I wasn’t the only person taking a road trip in the summer of 2003–Brandon and Courtney had packed up their belongings and made the long journey back to Minnesota to start their new lives as a married couple.
Before saying goodbye to California, though, the two newlyweds saw Pearl Jam three more times the week before they left–once in Mountain View and twice in Irvine–where Brandon finally got to see his favorite song, “Immortality”, performed live.
With Brandon back, the two of us laid on an all-out assault on Pearl Jam concerts over the next ten years. Between 2004-2013, I went to 15 Pearl Jam shows and Brandon hit 19 shows; we went to 12 of those together.
Pearl Jam Shows Brandon and I Attended, 2004-2013
(bolded shows = both of us)
Toledo, OH–2004 (with Courtney)
Thunder Bay, ON–2005 (Brandon and Patrick)
Chicago, IL–2006 (with Courtney and Patrick)
St. Paul, MN x 2–2006 (with Courtney and Patrick)
Gorge, WA x 2–2006 (my friend Rahkola and I)
Mountain View x 2–2006 (Brandon and Courtney plus two college friends)
Chicago, IL–2007 (with Patrick)
New York, NY x 2–2008 (Brandon and Courtney)
Chicago, IL x 2–2009
Kansas City, MO–2010 (Brandon and Patrick)
St. Louis, MO–2010 (with Patrick)
PJ 20 x 2–2011 (with Patrick and other friends)
London, ON–2013 (Brandon solo)
Wrigley Field–2013 (with Patrick)
Seattle, WA–2013 (my friend Kelly and I)
These shows ramped up a friendly rivalry between Brandon and me. You see, Brandon desperately wanted to go to those two Gorge shows because he knew they were going to be epic performances. The Gorge Amphitheater alone is a geological masterpiece, with the backdrop of the sun setting behind the bluffs that have been carved out by the Columbia River that snakes its way behind the stage. But when the band announced there would be no opener–just a night alone with Pearl Jam—, we knew it was going to be a 60-song weekend. When I brought up the idea of flying out to Seattle and driving out to the Gorge, though, Brandon just sighed:
“Courtney’s sister is getting married that weekend.”
I wish in the moment I had been more gracious, but I wasn’t. “That sucks,” I said. “I’ll send you a postcard with the set lists on it.”
Now, let me take a minute to explain the significance of this interaction to functionally-sound Pearl Jam fans. When I tell people I’m going to multiple Pearl Jam shows like my upcoming Eurotrip, they always ask, “Why? Isn’t it the same show night after night?”
NO! IT’S NOT! NOT AT ALL!
That’s the beauty of a Pearl Jam show–you never know what you’re going to get. Yeah, you’re going to hear “Evenflow” and “Alive”, and yes, your chances of hearing “Corduroy” and “Do the Evolution” are really high. You’ll likely get either “Daughter” or “Elderly Woman Behind a Counter in a Small Town”, or sometimes you’ll get both. Lately you’re bound to get “Mind Your Manners” at almost every show. And sure, there are songs they’re going to play more often than others like “Why Go” and “Jeremy” and “Go” and “Given to Fly”–but after that, it’s a crap shoot. In fact, Brandon and I turn guessing which songs they’re going to play into games that help us pass the time while driving or flying because at a Pearl Jam show, any song in the band’s vast catalog of music over the last 27 years is fair game.
Play this board with your friends during your next Pearl Jam adventure!
Modify this board all you want!
My only suggestion is to use the PJ Stat Tracker app to help you assess point totals
Brandon and I also include a category called, “Song We DON’T Want to Hear”–
choose one song worth -5 points.
State of Love and Trust
All or None
I Got ID
Not For You
All Those Yesterdays
Crown of Thorns
Speed of Sound
Force of Nature
Of the Girl
Mind Your Manners
Do the Evolution
I Am Mine
Hard to Imagine
Given to Fly
(pick the first three in order = 20 pts!)
Marker in the Sand
Black Red Yellow
To put this in perspective for you, let’s go back to those Gorge shows: Pearl Jam played a total of 61 songs in two nights. Of those 61 songs, they only played “Corduroy”, “Severed Hand”, “World Wide Suicide”, Evenflow”, “Life Wasted”, “Alive”, and “Given to Fly” both nights. Three of those seven songs are on the self-titled album (also known as the “Avocado” album because it has a picture of, well, an avocado on the cover) that was released earlier that year–so of course they were going to play songs from their new album more than once!
One also needs to understand that when you’re a Pearl Jam fan, getting that rare deep cut or that song you’ve been chasing for so long–“the white whale” as Brandon calls it–is such an incredible feeling that takes a show to new heights. It’s even cooler when it’s the only song you haven’t seen performed live off of an album. And sometimes, you’ll take drastic measures to see songs like this, like the time Brandon and I flew to Pensacola for DeLuna Fest in 2012 because we just knew in our heart of hearts that if Pearl Jam was ever going to play “Oceans”–the only song off of Ten that we hadn’t seen live at that point–well, it would have to be when they’re playing next to the fucking ocean, right? Obviously we couldn’t be certain that this was going to happen, but the whole situation was just too perfect for it not to happen!
(Besides, Foo Fighters were headlining the next night, so that was an added incentive to walk along the sugary beaches of Florida’s panhandle and take in some live rock ‘n’ roll!).
So we booked our hotel and flights, bought our festival tickets, rented a car, and made our way to Pensacola. We watched Eddie come out during Gaslight Anthem’s set to perform their cover of “State of Love and Trust”, and then we slipped back along the shoreline and waited for the ocean to wash over our feet while Pearl Jam played “Oceans”.
The two of us splashed around the beach with anxious anticipation like a couple of middle school boys who hope their nervous energy will somehow speed up time. Then, the lights went out, and we heard a roar from the crowd as Pearl Jam walked onstage. First we looked up; then we looked down–our feet were ankle-deep in the Atlantic Ocean. As Ed walked up to the mic, I felt a great sense of confidence that the moment we were in was magically perfect.
Ed counted in the band: “One, two, three…’Hold on to the thread/The currents will shift/Glide me towards you…’”
Later in that set, the band would surprise me with “Parachutes”, the only song I hadn’t seen off of the self-titled album (and the only time I’ve ever seen that song live!). I remember turning to Brandon and hugging him because I was so excited!
What? Why is that weird?
Brandon feeling alive in the ocean during DeLuna Fest in Pensacola.
But six years earlier, when I–the Johnny-come-lately Pearl Jam fan–saw “Rats”, “Leash”, “Wash” and “Satan’s Bed” at the Gorge before Brandon–the most die-hard Pearl Jam fan I know–had ever seen them, it was a point of contention for two years until he and Courtney saw “Rats” and “Leash” in NYC in 2008.
Of course, I still had bragging rights over “Wash” and “Satan’s Bed”…that is, until Night 2 of Pearl Jam 20 in 2011. That night, lightning struck three times for Brandon. He needed “No Way”, “Red Mosquito”, and “Satan’s Bed” to complete Yield, No Code, and Vitalogy. After they opened with “Wash“, the band added songs like “Habit” and “Leatherman” to my collection. Then, at the conclusion of “Leatherman”, Ed brought up Julian Casablancas from The Strokes and told a quick story about a night in San Francisco where he got sick, and from the ailing depths of his infirm mind came their next song: “Red Mosquito“!
I looked over at Brandon and made a check-mark into the air and we both laughed uncontrollably as McCready turned his guitar into a buzzing pest. The crowd sang in powerful unison the words to a chorus that could easily describe what it’s like to be an obsessed Pearl Jam fan: “I was bitten/It must have been the devil…”
As if that moment wasn’t amazing enough, the band decided to stay with the devilish theme and ripped right into “Satan’s Bed“. Once again, I checked off the imaginary PJingo card of albums completed, and we screamed “ALREADY…IN LOVE” during the chorus because we totally were in love with that moment.
And to top it all off? “No Way” was played during the first encore (which Ed had to strong-arm Stone into playing!), and another album was checked off for Brandon.
(And to think…Chris Cornell came out during the second encore and sang “Call Me a Dog“, “All Night Thing“, “Reach Down“, and “Hunger Strike” with Ed–but somehow this wasn’t nearly as awesome as getting those three songs in the same night! “It’s like buying a pack of baseball cards and getting the only three players you need to complete the set in that one pack!” Brandon said on the drive back home from Alpine Valley.)
Oh yeah, this also happened at PJ20…
At that point, Brandon’s collection of live performances felt significantly more complete than mine did. Not that I was jealous or anything. I mean, I still got to see “Big Wave” at the Gorge, and that’s the only song Brandon hasn’t seen off of the “Avocado” album to this day. Not to mention (but I will), I also got “Dirty Frank”!
Of course, any time I try to rub these in Brandon’s face, he reminds me that I haven’t seen “Parting Ways” or “Tremor Christ” or a full version of “WMA”.
But I have seen “Strangest Tribe” and “Angel” and he hasn’t, so there’s that.
Then again, he’s seen “Soldier of Love”, “Last Soldier” (twice), and “Alone”, so there’s that.
Albums I’ve Seen in Their Entirety:
(but only if I count the “WMA” tag, which I’m gonna…sue me)
No Code (thanks, Moline!)
Yield (thanks, Berlin!)
(they didn’t even play “Red Dot” in Milwaukee, so it doesn’t count)
Riot Act (thanks, Europe!)
Lightning Bolt (thanks again, Europe!)
Songs I’m Missing from Studio Albums:
Vitalogy = “Tremor Christ”
(I’m not counting that other bullshit…sue me again)
Binaural = “Rival” and “Parting Ways”
(I got “Soon Forget” at an Ed-Ved solo show…totally counts!)
Backspacer = “Gonna See My Friend”; “Johnny Guitar”; “Force of Nature”
B-Sides I Have Seen That Have Been Played 10 Total Times or Fewer:
“Let Me Sleep (It’s Christmas Time)–3 times (out of six)
“Education”–2 times (out of nine)
“Hold On”–2 times (out of five)
“Brother”–1 time (out of eight)
“Black Red Yellow”–1 time (out of seven)
“Speed of Sound”–1 time (out of seven)
“Angel”–1 time (out of six)
“Dirty Frank”–1 time (out of six)
“In the Moonlight”–1 time (out of four)
“Bugs”–1 time (out of three)
“Strangest Tribe”–1 time (out of two)
The beauty of it all is that you could go to Pearl Jam concerts for years and continue seeing songs you’ve never seen live before. In fact, it wasn’t until my 30th show–St. Paul in 2014–that I was shut out. Not a single song played that night was new to me. But you know what? It was still a great show!
So the question remains: is it really about which Pearl Jam songs you’ve seen live? Shouldn’t we just be able to enjoy the shows for what they are at this stage in our lives?
No! Play fucking “Tremor Christ” and “Parting Ways”!
Today’s title is taken from Pearl Jam’s “Deep” off the album Ten, released in 1991.
On the hunt for your white whale? Tell us what it is below!
Play the PJ song-board game and post your choices below!
Tell us which show you attended so we can see how good of a guesser you are!
Like what I wrote? “Like” and share this post with other obsessive Pearl Jam fans!
Want to take a virtual tour of Europe this summer through this blog?
Subscribe and follow along!