"i wish i was a 40 foot wave..."
opening shows of the 1998 tour
21 & 22 february, 1998
19 february, 1998
#$%@! alarm goes off. I got to sleep at 1am, 2 1/2 hours ago, mind you. Spent the week working these insane hours while making last-minute Maui preparations, including having to replace my camera in a panic Monday night, the result of a nosedive it took onto the floor of the Rose Garden at the Portland Stones show last month. (A blessing, really; i hated it, it sucked for show photography, but $100 is $100, ya know?)
Out of the door by 4am. I'm wearing shorts and it's 42 degrees and raining -- welcome to the Seattle winter, for those of you still wondering exactly why the boys decided to start this tour in Maui! I drive to the airport and get my lack-of-sleep addled self on a 6am flight to SFO uneventfully. But I'm tired, way worn out, trying to pull myself out of the gloom and doom of everyday life. *kick* "cut it OUT, you're on your way to MAUI!" *kick* "You're gonna see Pearl fuckin' Jam in a little over 24 hours!" *kick* You get the idea. I wasn’t too successful and hoped that a few hours sleep, accompanied by Yield on the walkman, would help me sort myself out.... And then 3/4 of Mudhoney strolled onto the plane. Or, more precisely, Matt Lukin sat down one row behind me, and every time I felt myself slipping out of Maui Mode, I'd hear that cackle or that unmistakable mumble and the little black cloud would vanish. hee =) A good omen? Hell, I thought so, even if we reached gate 30 of SFO with 7 minutes to make our Maui connection at -- gate 84. (For those keeping score, this time Lukin and Dan Peters were in my row for this flight.) I relax, catch a few hours of much needed sleep, and reach Maui before noon in a much better frame of mind.
The car rental place is a ZOO. There's a two hour wait, and I seriously question whether or not there will even be any cars for me despite my reservation. $#@! People wearing PJ shirts of every stripe, from Oakland Yield to Bridge 96, play hacky sack in the sunshine in the parking lot. Tourists here on vacation are bemused by the whole scene. I get smart after 10 minutes, take out the cellphone and call the line-less Avis office across the street, and find myself in possession of a car 20 minutes later. Throw my bags in the trunk, pull Yield out of my backpack, and hit the road, DTE blaring, windows down. I forgot about the latter a few seconds later, when the song reached the solo and I SCREAMED at the top of my lungs out of sheer exuberation, garnering worried looks from the cars stopped at the light around me. I'm in MAUI! It's HOT and SUNNY! I'm off work until next WEDNESDAY! My best friend is on the other side of the island and I'll see her tomorrow!
We land, I tear off my "angel" thermal and denim shirt -- wearing my Stones shirt from Oakland in honor of the trip -- don my shades and walk out into what can only be described as Paradise. "Feels foreign," comments Lukin, walking out ahead of me. He's right. Toto, we are not in Kansas any more!
And I'm going to see PEARL JAM TOMORROW NIGHT!!!
Hey, you'd scream too. =)
By the time I hit the Hana Highway en route to our rented beachfront condo, on the North Shore, 10 minutes from Kahului and the venue, MFC is on the tape:
I’m hearing this, I look around at the green mountains, the blue sky, the ocean in the distance, and I just start crying.
out of reverse into drive, this
wheel will be turning right, then straight
off in the sunset she'll ride
remember a time denied, stood by
the side of the road, spilled like wine, now
she's out on her own and line high...."
I'm in the water 20 minutes after I arrive and spend the afternoon kayaking in the waves, swimming, sleeping in the sun. I jump in the car, pop a live Neil Young tape into the deck, and head to Paia for dinner and shopping; manage to score a poster for the second show from a hairdresser there. I think I scared the woman there badly, after I told her I'd come to Maui for the show all the way from Seattle. =)
Came back and spent the evening on the porch, listening to the waves and the Neil tape, breathing the air, looking at the zillions of stars. Got ready for the show the next day, sorting out my microphone and tape recorder, only to discover that the mic - an antique from 10 years ago - no longer works. I look at the notebook, camera, and film, and decide that there's no way I can tape the show, keep a setlist, and take photos, and leave the taping up to the experts.
I also discover that we don't have 800 or 888 access from the condo. This translates into no internet access while we're here. Hmmm. I glance at my laptop lying in the corner and shrug -- oh well, we have a contingency plan for getting the setlists reported, and hell, I could use a forced vacation from cyberspace. I'm asleep by 10pm with the waves as background music -- long day tomorrow!
20 February, 1998
I'm up and in the water 15 minutes after getting out of bed. Grab a kayak and head out into the waves. It's choppier than yesterday -- lots of big waves! Breakfast 2 hours later is fresh papaya and other tropical fruit, prepared while listening to the Barcelona 96 soundcheck, one of my favorite instrumental recordings. Nothing like eating breakfast listening to an extended version of "Hard To Imagine," ya know?
Jean and her husband arrive by noon and there was much rejoicing! We gear up for the show and head excitedly into Kahului. Find the venue; there is NO line to speak of, we don't see anyone we know, and we're hungry, so we head off for lunch and errands. Load up the cooler with ice and water for after the show. We find a back way into venue parking (cuz it didn't open until 4pm, the doors were at 5pm -- what were they THINKING?) and get on line in time to hear the last three songs of the soundcheck: "MFC," "Oceans," "Jeremy" and a bit of "Alive". *yawn* People are buzzing that they'll open with "Oceans"; we reserve judgment ourselves, hoping and praying we'll get as much of Yield as humanely possible. Allegedly, the soundcheck was recorded by an enterprising taper who "forgot" his boots at the main gate -- into which his DAT was hidden. We are suitably impressed!
We meet old friends and acquaint ourselves with tons of new ones, connect faces with email addresses, and hear stories. Many people are adorned in handmade PJ shirts, from DTE quotes to "Operation Pearl Jam" ones. Very cool. People have come from EVERYWHERE to see this show; there's a more-than-healthy Seattle contingent, including Gwen and her 10-year-old son, the major Mudhoney fan who stood next to me during the show (son: "Mom, I want a new Mudhoney shirt." Mom: "It's the same one as the one you already have"), as well as Dennis (who ran into Mike while at Maui Taco) and his wife Belinda, who stood in front of us on the line, as well as a preponderance of Californians -- but there were fans from New York, South Carolina, Japan, Austin, New Jersey, Connecticut, Germany -- you name it.
The venue security keeps waffling -- no backpacks, no water, no cameras, no tape recorders. Then, it's backpacks - but we have to search them (doh!), water is okay, disposable cameras are fine, small recorders are fine. then, it's cameras the same size as a disposable are okay. Argh. How difficult is it to have one solid policy and to communicate it effectively to venue security???! I give up trying to figure it out, stuff my camera into its usual hiding place and we stroll in the venue at 5:15, to the accompaniment of a Stones mix tape on the PA. This makes me evem MORE psyched -– even though I didn’t know how my heart could beat any faster than it already was.
This place was ridiculously small -- 5,000 capacity, okay, but it was hard to imagine (heh) how they'd fit that many people into this tiny space. A wedding reception would have been more appropriate! The stage is TINY, it's raised up on this concrete platform with a canopy over it, and it looks like the stage for a street fair, not for a Pearl Jam concert. This is too much.
Jean and Tony head for the center of the pit, about 3-4 people back from the barrier. I shake my head -- I'm not THAT brave -- and head to Mike's side instead, where i find a lot of small, short girls wearing sandals. Well, I can see over them, if they bail out I can claim their spaces, and they're nice enough to not have a cow if i need to grab on to the barrier between them. I'm one person from the barrier, though, and the odds look good. I'd rather stand with my friends, but I just do not trust the damn pit, and appearances can be very deceiving, not to mention the fact that the moshing assholes generally arrive three seconds after the band starts playing.
Everyone is in amazingly high spirits. People are friendly, chatty, happy beyond words to be here. Well, doh! It's warm, it's clear, there are palm trees around the perimeter of the venue, people further back are lying down on blankets spread out on the lawn. It's relaxed and majorly cool. I break position long enough to hit the merchandise stand and snag a few of the supremely cool event-specific shirts, a poster and some stickers. As I head back to my space, I stick the poster in the poster tube Jean brought along in her backpack and run into a whole bunch more people I know. It's PJ Homecoming Week! This is very cool.
I get back to my spot as quickly as possible, accompanied by the Addicted To Noise staff covering the show who want some quotes. Sure, why not. Why am I here? Jesus! Maui. February. Seattle in February. PJ. First show of 98 tour. Gee, twist my arm, why dontcha? =) (Okay, so I'm pissed they used the stupidest quote I gave them.) They ask me if there’s anything else I have to say, and I babble something about how I hope the band trusts the audience and themselves enough to give us more material from the current album in the setlist than they did with the last tour and No Code. Some people behind him hear him mention 5h and me spelling my name and go, "Hey! It's Caryn!" and I blush about 20 shades of red and stare down at my boots. But I got over it (so did Jean), and we met about a gazillion extremely cool people who before were just IP addresses in our server logs. This we did not expect -- we were there as fans first, the page is just something we do, it's not like we were wearing 5h shirts or anything like that -- and we would have expected a lynching party anyway. We did not expect to meet all these incredibly wonderful people who were as insane about PJ as we are. (/me waves hi!!!)
So we get closer to showtime. More old friends show up. The rumor du jour is that Neil Young is supposed to fly in "from California" for the show tomorrow -- the source is a good one, but as Jared Kelly astutely noted, "There are always two rumors at a Pearl Jam show: club gig and Neil Young." He's right. (The former turned out to be bullshit, but the latter -- ah, I get ahead of myself.)
So, 7pm, and Mudhoney hit the stage with a rousing rendition of "Suck You Dry", raising cheers and smiles from the crowd. They proceed to play a great set, heavily leaning on their "greatest hits" (*snrk*), with some new material thrown in. The crowd received them well and didn't start doing anything stupid until halfway through the set. But even then it was fine, it was still cool, and hell, 5,000 people singing along to "Touch Me, I'm Sick" can't be anything but a good thing.
40 minutes later, they're off – Dan Peters and Matt Lukin were already packing up their stuff as Mark and Steve were still working the feedback -- and the PJ crew clear the stage in record time. The crowd's getting heavier. I caution the girls in front of me that I will probably need to grab onto the rail between them if it gets bad. We're ready. Cameras are loaded, notebook is in position. We see towels onstage, water, set lists taped down. The incense is lit, in the only stage prop PJ seem to have brought with them (where was Stone's COW????): this wooden, Balinese-like rooster (you tell me, I sure as hell don't know) perched on Jeff's amp, and before we know it, there they ARE and they slam into -- "Corduroy", of all things! And it rocks, it just rocks out, there are no words, it sounds great, they sound great, they LOOK great -- healthy and rested. Ed's wearing a Hawaiian shirt, black tshirt, black jeans, a string of puka shells around his neck. Mike's got on a Van Halen tshirt and shorts, looking great. Jeff in a tank top, also looking great. Stone in a tshirt, Stone Shorts (read: u-g-l-y), sunglasses a la Oakland IV and a baseball cap, looking great (even if he has this spikey hair thing going later on after he removes the hat). I can't see Jack too well, but he looks great too -- shorter hair.
[click on any of the images to see a larger version]
Next up are "Hail Hail" - Ed starts with the wrong verse, we giggle, but otherwise all is well -- followed by "Brain of J" and "Faithfull" in rapid succession, the latter especially welcome and the whole chorus transforming into an audience singalong on the "we all believe" line. (Then again, down front both nights the whole show, every song, was a singalong. It was wonderful!!!)
"Red Mosquito" next. Mike is playing like a maniac. The crowd is getting more and more intense, crowd surfers flying thick and fast from the center, the front a blur of red security shirts as they do their best to get people out. It looks really bad in the center and on Stone's side; our side luckily seems to have escaped most of the action for now. I am hoping that Jean and Tony had enough sense to bail and aren't hurt. I'm still worried. The barrier is apparently breaking in the center -- it was just plywood -- and we get a break while security tries to shore things up, Eddie moving the crowd back a few steps and making a crack t hat "they must have gotten the Mariah Carey barricade or something" (and I discover on Sunday that she'd been on the island about two weeks before. I swear, the man notices EVERYTHING).
The girls in front of me finally freak, worried that the barricade will break with them on it, and pull out. I, however, do not share their fear and so i get to take their place, with Gwen's small son taking the other spot next to me. I'm watching everyone in security working their butts off, Eric Johnson down there supervising, checking with the smaller people to make sure that they're okay. This venue has hosted Soundgarden and NOFX and hasn't had to deal with this level of crowd control before. Whoda thunk it? Anyway, I'm pleased as punch to be at the barrier, since this will make the notebook/setlist and camera juggle that much easier, not to mention room to BREATHE.
"Wish List" is up next and another fuckup on the words. We could care less, though I am a little worried about Ed at this point, mostly because he seems to be getting really angry at himself more than anything -- but one of the show's best moments was during this song, during the "50 million hands upraised and open towards the sky" line, where most of the crowd did just that, totally spontaneously. It hadn't even occurred to me until that moment. At the end, instead of fading the song out, we got an extra line, Eddie singing, "I wish I was a 40 foot wave, breaking on the North Shore..."
A typically bouncy "Evenflow" followed, where we treated to Mr. Stone Gossard on the bongo drums (I'm not kidding!), and then a strong but straightforward "MFC". This will be one of the songs to watch out for, we bet it'll become an intense, extended jam - it's not there yet but it don't matter. 8 songs into the set and we've already had FOUR songs from the new record. This is the way to do it, boys!
Next song, Eddie dons a guitar and starts singing -- but nothing I or anyone else around me recognized. It wasn't an improv, it felt like a finished song, but it just could have been an extended lead into "Habit". An exuberant "Betterman" and a standard "Jeremy" were up next. The boys convene around Jack for a little powwow, and it looks heated - Ed smacks Stone's guitar strings and then picks up the mic stand and heaves it onto the concrete platform in front of the stage. Uh-oh. It appearened to me that Eddie was getting noticeably flustered by his fuckups, and yeah they could have been more focused, but the show was still great and no one really noticed. But this moment showed that it obviously really bothered Eddie; he went and got his mic, and then apologized for the outburst, saying he "just wanted everything tonight to be perfect". Sometimes I think he is a little too hard on himself....
Anyway. We next arrived at Yield song #4, GTF, where Mike McCready just owned the stage and the moment and the song. Ohmigod. We were down there screaming and cheering him on and he rewarded us all with constant nods and smiles the whole night. Go, Mikey!!! (And for the record, dude was wearing shorts and dude was NOT fat. His face is the heaviest thing about him and the many McCready girls I met thought he looked just fine. He had great color -- all of the guys did -- and fuck, who CARES what he looks like when he's playing like he is????)
"Daughter" received the typically enthusiastic response from the audience -- Jean later reported that a mosh pit opened up for this song, gimme a break. Then , we took a little break and Stone gave a "shout out" to Mudhoney, who during their set had mentioned that they'd been together for 10 years, and to commemorate that were going to have a four-way male marriage (making reference to the fact that Hawaii is, of course, the only state with legal same-sex marriage). Our Ed stepped up to the mic with an evil grin and said, "We just asked them if we could be part of their four-way marriage...get it up to eight. Any other men out there, in this legal same-sex marriage state, anyone else want to be married to us? C'mon!" And then with the evilest grin I have EVER seen on him, he says, "C'mon boys, you get to fuck me!....or, or, then again, I get to fuck youuu....." and the crowd cheers wildly.
Stone smirks, "on that note" and Radio Hit #2, "Black" came up next. My friend Karen taps me on the shoulder and goes, "your line is next!" to which I grimaced and yelled back, "Ya know, I don't even like this song all that much!" but I do like the song, it's just over-emphasized, and tonight's version was the most beautiful one ever, I'm sure the tropical setting, palm trees, stars and balmy breeze, helped though.
So then, out of nowhere, came the moment that I personally was waiting for, Reason #5 that made the trip to Maui and these shows what they were:
And fuck. Oh, holy mother. This was everything I wanted it to be and then some. I'm down there screaming, crying , they're up there giving it everything they're worth. Mr. Vedder especially -- even if he did feel the need to inform us, "I was tripping, that's what was happening" during the "soon I was seeing visions and cracks along the walls" line.
Now it's rave-up time, as Mikey dons the Flying V and "It's Evolution, Baby!" echoes though the Maui night, the audience and Ed screaming as one unified organism. This is the song we will remember from this tour. They love it, we love it, and it's the live powerhouse of the album, like "Hail Hail" is for No Code. (And this version was tame compared to...oh, wait. I'll get there.) Last song in the set is -- "Last Exit," another weird song placement (but thank you, thank you, for FINALLY mixing it up!) and they're off.
It's 9:30, we know there's a 10pm curfew, and I overhear the head of security tell the bouncers there are three more songs. Okay, what???! C'mon back!
And my breath is taken away when they return and the opening chords to "Once" reverberate into the stars. Oh, man. I've noticed that when they think they've done a bad show -- Austin 95 comes to mind -- they'll start the encore with "Once" to try to refocus. Well, they sure as hell accomplished that. Woo hoo! Then, it's musical chairs onstage, as Stone and Jeff switch instruments and I'm racking my over-excited brain to try to figure out what song on Yield Stone plays bass on -- and then Ed pulls out a harmonica, the taper girl next to me says "Smile!!!" and that basically describes the result. Holy fuck! WOO HOO! The song most underplayed and most bitched about on the 96 tour, live and in person and rocking hard! And yes, it was as good as you'd imagine it would be. Jean was especially impressed with Jeff’s guitar solo.
Then Eddie utters the traditional formula, "Mike's gonna start this one," and I know it's time for YL, but I gotta say, besides the version from the last night of Randall's Island 96 and the version from 11/19 Oakland, this will be one of the few renditions of Ledbetter I will actively enjoy hearing. Go, MIKEY!
And that's it. I peel myself off the barrier, struggle out to the parking lot where I find Jean and Tony, call the setlist in to nd, sitting home in rainy Seattle, and head back to the beach to babble about the show for a few hours before collapsing into blissful sleep.On to night two...
Text and photographs copyright © 1998 Caryn Rose