Well, so far we've heard everything from that this was the mastermind of some guy who works at Sony, to that this was one fan's work, to that this is Five Horizons' way of getting the band's attention. As one member of the "Breath" team, here's the real story:
Months ago, people started talking about signs. There was a lot of chat about signs on the old MFC, and many people mentioned that they were going to take signs requesting "Breath". Then there was the dream setlists on 5h, and the song requests page on Synergy, and damn if "Breath" didn't come out at the top of the list on Synergy, and was extremely popular in the dream setlists as well.
The more people talked about it, the more that we found that this wasn't just our own personal thing, that many, many fans held "Breath" in a very special place in their hearts. And unlike some other songs people whine that the band doesn't play, it wasn't for the fact that it was 'rare', it was for the fact that it was incredibly meaningful on an emotional level.
So on the west leg, everyone went out there with their little signs, and got smiles and grimaces and nods from the band, but no song. *sigh* We had more or less given up, but we had a really great and rare version of "Breath" that we had been wanting to feature as Song X. This time, however, we asked fans to explain to us why this song was so meaningful to them to use in the feature. The amazing thing was, we got tons of responses, and almost all of them said the same thing in different ways. It was a great experience, but that was the end of our gestures in this direction.
However, all of this served to inspire other fans, and when Caryn met the "Tickle My Nausea" crew at the Meadowlands and they mentioned they had some signs, she laughed and said, well, good luck. They said, well, we have a thousand, and Caryn said - damn. I'm down front, give me a handful. Handing out those signs was a wonderful experience - people were running down to get them as soon as they saw what they said, and NOT because of Five Horizons or because of Tickle My Nausea or because of Synergy, but because people fucking love this song and they understood what we were trying to do and that there was strength in numbers. When the band walked out for the first encore there were signs EVERYWHERE on the floor, and the look on their faces was just priceless. They couldn't believe it! This was OBVIOUSLY not one or two fans wanting to hear a song, this was a movement. A small one, but an organized movement nonetheless.
The New York Post picked up on it (although they didn't even know there was a fucking song called "Breath"), and the next day at Madison Square Garden, when there were twice as many signs as there were the night before, people once again were so excited and happy to take a sign. They didn't know who anyone was, they didn't care, this wasn't a partisan effort, this was just, let's organize ourselves as fans and those who care can participate, those who don't care to participate, that's fine too. It was pretty impressive, but things were a little distracting because of the little Kenneth Starr monologue.
Third night, we were about ready to give up. There was lots of discussion about, do we do this again, do we want to do this again. And the consensus was, let's try it one more time, and if we don't get it, well, we tried our best, and there must be some really compelling reason and we'll just leave it alone. Once again, people were so happy to get a sign - they'd read about it online or in the newspaper, heard about it from their friends or on the radio, and they weren't looking to align themselves with ANYTHING except Pearl Jam and hearing the song. Sure, there were the assholes who would look down their noses at us and say, "they're not gonna play it," and we'd smile and say thank you, but we'd like to try one more time.
The roar of the crowd when Eddie said "Fuck you, we're gonna play it" and when those first chords blasted off the stage almost took the fucking roof off of MSG. Not just because we asked for something and the band decided to give it to us, but because this fucking song means something to so many, many people. It was about the SONG, it wasn't about (again), this web site or ampj or the aol folder or any kind of partisanship, it was about the communal audience/fan experience, it was about love for a song that to many people is incredibly special. It was the closest thing to a true fan community that we have ever had, and it's how it should be: EVERYONE working together for a common goal because we all love the same thing.
So, Sunday rolled around, and the instigators of the whole thing talked a lot about what we wanted to do. There was a consensus that a "thank you" sign was definitely called for, so Caryn made one quickly and put it up on 5h. There seemed to be some file compatibility problems, and some nasty mail, so she took it down. Others in the team made a few large banners saying "MSG: THANK U" and we looked for people to hold them up. Imagine our surprise when we saw some people very carefully handing out the thank you signs! Someone had downloaded the file and made a few hundred and gotten them in (someone else did and he got them confiscated at the gate =(). The original instigators were beside themselves that people were now taking what they'd started and moved it to the next level.
This explanation appears on 5h because Caryn was a member of the "breath" team, and because we happen to have this forum available to us, and because there are too many misconceptions about what this was all about floating around. It's unfair to everyone who took part in this. The celebratory splash page that was up on 5h this weekend - the "we" in "WE DID IT!" was all of us. Every single last one of us who xeroxed or carried or handed out or held up a sign. Every one. If one of those groups of people had been missing, this could not have happened.
And one other thing: after the shows, there was not ONE sign left lying on the floor. Everyone seemed to have taken them home with them as a memory of one incredible moment when we spoke to the band and the band absolutely, truly listened.
"we're faithfull...we all believe, we all believe it"
[thanks to smitty and synergy for the photos!]