now it's much bigger since it's been renovated. I have hope. I have faith. I am unable to manage coherent sentances, but I'm there.
The line moves sporadically, the bouncers are out counting down the line. Surely they would tell us if we were too far back to get in?
Closer...closer...closer. I'm about 15 people away when they tell us there are no more tickets being sold. I am trying not to feel how badly I feel at this moment or I will surely collapse on the sidewalk in tears. It's 10:30, and at this point I'm just going to fucking wait. One of the managers tells us that perhaps at 12:00 they will let in another 20 people. Okay, I can wait that long. I have nothing else to do.
I see the road crew walking around, and I yell, "c'mon, Eric, let us in!" The manager tells us the club is nowhere near legal capacity, that it's a band decision not to let any more people in. We are all trying to chat and keep our spirits up, but people are leaving slowly, as they give up. The manager comes back out and tells us that the entire guestlist has showed up and that there will be no more tickets sold. Well, it's 11:00, I'm going to wait it out.
A black SUV approaches the corner, the manager comes out and moves the barricades, and I see it's driven by none other than Matthew Cameron. Well, this is cool. Not quite as cool as GETTING IN, but still cool. People are still making idle chit-chat, some are leaving, the manager comes out every 10 minutes to recite the "there will be no more tickets sold" spiel. That's fine. We have nothing better to do.
I'm standing there, and then at the corner I see a -- Camaro! I calmly but purposely stride up to the corner, I don't know what I think I'm going to do exactly, but fuck, I might as well say "hi" if I'm not gonna get in. There's Ed and Beth, walking in, and as he passes the little group near me, I say, "Have a good show, Ed." Okay, I've done my job. He knows there are still fans outside. Whatever that does or doesn't do. Head back to the line.
One of the owners of the club comes out and says, "Okay! Where did Eddie live before he lived here?" Half of us scream, "SAN DIEGO!" "Okay, what was the name of the street he lived on?" Great. This is the woman who JUST read "5 Against 1" THREE TIMES, and I cannot fucking think of the name. She lets in three guys from the front of the line. She says that's it. At this point it's 11:45, and I figure, okay, whatever, if I don't get in, I'll just go around the corner and press my ear up to the door. "It ain't over..." someone says, "until a short, tan guy sings," I finish, and everyone laughs half-heartedly.
And then the owner comes back out, yells, "10 more," and I am throwing my money and my ID at the bouncers and I am inside the club in a shot, I am hyperventilating, I CANNOT BELIEVE I AM IN! I blindly stumble in the direction of the showroom (or at least where it used to be, thank god it didn't change) and start heading for the stage before I realize the stage is at what used to be the back of the room. Change directions. I'm at the side, Stone's side, I've got a fairly clear view, I prolly should've headed towards Mike's side (since Stone's side was closer to the entrance and the bar) but I am damned if I'm moving NOW. I can see just fine and fuck it's much better than the view from outside!
At this point it hits me, I am about to break down and cry, but before I know it, the lights are out, there they are and I am maybe five feet away. I thought I was close in Maui. I never thought I'd see them in a club. There's MATT! And they kick into this odd, bluesy, thudding jam that I don't recognize (listed on the setlist as "Interstellar"), and then segue into "Corduroy". And I'm bouncing, I have this shit-eating grin on my face (that didn't leave it ALL NIGHT - hell, I've STILL got it!), singing along, oh this is just TOO MUCH! I don't know where to look first - Ed, Mike, Jeff - Stone in front of me - oh, shit, Matt Cameron! aughghghghghghghghghgh!
And then it's "DTE", not quite as transcendent as I've heard it, it's solid and intense but not quite a rave-up, but I have the presence of mind to watch Ed's little dance number and Matt fucking hit the drums for all he's worth. Mike careens into "Brain of J" next, and I tilt my head back, close my eyes, and just let it all wash over me. I cannot believe this is happening.
"Last Exit" next, and Matt totally transforms this song, driving it like a motherfucker, not that I'm surprised but it is still so - incredible to hear. He's not playing like Dave, he's not playing like Jack, he is playing like none other than Matt fucking Cameron and it is STILL the PJ I know and love. Not that I ever had any doubts, but this song, while always a high point of the shows, is just a powerhouse now.
(I know I have some of these out of order, but I didn't remember to bring a pen)
And if I thought he transformed "Last Exit," well, that's nothing compared to what's been done to GTF. Slightly less anthemic, but much much MUCH heavier, almost bluesy in feel. This is followed (I think) by "In Hiding" and it's a good version, nowhere near the intensity of Maui night one, but fuck this is STILL my favorite song from the album and they'd have to turn it into a polka number for me to say anything bad about it, ever.
Finally, He Speaks: the usual hi, it's good to be here, "it's nice to have a DRUMMER," Ed says, laughing a bit, "Jack's doing fine, this one's for him," and he dons a Rickenbacker and goes into "Off He Goes", a nice version, but one that everyone around me decided was time for a lengthy, loud conversation.
Then we go into another jam, I'm trying to hear it, I had remembered some of the lines but they're gone now, and I figure it's another extended lead in to "Habit" (and it was) but boy did this feel like a finished song. (I'd like to hear some of the Aussie shows to figure out if it was a similar leadin.)
And you are not prepared for what Matt Cameron has transformed this song into. oh-my-god. Slamming, crackling, driving, pounding, this song I've always considered on the "B" list has been moved to the head of the class. This is not a minor number any longer, and it was here that they finally loosened up, hit their stride, and totally, completely wailed, Mike with his eyes closed, Stone making every possible face known to mankind (lol) [or maybe it was because by this point the crowd had pushed me right in front of him, one person between me and the stage).
"Wishlist" was wonderful, a zillion times better than Letterman, complete with the ending where Matt kicks back in, and during the end of the song, I notice Ed looking out in the crowd and totally cracking up about something - I turn around and I see someone holding a cell phone aloft and laugh really hard. Ed makes a note of it afterwards, saying he saw this light out in the audience and couldn't figure out what it was, until it dawned on him it was a cellphone, and noted that well, there was more than one way to get in to this show tonight. "Faithfull" was next, and the crowd's screaming the "echoes" line, as usually.
While I know we're gonna get flame mail for me saying this, I'm sorry, I can't help it: Matt Cameron is just my favorite drummer that's still alive. I was/am an ENORMOUS Soundgarden fan, and the fact that PJ are still around and still able to tour this summer by taking him along is just the best of all possible worlds, with all due respect to Jack. I absolutely adore watching him play; the man is totally effortless and makes these tremendous, complex sounds with a very minor kit. It also was so strange to notice his onstage characteristics in a Pearl Jam context, if that makes sense; he does this thing with his hair when he plays, kind of shaking his head back to get his hair out of his face, and I'm used to seeing it when I saw Soundgarden or any of his side projects, but it was odd to see something I so associate with Soundgarden when I'm watching Pearl Jam....
"MFC" was also similarly transformed a la "Habit", and my second favorite highlight of the evening. "Hail Hail" was next, a total treat to watch standing in front of Mr. Gossard, "Mankind" a total and wonderful surprise, and then, Stone takes off his guitar, grabs a tambourine, and Eddie starts telling us it's a song about a guy in the 1890's, I yell "Leatherman" and sure enough t hat's what it was, Stone playing tambourine all through the song, the funniest fucking thing I have ever seen, especially at the end where he turned around and smacked it on his butt once or twice.
I do know that after "Leatherman," there was enough of an interlude for me to yell "Ed! Play "U"! Play the single!" and he looked at me, smiled apologetically, said something along the lines of "we don't know it", I said "thank you anyway" and smiled back. Oh well, I tried, ya know?
To close we had "Leaving Here," the crowd screaming 'oh yeah', and then they left the stage and I thought that was it, until Matt, Jeff and Ed came walking back out. Ed went back to the drum kit and grabbed a 45 and something else, hid them behind his back, and went into this ed-rap about how the band aren't materialistic, but every once in a while they find SOMETHING really cool, how he happily admits that he watches too much basketball, even if it is a corporate game, blah blah blah, that he plans to stop watching the day Michael Jordan retires, and then holds up a Michael Jordan bong (I am not kidding, really, I'm not) and then holds up the 45 and tells us that it's called "Last Kiss", by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers, that he found it yesterday for 99 cents and stayed up all night playing it, and that now they're gonna do it for us.
And I am in SHOCK. I *know* this song, I mean I know it by heart, it was released in 1964 but had a resurgence when I was in grade school and buying 45's every week (on sale, at Kmart, for 44 cents) and this song was the total grade school girl in-thing, we sang it at recess in really bad harmony, and here we go, Ed has the thing nailed perfectly, I'm singing along, so is the manager of the club, people are waving their hands in the air (it's this total 50's schlocky song about a guy who has a car accident and kills his girlfriend, blah blah blah):
"Oh where oh where can my baby be?[*ahem* that was by heart I'll have you know]
The lord took her away from me
She's gone to heaven and I got to be good
So I can see my baby when I leave this world.."
And that's it. I try to get a setlist, I fail miserably, and walk out of the club totally drained, sweating like a pig, the shit-eating grin still on my face, and walk back to my car, singing loudly:
"Oh where oh where can my baby be?...."
43 days till Missoula. I can't wait.
Review & photos copyright © 1998 Caryn Rose