[guess what? you get to read the whole travelogue! this was a fun weekend, and dammit, i'm not gonna edit myself to save you time. "page down" is a handy key if you just want to read about ed's set.]
Friday, 6/11, 8:30pm: I'm packed! I'm heading to the airport in an hour to catch a red-eye flight to Chicago for the TFC! I turn on my cell phone to program in some numbers so I can actually find people at the show, and there's a message: "Hello, this is American Airlines. Your flight to Chicago has been cancelled due to severe thunderstorms in the area. Please call us at..."
ACK! This does not bode well. I panic, I'm dialing Angel on one phone while I'm calling American Airlines on the other. It's okay, I'm on the first flight in the morning, which gets me in at noon, all is well. But, still.
Saturday, 6/12, 3pm: After landing, getting the car, and some minor adventures in the Chicago suburbs, I arrive in lovely Morris, IL, at the Dissident fanzine headquarters. The place is packed with fans and the Dallas '98 video (side-stage view, for those who are wondering) is on the tv. I'm here. *whew* We spend the afternoon and evening watching vids, talking non-stop, and entertaining the continual hordes of PJ fans who are arriving from all over the country and either staying nearby or coming down from the Windy City to say "hi". (Had we KNOWN, of course... oh, well. Shit happens.) It's a PJ house party, it's like being on tour again -- it's great. But, despite how great it is, I manage to get myself in bed by midnight, we are leaving at 8am (or trying to).
Sunday, 6/13, 7am: I wake up to the sound of driving rain outside. I walk into the living room and ask, has that been going on all night? Angel and Kathy arrive and Angel swears up and down she's been glued to the Weather Channel since she woke up and that "it's light green in Wisconsin!" which allegedly means the rain is moving through. It's clearing, or so she will continue to claim, until there's no denying it....lol
We start driving straight up Route 47, and the rain not only does not abate, but gets continually worse. There's standing water on the road in more than a few places. This is not looking good. Kathy comments how Adam Yauch is probably having a freak-out - two years in a row, storms at the TFC. Poor guy. But, she also comments on how Hello Nasty has plenty of references to electricity, and, well, after last year... let's just say I'm not making any cell phone calls in the middle of a field today.
By the time we arrive at the town of Lake Geneva and make the turn off to go to Alpine Valley (which, I'm sorry, is IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE - it's a $72 cab ride from Milwaukee. I don't wanna hear ever again how it's this major cultural hotbed), it's raining even worse. Now, we're all in the pavilion, no one's on the lawn, but this still sucks. Sucks even worse that we get to park at the bottom of a hilly field, second row in. If we don't get stuck in the mud when the show is over, we'll have to wait three hours at least to get out. Angel brought plastic garbage bags for us to put our bags into. Major girl scout points!
But we get out and start walking and it just doesn't matter! Yeah, it's raining, but it's WARM (well, compared to Seattle it's warm!) It feels like summer camp, an impression helped along by the fact that we're wearing rain ponchos. (In a moment of uncharacteristic preparedness, I had a last-minute thought to pack the rain poncho I went out and bought in Missoula last year, when we thought it might rain that night. Thank goodness.) We're giddy, we're laughing, we're trudging up these hills, stomping through puddles, having the greatest time. We're gonna see 1/5 of Pearl Jam today! (Hey, this year, 1/5 is the best we can do, and we'll take it gladly.)
At the end of the week, the plan of record in order to actually meet up with people was, "Meet at will-call at 11." Well, it's fucking RAINING in front of will-call, so no one is (wisely) hanging out there. I'm waiting for Art and Maggie and Shelley from Detroit, who are buying my spare pavilion seat. Angel is playing upgrade at the box office. Mike, infamous PJ taper (he or his equipment is probably singlehandedly responsible for a healthy percentage of the excellent audience recordings from the 1998 tour, so say "thank you") somehow recognizes me swathed in layers of plastic. He, too, is playing the upgrade game, and gets from the lawn into the third row of the side section (which is where Angel's upgrade later ended up - they used less seats for the press section than they planned on.)
Art and Maggie and Shelley finally arrive, we make the transaction, and I stealth my camera and start heading in. They didn't even LOOK. Yay! I start making my way down the hill and run into Jessica from Tickle My Nausea and Marcie at the main building. I buy t-shirts, put them in the garbage bag. (Thank GOD there are no posters - I've already done the posters-in-the-rain thing once (at Oakland III) and it was NOT fun.)
Finally, I make it down to the pavilion. I can finally dry out, or so I think. The opening ceremony is going on onstage. I can see my friend at our seats so I start walking over and...
The entire pavilion floor was flooded in water at least two inches deep in some places. Oh, GREAT. And there are electrical cords running along the floor... earth to Adam Yauch! Did we NOT learn any lessons about electricity + water from last year???? Ah, well, whatever. Maybe it'll be better at our seats.
I got a last minute upgrade for a friend. I was almost embarrassed by how good these seats were. They're good enough that I don't have to sneak around and have the stress of being illegal during Ed's set (or anyone else's). And being so close gives me the run of the pavilion, I can walk around and talk to anyone I want to.
I walk over and hear my name being called out from three places. Mike and Trevor, Bob and Leigh, and there's Maggie and Shelley. I wave, I go down to my seat and start removing layers of plastic. Great! I can't even put my bag on the floor. Oh, this is fun.
The opening ceremony ends, and I walk back to talk to Mike and Trevor. Shortly thereafter, Cibo Matto comes out; they walk onstage and there's Sean Lennon, and Trevor yells, "Hey, Sean!" like he's just yelling at one of his friends on the other side of the pavilion. Sean waves back, kind of bemused. Well, there's all of 50 people, maybe, in the pavilion right now, and I'd guess that 99% of those folks were PJ fans. Yeah, we had the "schedule," but you know that Vedder guy..... It's going to be a VERY long day.
Next act is supposed to be the Outkast (and I don't even know if these guys ever showed). I'm sitting there chatting with Angel and Florence and then Mike yells over, "Caryn! Isn't Outkast next?" Me: "yes" Him:"That's Otis Rush! Look!" Well, *I* don't know... argh. We look at the press-issued schedule for about the fifth time since we arrived. Who knows. We're not going anywhere. When Ed comes on, he comes on.
Otis played a fine set, but we were kinda worn out at this point. Getting to the venue was an ordeal, just getting to the pavilion was a trek, and now we're saving our energy. Sorry, dude. I'm sitting there with my feet propped up, trying to dry out... I'm watching this torrent of rain pour down behind the stage.... I look to my left and in the distance, see a group of about half a dozen maroon-robed "Tibetan munks" making their down the hill(someone had posted the lineup from the Chicago Trib to MFC on Friday, and he'd misspelled "monks" as "munks," which became this running joke throughout the weekend... Tibetan munks... chipmunks... oh, never mind. Guess you had to be there. ;>)
I see a security guy walk through the security pit with some pieces of paper that look like setlists, and sure enough, they are. I can see the last two songs are "Love Removal" and "Sanctuary" - okay, the Cult is next, I think, and sure enough, they were.
Now, the real irony here is, a very very good friend was (is!) a major Cult fan, and I've always given him a hard time about it. Now, I'm laughing at the fact that he's getting his revenge; I'm basically forced to stay down here whether I want to or not, because I'm not going to chance getting stuck somewhere and Missing Ed, who should be next. But, I'm glad I didn't. Ian Astbury walks out clad in the best leather pants of the day (worst leather pants: Jimmy Destri of Blondie. I love ya, dude, but it's just not working!) and a black mesh shirt, with this cream-colored leather jacket with a boa-like fur trim. Angel, who has loved the Cult's music for years, but somehow never managed to look at a photo of them, says "OH MY GOD!" as her jaw drops to the floor. Me, I'm laughin'. After two songs, Florence turns to me and says, "A little bit of Iggy, a little bit of Jim," which sums it up just about right.
A few songs later, Flo nudges me and says, "Did you see Ed?" No, I'm too busy watching Ian and laughing at Angel. Sure enough, there he is, that black Rickenbacker strapped on, standing in the wings, stage right. One of the things we discussed on the drive up was, hell, he could sit down next to one of us and since we don't know what The Hair looks like now, we could very well NOT recognize him.... but anyway, we can see that 1) it's still blonde and 2) it's much longer. And by then we knew he was going on on time, because he was there....
Anyway, I have to say, for all my laughing at my situation, that the Cult were fun, they were sincere, and they played well. Additionally, we had a little drama when Ian decided to make a lame attempt at stagediving during "Love Removal Machine". He's trying to exhort the crowd, truthfully there wasn't much crowd to exhort, and in the process of said exhortation he manages to kick Angel in the forehead!
an email to the aforementioned cult-fan friend:To his credit, when Ian made his way back to the stage, he stops and kisses Angel on the forehead (yes, we're still hearing about this), and at the end of the set, came back over and knelt down in front of her and says, "I'm really sorry!" while looking very very upset about the whole thing. It was nothing short of utterly charming.
me: "ian decides he's going to incite the crowd and he leaps over the barrier into the audience. now, all due credit and all, but dude is no ed or chris cornell..."
him: "Now, now...Ian was crowd surfing when Ed was still pumpin' gas and tryin' to figure out how much acid he could drop and how much he had to sell for rent :)"
Back to the water situation... while I'd managed to drain the run-off from my Docs during Otis Rush's set by propping my feet up, of course they got wet AGAIN when I stood up for the Cult. And now I am not going to be sitting down again for the next hour... so I'm resigned to wet wet feet. Man, if I had KNOWN, I woulda worn something more waterproof....
By this point, the pavilion is filling up. Whether it's people with legit seats or PJ fans who snuck down from higher pavilion elevations or the lawn, I do not know. I'm feeling kind of shaky at this point; I'm thinking it's lack of sleep and food, or that it's cold; when I mention this to Angel and Florence, Angel touches my leg and says, "No, you're warm... awwww, you're nervous..." I restrain myself from slugging her, not wanting to get thrown out so close to the Ed witching hour.
Security suddenly wakes up and starts checking tickets. I'm fine, I'm legal, I don't care, except that I'm getting tired of showing my ticket every five seconds. I make sure I have film and camera and notepad and spare pens and cell phone clipped to my belt. (We were trying the "live remote" thing again, even though the reception up there sucked, it was worth a try - more to make Jean part of the day, but also for those people that we knew were pissed cuz they were trying to watch the "cybercast" [which was not even a live remote, much less a cybercast]).
I'm ready! And, miracle of miracles... it has STOPPED RAINING.
At this moment, Mike decides that we need to have a discussion across eight rows of seats about how many mics are on the stage. :-) There are two. "I think we'll know in a few minutes how many people are in the band..." I don't know what the one in front was for and it ended up getting moved. The front is rapidly filling up, if you saw any amount of PJ shows last summer, you couldn't have walked three feet right now without running into at least 5 people that you knew. It felt like being at a PJ show, which was great!
And, next thing I know, there he is, I totally have the pre-PJ butterflies going, trying to remember everything I need to do, almost forgot to dial the phone... and off we go! Blonde hair. The black Rick. Some various combos of tan shirts and black jeans (for those who care about such details.) Ed steps up to the mic and immediately gets a contact shock; looks like it's not grounded. (Remember what I was saying earlier about water + electricity... oh man NOT good....) He gets that settled, and says, "Thank you, thank you very much... This place holds fond memories from the last few summers....Actually, since i"m just up here by myself, why don't I get your help, since you seem to be in the mood... let's start this first one, you with me?"
Ed starts clapping, and immediately we all know what it is: probably the second-biggest PJ controversy since the "drummer situation" [don't start. I'm just making a point here.], #2 on the Billboard Top 100 as of this week, "Last Kiss." Now, I had a list of predictions, and this one was on here. I just thought that he'd feel like he needed to play it, and sure enough, that was the feeling we all got [by "we" I mean the esteemed colleagues I was attending the show with. No I did not poll every person in Alpine Valley, so chill if you disagree]. Body language, facial expressions, while this was certainly a sincere version, it appeared to me to be obligatory - which doesn't mean I didn't enjoy every second of it. =)
"Tell you what... this is gonna be an experiment, who knows if it's gonna work or not, it makes it all the more intense with a bunch of people..." and you already know what happened, Ed makes a request for "somebody good" and the crowd goes insane. Mike and I almost get ourselves tossed out trying to get him up to the front row to volunteer - I mean, okay, it was a shtick. But for a split second there, I really DID think that something happened to C Average, that they didn't fly out or didn't make it from Chicago or were stuck in traffic, and that Ed was going to be so insane as to want to try this! I grab the phone to try to explain to Jean what the commotion is about... and then once Brad and Jon were onstage, I realized what the deal was, since I'd seen security walk them into the audience before the show: "Erase that. It's a fix."
It was funny! I was laughing. The only thing that annoyed me about it was, we coulda had another SONG instead of this shtick, but ya know, with PJ you just have to go with the flow sometimes. The first thing I thought of, of course, was this legendary Who show at the Cow Palace in 1973 where Keith Moon collapses and they have to pull someone from the audience...and Pete is making the same request for "somebody good" (which they actually *did* get...)
"Uh...whaddya know?" Ed directs at his "newfound" bandmates. Very funny. And then, the first chords to "Better Man" (of ALL things)..."Don't come in till the second half... yeah, I kind of get it going..." and we start again and the crowd goes nuts. It's singalong time, even. Now, at this point, the shtick was *not* totally contrived; the C-Average guys really were at a loss here, because while Ed had played "Better Man" for them, they had never rehearsed it... so they really DID need the chords. (Poor guys!) Me, I'm waiting for the drum break to see if these guys are gonna measure up... and when Brad kicked in, my eyebrows go WAY up and I throw my head back and just laugh and laugh and laugh. Whoa! These guys really *are* good! This is gonna be such an adventure! This is so much more fucking interesting than, say, Ed up there with an acoustic guitar doing 1) PJ songs or 2) The Standard Ed Covers. Jesus! Most people are going to get up there and play a mix of hits and maybe new stuff if they have some new 'product' to promote... no, only Eddie fucking Vedder is going to get up in front of the whole world and a huge representation of media and try to do something 1) FUN and 2) way, way, WAY different! (Did you hear that, Jim DeRogatis?)
They just got better and better as the song went on (and probably once their nerves went down). I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a version of "Better Man" so much, even. =) The audience ROARS its approval at the end. Oh, this is fun. Hang on to your hats, who knows WHERE we're going next....
Ed hits some notes, is chatting with the C Average guys... "Maybe we should keep playing...okay, here's where we start making it up! This is called, this set is called 'songs that we know'," and pulls out this large sheaf of papers, presumably (and yes, as we later find out) lyrics. "This one's by the Mono Men," Ed announces (which, of course, I couldn't hear... okay, I am NOT complaining about a great seat, but the dialogue was spotty... I would hear Ed say "mumble mumble" and the crowd would go "YAY" and I'm standing there going, "WHAT???" But, not that Ed was mumbling, just that the house sound that close was not that clear on the dialogue - which has nothing to do with anything but bad acoustics, certainly not the fault of Brett Eliason, who was along to take care of front-of-house sound).
ANYWAY... some more chords, he turns to the front, and then turns back and fiddles with the amp again: "I just want it to be as loud as possible, that's all," he says with this evil, evil Ed grin, which pretty much matched my own as they slammed into "Watch Outside". GOD this is kicking ASS! Man, this ROCKS! They're solid, they're loose - not sloppy, okay, I'm giving them credit for nerves here (a two-piece band from Olympia is not used to doing these things, I'm thinking)... and it just is the MOST fun thing. "Fun" is the best word I can use to describe the major vibe surrounding the set, really..."fun" also being one of the words that the mainstream media has lambasted Mr. Ed for not being for the past few years... okay, I'll shut up now... It was during this song that Ed broke a guitar string (on the Rickenbacker, I think, not the Charvel), and continued that way through most of the set.
I don't know the song, so I can just rock out, take notes. It was about this time that Mr. Security Dude really decides to do his job and they are out there in force, pointing out tapers way back in the crowd, telling me "No cameras". Fine, I'll put it away... I could tell Mr. Dude wanted my film, but I was already ignoring him and back to enjoying the show (this was not the time or the place to argue with them, not to mention pointless, not to mention taking up VALUABLE Ed set time...) I got a handful of photos. I don't care. =)
Next song starts, and for a split second I think it's "Radio Free Europe" by R.E.M. and then I just LOSE IT when I realize that it's the #1 song on my list of predictions, and the only other song left on my List Of PJ Covers To Hear: "Driven To Tears". OH MAN... and by now, they are REALLY rocking out, they're solid, they're just plowing through this and absolutely doing it justice.
And I'm singing along, and then it HITS me...hey, there is a THEME here! Have you ever thought about the lyrics to this song? Yeah, you know them, but listen for a second:How can you say that you're not responsible?Whoa. What a major political statement this song really is. I never thought about it that way before. It just goes to show you, there is always a method to Vedder's madness. And the thing is, it's always subtle; he never holds up a neon sign or draws you a picture, he just dos these things and lets them stand on their own, and leaves it up to us to figure it out for ourselves.
What does it have to do with me?
What is my reaction?
What should it be?
Confronted by this latest atrocity
Driven to tears....
So, by now they're really hitting their stride...and they go into the jam, totally rocking out, absolutely frantic...and then come out and pause: "Okay, so I was fucking with you guys, we've been practicing... it was a playful lie, ya know.. are you okay with that? [LOUD cheer] "I mean, you... looks like we all live in America, we get lied to all the time. Don't believe everything..."Protest is futileIt was also during this song, and this verse, that I really, really notice what absolutely magnificent voice Ed was in. I don't think he's ever sounded better. He sounded (and looked) relaxed, he looked confident, he looked comfortable.
Nothing seems to get through
What's to become of our world?
Who knows what to do?
Driven to tears...
I don't recognize the next song... as we find out later, it's "Running Out Of Time" by Dead Moon (didn't call that one, next one I did recognize as a Dead Moon song). Pace is a little slower, I can catch my breath, look around, check out the crowd, see the guys with the large "BABA O'RILEY" sign a few rows back (me, thinking: "YOU CAN'T DO BABA WITH A THREE-PIECE!") Short break, into the following song already, the drums kick in, this is more of a rocker: "BREAKOUT!" Woo hoo! I wanna pogo, but the first jump lands me back down in the puddle, and I'm reminded of the water situation again.
So the theme's continued:Strapped in silence, witnesses deniedNow, here's interesting for you: I recognized this as a Dead Moon song, the band confirmed it as a Dead Moon song, but damned if I could find what album it was on. A little research, and it would appear that what happened is, Ed must've listened to a live tape or an album and guessed the lyrics; his lyric sheet called this song "I'm Not Ready," but what it really is is a Dead Moon song called "Diamonds In The Rough":
If we all take the backseat, who's gonna drive
I know American justice is blind
If we're so far ahead, how come we're running behind?
Rivers of sorrow, diamonds in the roughEd closes it nicely with a brilliant Townshend mid-air jump. Woo hoo!
Everything you wanted and it still ain't enough
Load it in the chamber, fire point blank
If it don't make change, it don't make rank
I'm not ready
Strike in silence, witnesses denied
If we all take the backseat, who's gonna drive
Eye on America, justice is blind
If we're so far ahead, how come we're running behind
I'm not ready
Next song starts and my brain is on RED ALERT because I KNOW THIS SONG!:internal dialogue:I scrawl "Love --> Building On Fire" and then go nuts, forgetting the water (*squish*), forgetting everything, just NOT believing the twists and turns this set is taking us through. Wow. And to think that for even a minute I hesitated about coming out for this? (Okay, so Europe and Springsteen in New Jersey were taking precedence... THANK YOU PEARL JAM for being so uncharacteristic and letting us actually know that Europe wasn't going to happen... I'm sure I'm not the only one for whom that announcement tipped the scales in the favor of TFC '99.)
"Okay...okay...what is it... sounds like a Who song!"
[Somehow in a split second my brain processes every song in the Who's catalog and rejects it.]
"Okay...the recording I have of this is really bad quality... maybe it's a demo? Maybe it's a Bad Radio song?"
[Three seconds later]
"No! No! GOA! 96! ROME! TALKING HEADS! AUGHHHHHH!"
This cover, too, rocks mightily. It always amazes me how much NOISE a good three-piece rock band can create. Here's *another* thing - it's much, much harder to go up with such a sparse lineup and play - you have to work much, much harder because there's no one else to take up the slack if you fuck up and much less space and layers for you to hide in. Yeah, I'm bitching again about (imo) irresponsible, cynical, pre-conceived mainstream reportage, but jeez, what did they want? Did they want Ed to get up there with a bunch of session musicians and play the Pearl Jam top ten? If he'd done that, they would have accused him of being commercial and selling out (and never in a million years did I expect, or want, to hear that). Instead, he uses this platform to perform a handful of songs by fairly obscure Pacific Northwest legends, accompanied by some friends of his, and gets lambasted for being "unprepared". What did they want him to do? Rehearse so much that all the life was sucked out of it, with zero room for spontaneity? This was fresh and raw and vital, completely electric, little sparks jumping all over the place. You'd have to be blind, deaf or comatose to deny it.
Ed is checking with someone at the side to see how much time he had left (as he was doing sporadically throughout the set... me thinking, no, no, NOT yet, just ONE more...), and then says, "Well, we came a long way to be here, for all the right reasons, I know it was difficult for us, and I know it was difficult for you... I think we travelled the same two-lane highway to get here....[loud cheer]...not to mention all the other stuff that might have happened in your life that got you to this place...but..it's gonna be great! Enjoy the rest of the day! I'm glad we could be part of it, and thank Jon and Brad once more [more loud cheering]....this song's called 'I Am A Patriot'".
Of course, I didn't hear the last bit, just "this song's called [mumble] [LOUD CHEER]," so I knew it was something that everyone knew....but not *quite* like this! I still didn't know until Ed started singing and then it was full on bounce-around mode...except for the *squish* factor, of course (Jessica after the set: "I wanted to jump around, except it ended up being, 'I am a Patriot *squish* 'And I love my country' *squish*...") While "Driven To Tears" really does get my vote as the best song in the set, this absolutely punk RAWK version just utterly and completely blew me away. Yes, Ed up there playing folkie with an acoustic guitar is lovely and beautiful and moving. But, protest songs can rock out too, and this had to be the biggest and best surprise of the whole set. Not to mention that the band was honed to this fine razor-sharpness at this point, Ed windmilling madly at the end of the set, sweating bullets, the band crashing to a close, while the crowd once again goes totally nuts.
You don't believe me? Ah, I can't explain it; you'll just have to listen to it yourself:That's it! *WOW* It was sad in a way, only because it was so evident at that point that they REALLY could have used more time, not a lot, let's say 15 more minutes (and yes there WERE 15 more minutes to give him...can you say "Run DMC" anyone who was there? I bet you can! More on that later). Jon Stewart in his interview with Ed that appeared on the TFC site (see the transcription here) name-checked The Jam, and dammit, here he was dead on with that comparison. The same energy, the same spirit, the same movement. (And it's funny, because the Jam were also incredibly political in their own way.... very fitting comparison.)
Final verdict? This was a great, great set; even a week later, finally allowing myself to listen to the show again and again as I write this, all it does is make me realize that it was even better than I remembered it. (Angel on the phone a week later: "I like this tape better than Yield!") This was thoughtful, this was a deliberate effort, it was a conscious attempt to put something special together. It was musically valid. The songs chosen had (for the most part) deliberate, total relevance to the event at hand. It KICKED ASS! What more could you want?
[there's info at the end of the second part about tape status & links to check out records by dead moon, c average, and the mono men]
Copyright © 1999 Caryn Rose