25 Years - The Long Road with Pearl Jam

Philly-4/28/16
Philly-4/28/16

On Tuesday morning, March 29th, 1994, I scoured the newspaper, looking for some sort of review of the concert I had seen the night before with my Dad and a few high school friends at Bayfront Park in Miami.

Bleary-eyed, I tried to focus on the words in front of me - hoping to find some sort of evidence of what I had recently witnessed…something that would bring me back to the excitement of the previous night.

And then - there it was. Just when I was about to give up and run out the door to school, I finally found the headline I had been looking for in the Palm Beach Post: “Thousands of fans storm barricades to see Pearl Jam.”

I suddenly woke up and adrenaline rushed through me as I clung to every word that passed by my eyes. It was as if I was reliving the moments of my first epic Pearl Jam show right there in my parent’s kitchen.

The article read: “Thousands of fans with and without tickets waiting in fenced-in areas and on Biscayne Boulevard to get into Monday Night’s Pearl Jam concert at AT&T Bayfront Park Amphitheater stormed fences and barricades about 9:20 p.m. to get into the theater and close to the stage.”

“About 8,000 tickets were sold for the show. But when Pearl Jam took the stage almost an hour late, 12,000 to 20,000 members of Generation X were crammed in to the place,” police officers and Miami Fire-Rescue workers said. “Thousands of fans remained outside on the street hoping to hear one of the hottest alternative bands in the country as Metro-Dade police helicopters flew overhead shining powerful spotlights on the crowds.”

I was one of the lucky few who scored a ticket to see Pearl Jam play this small venue and had been nearly trampled by fans, attempting to get a closer look at the band whose debut album, Ten, had taken the music world by storm in 1991.

It was a concert I will never forget in an outdoor venue where the sky opened only during the song, “Oceans.”

I realized that night that my journey with Pearl Jam was just beginning, but I could never have imagined at that moment in time the long road that lay ahead with this band.

As the article stated, Pearl Jam was one of the hottest alternative bands in the country. And I think it’s safe to say – with 25 solid years behind them and a 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in their near future, they still own that description.

It’s been a journey with the band. And as Pearl Jam fans, we all have stories to share. We all have letters written in our minds. Some of us may have already written those letters, and we’re just waiting to send them to the band, thanking them for the years they’ve been with us through the ups and downs of life.

Sure, I have a multitude of stories I could share – including the time my husband and I traveled with the Fan Asylum to see Pearl Jam play Wembley in London. We needed to let go of the stress of not being able to get pregnant after a couple years of trying and decided to give up the money set aside for our next fertility treatment to see the boys play. Shortly after this trip – after a dose of Pearl Jam therapy - I naturally became pregnant with our first son.

Then there were stories about shows I had seen when I was pregnant…one when I was 9 months pregnant and 10 days away from my due date. And one we traveled far to see (with a doctor’s note in hand) to Madison Square Garden when I was 8 months pregnant with our second child.

And the stories could continue if we shared our random encounters with McCready, Cameron, Ament, and Vedder along the way…

Vancouver - On our way to the Seattle show, and look who we bump into...
Vancouver - On our way to the Seattle show, and look who we bump into...

But my stories alone don’t define this band. The long road hasn’t only been my journey. It has been taken by all of you too.

You already know that one of the things I appreciate more than anything about our travels with Pearl Jam are the friends we’ve made along the way - friends who are genuinely good, true, passionate people, whom I couldn’t imagine my life without.

Because these amazing people have become a part of our journey – a part of our lives – and because EVERY Pearl Jam fan has a story or two to share, I wanted my friends to have the opportunity to share their stories.

After all, it’s been 25 years, and it’s time to let this band know exactly what they mean to us.

Gotta love Bern! He does the best impression of Ed!
Gotta love Bern! He does the best impression of Ed!

Bernie Tylor

First met: London

Other than many shows with my wife - including Verizon Center where the Washington Post commented about Ed's "almost mystical presence" on stage, and a Baltimore show where she and I celebrated our wedding anniversary, and several solo acts of Vedder - seeing the boys in London (traveling from my hometown of Maryland) with a close friend and music mentor is a show that rates very high. That’s mainly because Pearl Jam also attracts a special, tightly-knit fan base. It says something powerful that the Fergusons from Florida, a fanatical couple from the Wembley gig, are still dear friends. The band has been the soundtrack to life experiences and provides a therapeutic edge to cut through the clutter and maintain perspective. Faith, family and friends hold the biggest keys to what is vital to life, but in my adult days Pearl Jam has been and will always be a comforting wingman.

(Left to right) My husband - Matt, David Prather, me and Sara Harris
(Left to right) My husband - Matt, David Prather, me and Sara Harris

Sara Harris

First met: Ed show – Ft. Lauderdale

Pearl Jam is the saving grace of so many of us. I’ve struggled my entire life with depression and Bipolar Disorder. It seems cliché to say a band saved your life, but Pearl Jam did. I was obsessed with the thought of suicide, and this band made me want to stay alive - because if they could make this music that made me change the way I look at – seriously – everything, then what else was I missing out on? The song, “Faithfull,” sums up the fan relationship with the band most perfectly. “Just be, darling, and I will be, too…Faithfull…to you.” We are the Faithfull. The fan experience is like none other. I met some of my very dearest real life friends through PJ. I’ve dated fellow fans. The band brings people together in a way I’ve never experienced elsewhere.

Dave Hubert

First met: Tampa

My cousin and close friend growing up passed from brain cancer when we were 16. Every Christmas Eve (she passed on the 23rd) I stop by to see her and put an ornament on the tree by her grave. She was at my first Pearl Jam show in 2000, right when she found out she was sick…So this year, for my tree, I hung ticket stubs as ornaments and took the stub from that show to her grave. This also – the show where I fell in love with their music, the shows, and the experiences with friends, old and new.

(Left to right-Back): me, Rob Schenk, Matt, Dave Hubert, Dave’s buddy, Jenny Schenk, Allison Goldberg, Joe Yannucci (kneeling
(Left to right-Back): me, Rob Schenk, Matt, Dave Hubert, Dave’s buddy, Jenny Schenk, Allison Goldberg, Joe Yannucci (kneeling)

Jenny Schenk

First met: Miami

Sitting on a bus as a sophomore in high school, listening to “Dissident,” rewinding it on my Walkman and listening to it over and over again is my first real PJ memory, but 9/11/1998 is the day that the band truly made an impact on my life. I wanted to impress a guy that I had just met, so I called in a huge favor to get tickets to the show at MSG. I had to fly home from college to surprise Rob with the tickets and just 23 days after we met, on our 3rd date, we saw an epic PJ show (my first and his 2nd), and that night our shared love of Pearl Jam became just another reason why I knew I would marry him one day. 18 years, 40+ shows, countless PJ friends later - we have 3 beautiful boys who share our love of Pearl Jam. And like little kids, we eagerly await tour announcements so we can see our PJ friends and continue to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Heather and I in Seattle
Heather and I in Seattle

Heather Banter

First met: London

A couple friends and I decided to drive up to Sunset Beach, on the North Shore to watch a surfing competition while we were visiting the island for the Pearl Jam shows. We were not on the beach 5 minutes, when I turned around and found myself face to face with Eddie Vedder. He was less than 3 feet away from me, and his eyes were looking directly into mine. I could not move, I could not speak, I could not even blink. It felt like we both stood there for quite some time, but it was probably only a few seconds. In that time, it's like I could tell exactly what he was thinking. He knew I was a fan, to say the least. I could see him wonder if I was going to freak out, but I didn’t. In fact, I didn't do anything. I know that sounds stupid to not have said “hello” or to have reached out my hand, but I couldn't, and I can't really explain why either. I don't regret at all not speaking to Eddie that day. The moment was life-changing. He gave me exactly what I needed, and that was his understanding without saying a word.

“So I’ll just lie alone and wait for the dream, where I’m not ugly and you’re looking at me.”

– Pearl Jam’s, “I Got Id”

Fenway Shows: (Left to right) Michael and Myrsini Smith, Mike McLaughlin, David Prather, Michael Calafati, Joe Yannucci, me a
Fenway Shows: (Left to right) Michael and Myrsini Smith, Mike McLaughlin, David Prather, Michael Calafati, Joe Yannucci, me and Matt

Mike McLaughlin

First met: Boston

My PJ journey began September 28th, 1996 at Randall’s Island, NYC. “Last Exit” was the opener and still holds a special place in my heart since that day. Unbeknownst to me, that show and this band’s impact on my future life had yet to be realized. Fast forward 20 years later – I met my future wife at a Wishlist preparty before an Ed solo show in Philly, 2009, saw the band 49 times in the US and have been blessed to meet and keep such great, lifelong friends as a result of Tour, Wishlist parties and ticket buddy pairings. Tour has now become more about the friendships and meetups; the shows have become the ‘icing on the cake.’ Words can’t convey my gratitude to the band for creating the soundtrack of my life, connecting me to my awesome wife and allowing me to have the beautiful family I have today.

Joe Yannucci

First met: Vancouver

If someone asked you if you had the opportunity to experience your favorite passion several times a year… would you? Seems like a silly question, right? Well, for me...Pearl Jam is my favorite passion. Ever since I first saw them in 1996 with my sister, I always knew there was something special happening with this band. Sure, I can share plenty of stories of my travels to outrageously far away countries, or the people I have met along the way, or the friendships that have grown over the years, or participating in charitable fundraising that is a staple of the Pearl Jam community, or even bringing my mom to my 100th show! But I would rather just simply say that I’m very thankful for having the opportunity to experience Pearl Jam as frequently as I do, because this passion has grown into something that I never could have imagined, and continues to provide memories that will be cherished for as long as I’m alive.

“We ALL walk the long road.” Please feel free to post a brief story and/or a “thank you” to Pearl Jam in the comments section.

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