Chicago: “Troubled souls unite! We’ve got ourselves tonight!”

It’s 8:32 p.m. on Monday, August 20th. Pearl Jam was supposed to go on stage an hour ago. Instead, I’m huddled under a support pillar in the field level concourse of Wrigley Field waiting for inclement weather to pass.

Again.

Are you fucking kidding me, Wrigley?

I thought we were over this.

Never mind getting to see both Home Shows in Seattle, where the Night 2 show was easily one of the best performances Brandon and I have ever seen from this band.  Never mind how amazing Saturday night’s Chicago show was. Never mind getting to see “Alone” for the first time. Never mind getting a chance to rock out one row behind Jill Vedder, Eddie’s wife.

Never mind all that, because outside these Friendly Confines, rain is pouring, lightning bolts are crashing, and thunder is rumbling.

Again.

This time we wisely took shelter long before concert organizers advised us to do so. Brandon, Patrick, his wife Gina, and I have all found ourselves a nice spot against the wall under some ceiling fans where we’re currently waiting for this storm to pass. My friends Mark and Emma are just down the concourse with a good view of the deluge that currently has us impatiently watching the weather radars on our phones in exasperation.

Again.

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“When the rain falls…” 

I did not come prepared for this. I bought a poncho from the CVS just down the road from our hotel, but after the rain fell for the majority of today, I coerced Brandon into going shopping with me. He endured a trip to Nordstrom’s so I could purchase a raincoat (I’m already wet) and some waterproof shoes from Columbia (after failed attempts to find any at Under Armour, Nike, and Timberland).

That’s not exactly how he wanted to spend the day…

Luckily, we had an amazing Sunday with Patrick. That morning started with the two of us walking down to Wildberries for Sunday brunch. Apparently, the rest of Chicago’s weekend visitors had the same plan, so we put our names on the waitlist and went for a walk through Millennium Park just across the street. We took pictures of the Bean as well as those weird video monitors of a woman’s face who spits out water at the little kids stomping around the fountains. We caught up on life and fretted about the end of summer and the return to school before indulging in a delectable brunch.

From there we walked along the Riverwalk to Lake Michigan and then up along the Great Lake’s beachfront so we could catch a view of the Air and Water Show taking place this past weekend as well. We watched parachuters fly through the sky at 180 miles per hour, crossing in front of each other just a few feet apart, and pulling their chutes just in time for me to say, “Phew!” Planes somersaulted and spun and tumbled in the air all to our amazement, eliciting genuinely-relieved laughter as these aerial acrobats disguised as jet fighters safely executed each trick. The stars of the show, of course, were the Thunderbirds, who darted through the sky at speeds ranging up to 1800 miles per fucking hour—sometimes directly at each other before turning away at the last minute to avoid incinerating each other. The sheer power of these torpedoes with wings was felt every time they blew past us, and if you caught yourself watching one group fly away for too long, the sound of another would startle you out of your wits (and your friends would laugh at your reaction!)

For a late lunch, Patrick took us to a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza joint (I prefer a big slice of New York thin crust personally).  After that, we made our triumphant return to Keenan O’Reilly’s for a few rounds of ping pong.

After Brandon thrashed Patrick and me with blistering backhands and scorching serves, the two of them suggested we all catch WWE’s SummerSlam at The Anthem. Now, I grew up watching Greg Gagne take on the likes of Larry Zbyszko and Curt Henning in the AWA before I moved on to the WWF, where Hulk Hogan taught me to train, say my prayers, and take my vitamins before bringing down the leg drop on flamboyant villains like Macho Man Randy Savage (snap into it!), but I left that all behind me when I got to high school.

Clearly these two did not!

Brandon and Patrick gave me a Wikipedia page’s worth of information about every wrestler on the bill for the night, so their live-stream commentary added a flare of excitement to this whole experience because I was honestly apprehensive about spending my time watching a bunch of doped-up dopes fake-smacking the shit out of each other for three hours.

When we walked in to The Anthem, the Women’s Smackdown Championship was coming to a dramatic conclusion. Carmella, the champion going into the match, faced off against Charlotte Flair (yes, the Nature Boy’s daughter), who would go on to become the new Women’s Smackdown Champion (but found herself being lured into Becky Lynch’s trap before getting Deeboed by Lynch shortly after the match). With Patrick and Brandon in my ear the whole time hyping up each match, it was hard not to get into what was happening, so when AJ Styles picked up Samoa Joe and front suplexed him, I suddenly found myself jumping out of my seat and yelling, “OH SHIT!”

“Look at him!” Patric said with glee. “He loves it!”

And yeah, I’ll confess—I loved every minute of those matches! It was an exhilarating end to a fun-filled day with the boys.

But all of that is but a fleeting memory now as the thunder shakes Wrigley’s old confines and the rain pulverizes the infield. Pearl Jam’s official Twitter feed is keeping us abreast of the situation. Dave from Toledo, who joined us for Night 2 in Seattle but couldn’t make it to the Chicago shows, is following the weather as closely as I am. He’s providing me with updates and checking in on our situation as if to say, “I’m there in spirit!” He lived through the agony of 2013 as well, so he empathizes with our “Not fucking again!” state of mind right now.

As ill-prepared as I was for today, 2013 was worse. I wasn’t prepared at all for the threat of thunderstorms, nor did I feel the need to be. Brandon, on the other hand, was ready.

“Here, I got you a poncho for tonight.”

“Nah, I don’t want to carry that around.”

“Shut up and put it in your cargo pocket.”

“Nah, I’m good.”

This went on for a few minutes. Finally, I conceded—you know, just in case…

Eight songs into that 2013 set, which featured the rarely played b-side “Hold On” (much to my delight!), Ed paused the show and instructed us to head for shelter as inclement weather was imminent.

Reluctantly, Brandon and I made our way off the outfield grass into a crowded and grotesquely-humid concourse with poor circulation. We couldn’t stand being in there, so we snuck into one of the ground crews’ closets along the left-field line that wasn’t crowded at all. Concession sales were suspended during this time, so I was completely parched.  Luckily, there was an old school soda machine with 50 cent 7-Ups stationed there to get me through the first hour of the delay.

But then people started to find our little hiding spot, and their body heat made the room unbearable, so Brandon and I put our ponchos to work and made our way out into the rain. We found seats along the left-field foul line and shivered our way through the next hour-and-a-half of that delay. I grabbed an empty water bottle in front of me, caught the rain in my poncho (glad I thought to bring it!), and poured it into the bottle just so I had some kind of hydration. When the severe weather finally passed–which ended up shutting down the Bjork and Phish concerts nearby–an undaunted Pearl Jam came back out sometime after 11:00 pm and played until 2:00 in the morning! (Props to the City of Chicago for extending that curfew and keeping us safe!)

But goddammit, here we are again.

I didn’t think lightning struck twice, but that rain and that thunder isn’t letting up.

Or is it? I hear people cheering. What’s going on? Are they letting us back in?!

THEY’RE LETTING US BACK IN!

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First things first—I need a bathroom. The concourse was completely log-jammed, so there was no way I was getting through to a bathroom.

Hey wait, is that Jill Vedder, Eddie’s wife?!

OMG, it is!

“Excuse me, Mrs. Vedder…I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time in Seattle to recognize teachers. We’re both teachers, so that meant a lot to us!”

“Oh, you’re welcome! Thank you for all you do!”

Holy shit! That was awesome! Now I really have to pee!

Okay, it’s 9:40. I’m guessing they’ll go on at 10:00.

Holy shit, this is “Aye Davinita! They’re coming out right now! They’re totally gonna hit us with “Release”!

WTF! “Given to Fly” to open!

“HEEEEEEE’S…FLYING!”

“WHY GO HOME!”

“PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE…DON’T GO ON ME!”

“THIS IS! THIS IS!
THIS IS! THIS IS! T
HIS IS! THIS IS!
MY!
LAST EXIT!”

“MIND YOUR MANNERS!”

“IT’S EVOLUTION, BABY!”

Oh my god! I need to catch my breath! Okay, of course they covered “Rain” by the Beatles. Predicable, but I get it.

Okay, back to back covers? Weird, but whatever. Let’s get back to rock—

“EVENFLOW! THOUGHTS ARRIVE LIKE BUTTERFLIES!”

Ha! Brandon just stopped a guy dead in his tracks so he could jump with Ed and Jeff before the solo!

Wait…is this what I think it is? OMG, they’re finally playing “U” for me!

“THOUGHT IT WAS EASY TO FALL IN LOVE, BUT YOU, YOU, YOU!”

Okay, we’ve cruised through some fan favorites—”In My Tree”, “Daughter”, “Jeremy”.  We must be getting close to closing this first set out.

Holy shit! Is that Dennis Rodman rocking out right in-fucking-front of me?!

“I KNOW WHEN I WOULD NOT EVER TOUCH YOU
HOLD YOU
FEEL YOU
IN MY ARMS
EVER AGAIN!
YEAH YEAH YEAH
YEAH YEAH YEAH
YEAH YEAH YEAAAAAAAAAH!”

Whatever else happens from here on out could be complete and total crap, but I would still think it’s the most amazing thing ever!

Okay now, what’s this? Is he saying “Evil Little Goat”? Ha! That song is so stupid, but that bass tone sounds a lot like…

“TROUBLED SOULS UNITE!
WE’VE GOT OURSELVES TONIGHT!”

Somewhere Patrick is going wild! He’s caught his white whale!

“OOOH I
OOOOOOOOH I’M STILL ALIVE!”

“DON’T CRY
DON’T RAISE YOUR EYES
IT’S ONLY TEENAGE WASTELAND!
YEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAH!”

Never mind the rain! Never mind the delay! Never mind the shopping! This is what being a Pearl Jam fan is all about! I got to share this rollercoaster of rock ‘n’ roll highs and lows with Brandon and Patrick in the city where it all began for them twenty years ago outside of United Center and where the three of us have made a point to come together not as fans of our favorite band but as lifelong friends.

And that’s what makes these trips so special. Sure, we’re seeing our favorite band together, but like Brandon told me before we left, “They can play whatever they want, but I see Chicago as a celebration of two friendships that are marking 20 years, and neither would have gone on this long without this band.”

That’s a hard pill to swallow, but most likely, there’s a whole lot of truth to that. So as we begin our final descent into Minneapolis for the last time this summer, I’m eternally grateful for these memories and these two friends, and I’m looking forward to the next round of Pearl Jam shows with Patrick and Brandon (and all of you!).

Take care, Pearl Jam fans!  “Let’s get together before we get much older!”

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Today’s title is taken from Pearl Jam’s “Leash”
off the album Vs., released in 1993.  

Did you travel to Europe, Seattle, or Chicago this summer for Pearl Jam?
Tell us about your trip below! 

Were you at the Home and Away shows?  Which show was this for you?
Did you catch any white whales?
Tell us about it! 

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