Monday, May 22, 2017

Cornell: Not Everyone Escapes


Like most (white) American men of a certain age, grunge was my formative musical experience, and the music resonated with incredible power. Even my lesser lights in the big 6 grunge bands (I always included STP and the Pumpkins alongside the Seattle groups-it feels right spiritually, if not geographically) were still tremendous talents, and it seemed impossible that this much amazing music could come out of one brief moment in time (one I assumed would extend on into forever). 1991-1996 saw Ten, Nevermind, Gish, Badmotorfinger, Core, Dirt, Vs, Siamese Dream, In Utero, Jar of Flies, Vitalogy, Purple, Mellon Collie…, No Code, Tiny Music…, Down on the Upside. 6 bands. 5 years. 16 classic albums. Four genre-defining singers coming out of the same god damned town. What a time to find yourself first opening up to music. This became the benchmark against which we all came to measure what music could do. Even as we left these songs behind we expected new music to make us feel the same way.

During those formative years, struggling with the transition into adulthood, I found the darkness and the bleakness in grunge utterly compelling. It felt true, in a way that joy and light and peace and acceptance never did – at least not without being earned, purified through suffering. But one of the things that spoke to me the most about Pearl Jam, which I wasn't able to articulate until I was a bit older and started writing and talking about them in a systemic way, was the optimism that lay beneath the music, though you’d miss it on a superficial listen. Grunge reflected a lost soul searching for a companion to walk with them down a long, dark, lonely, road. In Pearl Jam's music, that ultimately lead someplace better, even if it lay someplace beyond the limits of your current vision. But for Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, Scott Weiland, and now Chris Cornell, there was no way out. The road itself was the final destination.

Cornell's story is really striking in this regard. He's someone who seemed to make it out, and maybe he did, but the darkness and the demons stayed with him. Even if they were under control, all it takes is that one slip, that one bad night, that one mistake. And his death, or really what his death demonstrated, has made the music more vital. As I've grown up, started a family, a career, and have generally lived a very happy life there's a way in which the grunge themes that seemed so powerful became, if not nostalgic, at least historical. Something you interacted with from a distance and as memory. These songs were still great, but I had to remind myself that they were great. They were no longer living truths. As a result, I had a tendency to become ever so slightly dismissive of them. A little overwrought and over the top. Music for white suburban kids struggling with first world problems. Music for teenagers that play an important part in your transition to adulthood, but that are best left behind afterwards. Fondly recalled, but lacking the same fierce commitment and deadly seriousness.

I love Pearl Jam in part because their music grew past those themes. Themes of alienation became social and political, or personal in a way that reflects a life being lived. When there was a grievance it was a legit grievance with a world that failed to live up to its promise, rather than sullen personal, static, experience. And the best songs were inspirational - reflecting a desire to be a better person, to live a better life. They were written from a place of wisdom and experience - from someone who completed their journey and made it out alive, rather than from someone still stuck on the long, lonely road. And even if I preferred the songs written on the road, I was glad that they moved past it. The fact that they grew, that they weren't stuck in that moment, made those earlier moments feel more authentic - an important part of a larger, more vivid picture. A central chapter in a complex and moving arc, rather than the story in its entirety. It's why a middle aged album like Lightning Bolt, filled with middle aged themes like love, fear of loss, the inadequacy of what we leave behind, both resonant with me and make the earlier work simultaneously more vital.

It’s my experience, but it comes from a place of satisfaction, of having lived, thus far anyway, a good life. Pearl Jam speaks to my experiences. Chris Cornell's tragic death has been a stark and powerful reminder that not everyone escapes, or that you can escape and find yourself wandering back in a loop that feels closed, even if it isn't. That these songs no longer speak to my direct experience doesn't mean they have nothing to say. And in the last few days I find these lonelier, angrier, more hopeless and nihilistic songs have recaptured much of the dark power and terrible beauty lost with age and experience.

Chris Cornell was not one of my favorites in the grunge pantheon, but he was still in the pantheon. I was drawn more to Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Alice in Chains. But there were no shortage of his songs that I adored, and Soundgarden was my younger brother’s first favorite band. I have vivid memories of him listening to my copy of Superunknown on my Sony discman on long driving vacations with my parents, and feeling proud of my work as a big brother. And given the place that grunge holds in the formation of my identity during those critical years, and Chris’s place within that story, his death hurts, and hurts more for seeing how raw that wound is for so many other people.

I have also received enough 'Eddie is the last man standing' texts from my friends that I find myself incredibly grateful for the fact that he is, especially since, 20+ years ago, he seemed the person the most likely to go first. Some fans have bemoaned the celebratory atmosphere that defines the modern Pearl Jam concert experience. But maybe we should be celebrating the vanquishing of our demons, and finding passage into safer harbors. I had the following thought watching the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony on my bootleg periscope feed - especially with the Alive - Given to Fly - Betterman run of songs.

In the story of grunge Eddie was cast as a martyr. That mystique was one of the things that drew us to him, and to the music. The scene was full of them. But what makes Pearl Jam's story special, possibly even unique, is that this messiah didn't have to die to liberate his followers. Instead it was the followers who helped saved the messiah. The night of the Hall of Fame I was so incredibly grateful for that as much as the music and the history. And that's why songs like Alive or Betterman can have their meaning almost entirely inverted from the original intent, and feel as powerful as ever. Maybe even more.

In the face of the alternative that is, I think, something to celebrate

Saturday, May 20, 2017

‘Part of Seattle died:’ reflecting on Chris Cornell’s death

Reposted with permission from Travis Hay of GuerrillaCandy.



The first text came at 5:29 a.m.

Half asleep, I awoke and looked at my phone. “Cornell!!! OMG!!” read the text.

The note was from my close friend Steven. We often text back and forth about various rock n’ roll musings. When I looked at my phone, bleary eyed and not quite awake, I figured that it could have meant anything. Although I figured it had to be big news since a pre-dawn text is highly unusual.

Maybe Chris Cornell broke up Soundgarden. Maybe he announced a free local concert. Maybe he endorsed Trump. Or maybe he … no, it couldn’t be that.

After trying to figure out what the text meant I checked my inbox. I’ve been out of the music journalism game for three years now but I still get some of the good press releases.

I didn’t get a press release. Didn’t need one. Because at the top of my inbox was a Rolling Stone newsletter with the subject “Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell dead at 52.”

Stunned, my response back to Steven was one word:

“Wow.”

——

Like many, I immediately took to Twitter as part of my grieving process. I wanted to talk with my music-loving friends and my former readers and Twitter is my social media communication tool of choice. After expressing my shock and sadness, I briefly recounted the one time I met and interviewed Chris. I shared the short version of the story on Twitter because, well, there’s a 140-character limit on tweets so I had to be brief. Here’s a lengthier account of my experience.



I was assigned to review Audioslave’s 2005 concert in Everett for the Seattle P-I. The concert was special for Chris Cornell because his father lives in Everett. A day before the show I was asked by Chris’ publicist if I wanted to briefly talk with Chris to add some color to my review. I grew up a huge Soundgarden fan and I was just beginning my career as a budding music journalist. I could hardly believe what was being offered. I immediately said yes.

The day of the show I was escorted into the venue by Chris’ wife Vicky. I met his 1-year-old daughter. We ate vegetables from catering and talked for a little while before Chris showed up. I was very nervous.

When Chris arrived he asked me if I wanted to check out the opening band, which was 30 Seconds to Mars. I shrugged, not really knowing the protocol for when one of your teenage idols asks if you want to check out a band. We ended up watching Jared Leto and his bandmates for 15 minutes from the side of the stage. It was a surreal “is this really happening?” moment.

The interview was for color, which means it was to get small tidbits of info or anecdotal info from Chris that would enhance the review. I was told I only had five minutes. It had already been 20 and we hadn’t even started our interview. I was way out of my depth as a cub reporter hanging with rock royalty and was worried about not getting what I came for.

After watching Leto, Chris walked me to his tour bus to start our interview. If I was out of my depth before I was in an entire universe of uncharted territory now. I was playing it cool when we sat down to talk, acting as if I had been on dozens of rock stars’ tour buses in the past (I hadn’t), but on the inside teenage me, and then current me, was bursting.

Chris could tell I was nervous. He flashed a smile my way and offered me a water. That smile immediately calmed me down because I knew how transparent my cool front must have seemed. However, I didn’t stop bursting on the inside.

I pushed record on my tape recorder and the interview started. We talked about whether Soundgarden would ever reunite. He gave a “never say never” answer but insinuated it wouldn’t happen. We talked about what he was listening to at the time. We talked a little bit about politics. And we talked about his family. A lot.



Every time he spoke about his wife and daughter he became highly animated. He was very happy throughout the entire interview but when he talked about them the happiness was turned up to 11. That’s when I knew what to write about.

Oh, and that five-minute interview? It ended up lasting for more than an hour.

When the interview ended I was escorted back to the venue by Chris’ security guard. I was speechless the entire walk back. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I spent an hour shooting the breeze with one of my idols. One of the biggest rock stars on the planet hung out with me on his tour bus for an hour. One-on-one. Forget being a professional music journalist. I was in music geek shock.

I could no longer keep my cool. I ended up hugging the security guard when we got back to the venue. I gushed about Chris and explained the entire interview to him. He was very surprised. It was awkward.

Needless to say, I got a lot more than color. In fact. I actually got a lengthy feature profile out of the interview that landed on the front page of the Seattle P-I. The profile. which I renamed “Chris Cornell on fatherhood and rockstardom” for Guerrilla Candy, focused on Chris’ then life as a dad who had remarried and found a new life outside of America.

When I tweeted the very abridged version of that experience I made sure to include a tweet about Chris as a father and how important his family was to him during that interview.

I remember almost every moment of that interview, and thanks to my tape recorder I have it all documented. But what I remember most was how Chris beamed when talked about his family. I made sure to include that in my grief tweets because I was sure his life as a father would get overlooked in all the rushed obits.

Reading back the transcript of that interview, these comments from Chris stand out:


The focus of my family, my wife Vicky, my daughter that is a year old, my son that’s coming, my 5-year old daughter (with former manager and ex-wife Susan Silver) who I don’t see that often. The focus on my wife and my children, it really helps me make sense of the music side of it somehow. There’s just something that’s just core, and I don’t know how to put it, sort of eternal. It’s something that’s natural, rhythmic, that makes sense in this family where it’s sort of shed the light on music and how much music makes sense.

—–




Earlier in the morning, I was asked by a Sirius XM station to comment about Chris’ passing and I politely declined. This celebrity death hit too close to home and I was still figuring out how I was feeling. Besides, I knew there were many other qualified people who could talk about Chris and I was sure they would do so way more eloquently than I could.

I don’t mind being considered an expert on grunge, but not for situations like this. I retain my well-informed fan status when it comes matters like the death of one of my iconic teenage heroes.

A little while later I was contacted by a reporter for the Seattle P-I, my former paper. I didn’t feel like talking, but I did manage to send him a written statement he used for his story. This is part of the story:
“Chris was unparalleled a rock singer and icon,” local music journalist Travis Hay said via email. “Each of the major grunge vocalists had their imitators, but there was no equal for Chris. To this day there isn’t a vocalist who could hold notes the way he did or sing with the range he had, and he seemed to do it so effortlessly.

He was a powerhouse with Soundgarden and Audioslave and when he dialed things down for his solo material his voice was equally as powerful,” Hay said. “I don’t think there will ever be another voice as unique as Chris Cornell. I was lucky enough to spend an hour with him for a story I wrote more than a decade ago and that hour remains one of the highlights of my career.”

After crafting that carefully thought out statement, I opened up Facebook, which was a mistake. I estimate roughly 75% of my Facebook friends are music industry folks and a majority of those people either worked with Chris in some capacity or knew him personally. Facebook was a crushing place for me to visit.  It was too difficult for me to see my friends go through their grief while also processing my own.

—–



Later in that night, I decided to attend the public memorial at the Seattle Center put together by KEXP. Prior to walking into the station’s public gathering space, I stopped at the International Fountain. The speakers were playing “Rusty Cage.” It felt appropriate to pause and reflect on the moment. I was also getting a very strong, and justified, feeling of deja vu.

Like many Seattle residents my age, I had been to a public memorial for a beloved grunge icon at Seattle Center previously. The year was 1994 and the circumstances were quite different.

As a teenager, I attended Kurt Cobain’s public memorial with my mom. I was at the International Fountain when hundreds of people rushed it to celebrate Kurt and grieve together. Very different circumstances but the same fountain. Deja vu highly merited.

I hadn’t really figured out how to process Chris Cornell’s death. I didn’t know him yet he was a very important and formative figure from my adolescence. I had only met him once, but that one encounter made a lasting impact. I wasn’t a friend or family member. He was just a guy who made music. Why should I feel sad?

But being there at the fountain, the same place I was 23 years ago, I managed to figure something out. I felt like I closed some sort of grief loop. I felt tranquil and serene. It finally felt okay to grieve and be truly sad. And in that moment I thought about Chris Cornell and how he talked about his daughter. It made me a little happier.

Then I thought about my 3-year-old son. I wondered how I would be able to comfort him when he inevitably faces tragedy. I became thankful for that moment in time because I knew figuring out how to process my grief would help me whenever I need to be there for my son. Knowing that made me a little happier too.

The memorial was touching. It felt good to be in the same room with hundreds of people who were feeling the same way I felt. Three DJs spoke a few words (John Richards, Sheryl Waters and Riz Rollins) and there was a display case at the back of the room with a gold record and various Soundgarden albums. During his comments John Richards said something that perfectly sums up what happened when Chris Cornell died. “Part of Seattle died today.” I think he was right.

Thank you KEXP for providing local music fans with a place to gather and grieve. And thank you Chris Cornell for everything you gave the world. You will be greatly missed.

Cornell: A Feeling of Loss

The outpouring of love and loss from our members continues.  Thank you, to guest blogger, VinylGuy, for another heartfelt piece.


This is the first time the death of a musician really hurts. It was not Cobain, It was not Layne...i was expecting that one. Chris Cornell has been around in my life since i was what..11? I still remember watching those Soundgarden videos and feeling all kind of different emotions... I still remember the first time i listened to Seasons... I still remember going to bed at night and listen to the radio premiere of Cant Change Me in my walkmans..i still feel the exitement of going to Alpine Valley and see Cornell coming to the stage. Its was magical...his solos shows? my god...the last one i saw last year, in this huge theatre, was another landmark.

Its impossible not to feel this loss as personal to me, pretty much every moment of my life has been determined with a song from him, from Outshined to Like Suicide to Zero Chance...and the saddest thing of his departure is the overall feeling that this is the end. We got Chris fronting Mad Season and Temple Of The Dog, celebrating their lost friends but also celebrating life. We made it. We are survivors. We won.

Now, Soundgarden is gone, Chris is gone..who know what will happen with PJ. That feeling is lost.

I will miss him very much.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Chris Cornell, The Start of Everything

Another guest blog, this time by our friend, Tuolumne.


"Consider yourselves our greatest influence," said Kurt Cobain to Kim Thayil. Yes, this once happened. As mentioned in the book "Grunge is Dead", an oral history by Greg Prato, Kurt Cobain bluntly said this the first time he met Kim Thayil at some house party, when Nirvana was first breaking into the Subpop-centered social scene in Seattle. I read this only maybe 6-7 or so years ago. Like most people my age, I was led to believe that it was Nirvana and the Green River spawning of Mother Love Bone/Pearl Jam and Mudhoney that was fully responsible for “Grunge” and the “Seattle Sound”. I was led incorrectly. 

What really happened was that Nirvana was trucking it into Seattle often around 1987 or so, and they were just getting to know the town and scene, since they were from Aberdeen, another town altogether. It was not long after this that Chris Cornell could be seen around town wearing Nirvana t-shirts, championing the band. This was before Cobain became self-conscious about who to mention when naming his references. Later, when perception, competitiveness, and insecurity started settling into the scene, Cobain would mention his more pure-punk influences, like Scratch Acid and Meat Puppets, and not mention Soundgarden. But Soundgarden, and their innovative and boundary-stretching sound, is what set the course of the entire Seattle Scene. I know this now, and I feel like most people don’t realize this. If anything comes out of what feels like a completely senseless death, I hope it’s atleast this. Those dirgy sounds that mixed 70s classic rock with punk, that was made in some out-of-the-way oasis in the Pacific Northwest, that sounded like it could only come from there, and specifically in Seattle, had to incubate somewhere. They incubated in the mind and soul of Chris Cornell, The Seattleite. 

Now, as a new alt-rock fan, and a 16 year old one at that, I certainly knew none of this. It was Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and then Soundgarden and then Alice In Chains. It took a little digging, and I finally got there (no thanks to the music press), but I finally got to the bottom of it. Soundgarden started everything. And the whole aesthetic was led by Chris Cornell. Reading oral histories and biographies told me this, but really, if you just listen to the bands in the scene, with more seasoned ears and in sequence by the year they came out, it was Soundgarden that drove everything. They, along with Mudhoney, were the building blocks of Subpop. Soundgarden, and Soundgarden only, led this scene into major label territory before everyone else followed.

Chris Cornell was a pure Seattleite. He grew up, as he has been known to say, "in the most stereotypical Seattle neighborhood". That "sound" and attitude so deeply associated with Generation X and rain and isolation and disenfranchisement *had* to have come from somewhere and someone. Somebody who was lonely and a little depressive, but understood the power of wailing over titanic riffs. It was Chris, and the rest if history.

Now, let’s get back to Pearl Jam. Imagine an alternate reality, one where the Seattle scene was about competition and turf wars. I think we’ve heard the story about Pearl Jam’s first Off Ramp gig. How Eddie was nervous and shy about how he was going to be received. About how he and Chris Cornell stood under a black light, and Chris welcomed him into the scene, while Ed is thinking he looked like the devil under those lights. Now, imagine an alternate version, one where Chris is so mad that Andy Wood left the world, and that a new guy was now fronting this band. He could have seethed, been put off, just been nice on the surface but never really supportive. Credibility meant a lot in those days. He could have mouthed off to everyone in Seattle “nah, not the same, I wish it was Mother Love Bone”. Pearl Jam already struggled enough with cred in those days, with Cobain and Mark Arm (insecurely) at the time not exactly being their biggest boosters. Chris Cornell joining this chorus could have devastated their credibility. The band could certainly still have broken through, but it would have been without any cred. No Cobain or Arm, and no Cornell backing them, hell they might as well have been an early version of Candlebox in this cred-centric era. 

I think I only began appreciating Cornell’s support in the last few years. Maybe when he did the PJ20 thing. Soundgarden and Pearl Jam certainly fed off of each other. I can't confirm this, but I have a strong hunch that the "butterflies" line from Outshined had to have come as a result of Chris really digging Mookie Blaylock/Pearl Jam's "Even Flow". The bands are so intertwined it's actually kind of hard to separate how much they influenced each other. The rainy arena ready riffs, the somber but energized vocals that came out of Vedder, Cobain, Staley - there were certainly many many influences, and all 3 of the singers were/are artistic and singular voices in their own right - but there is a common thread that ties them together. There is something about them that outsiders of the Seattle scene (like me) identified as of a similar aesthetic, representing *our* version of what a rock singer should be. Chris Cornell was the common spark that united them. It all could have been so much different, for the worse, if Chris Cornell didn't have a generous spirit that helped sustain this group of friends and community of musicians.

Slaves and Bulldozers was a teenage bedroom anthem of mine. Rusty Cage, Room a Thousand Years Wide, Tighter and Tighter, Fell on Black Days, Call me a Dog, Say Hello to Heaven, Burden in My Hand. One of my personal favorite Chris songs is the Audioslave song Be Yourself. More recently, his music appeared to take a more positive tone with Higher Truth. He seemed in pretty good spirits from what I saw on the videos I saw online for the Temple of the Dog tour. He'd broken through all kinds of new territory over the last several years. He had more folk music in him. New instruments. A power pop record. A country record. Another electropop record (this time done right). I caught some of his interviews this past year, he seemed more positive than he has in a long time. Looking California, Feeling Minnesota indeed.

Singles: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack


Today is bittersweet.  We got a beautiful deluxe edition of the Singles Soundtrack with a lot of previously unreleased Chris Cornell music on it just one day after his tragic suicide.  Still, if you haven't yet, take a moment to enjoy the music.

Also, Rolling Stone released a video this week with members of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains talking about the soundtrack.  You can check that out below.



From the liner notes:

BREATH
One of two songs contributed to the movie by Pearl Jam, "Breath" always felt like a part of the movie ... and a snapshot of the time in which the movie was made. The band had just acquired their new singer, Eddie Vedder, and bassist Jeff Ament had been working in the art department of the film. Three-fifths of Pearl Jam - then called Mookie Blaylock - even appeared in the movie as part of Citizen Dick, the fictitious band fronted by Cliff Poncier, played by Matt Dillion. The whole Seattle Music scene would soon explode, a surprise to us because the idea of Seattle being an important music mecca was initially a tongue-in-cheek joke as I wrote the script. But all the dreams of many of those struggling musicians would soon come true. Not just with the seismic arrival of Nirvana and "Smells Like Teen Spirit," but even earlier with one of the first real hits to emerge from Seattle since Heart and Jimi Hendrix years earlier - Alice in Chains' "Man in the Box."

STATE OF LOVE AND TRUST
Eddie Vedder read the script and sent me the handwritten lyrics to "State of Love and Trust" in a brown paper bag. The words and music were his comment on love and relationships, the tumult and the bliss, the weight and the responsibility of putting your heart on the line. It meant a lot to me then, and it means a lot to me now. Even hearing the first notes brings me right back to a special and very passionate time in all our lives.

SINGLES BLUES I
Always a weapon within Pearl Jam, Mike McCready here provides some funky blues, accompanied by Stone Gossard on percussion. Some of this was slated for usage in the deleted scenes involving Bridget Fonda's character Janet, and her love affair with the doctor memorably played by Bill Bullman. McCready would go on to collaborate often with us (Pearl Jam Twenty, We Bought a Zoo), as well as many other filmmakers. His side-project work as a composer is flourishing and it's exciting to include some of his earliest stuff here.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

In Honor of Our Friend, Chris Cornell

Thank you, to guest blogger, E.H. Ruddock, for capturing the feelings of a community in such an honest and personal way. 


"Every word I said is what I mean. Everything I gave is what I need.” - Slaves & Bulldozers, Soundgarden

Before I get into boring you all with my personal experiences with Chris Cornell, I’d like to just point out the irony, or at least sad coincidences, in the lyric above, from my favorite Soundgarden song. Chris Cornell could sing words in a way that always made you feel them, believe them. You know he meant them. He loved music, the music scene, and everything that came with it, and gave so much to music. Sadly, it seems as though he needed something back, someone to give him an inspiration which ultimately was lacking when he made the decision to take his own life yesterday.

When I was in sixth grade, my father started taking me to heavy metal concerts. Ozzy, Metallica, AC/DC, Judas Priest, the list goes on. By the time I was in my late teens, I was searching for something more. Many of my friends thought I was cool only because I had a “cool dad” who took me to concerts. So I started looking, listening, for something different. It took a while as growing up in small town Pennsylvania had many disadvantages for finding new music. Then one day, a friend of my younger brother came to our house and played this song called “Slaves and Bulldozers”. I asked him to play it again, as I wasn’t sure what I had just heard. It was heavy, which I clearly liked, but the singing made me feel something. Like the singer was telling me a story, personally. I asked who it was, and he said “some band named Soundgarden”. I spent the next week or so figuring out how to get my hands on any Soundgarden music.

Without going into too much detail, I found them. Then I found more music coming from the scene over the next few years. Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Temple of the Dog, you get the point. As I heavily got into Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains, I always looked back at my first Soundgarden cassette as my bridge from my heavy metal youth into my grunge young adulthood. Soundgarden disbanded, but anything I had with Chris Cornell’s voice on it stayed in constant rotation.

As years passed, it was clear this guy just loved music. From his solo work, to guest appearances, to interviews about his music and the 90’s Seattle music scene. He loved it. And anytime he would perform, or even talk about music, it would show. During an interview he did for the Pearl Jam Twenty movie, he was speaking about the first time he heard Mike McCready play guitar. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said something like “that guy plays infected”, referring to the places deep down Mike could draw from while playing some of his solos. Coincidentally, that is how I felt when I heard Cornell sing. He drew from places that many of us would rather not go in order to project raw emotion into his singing. I don’t think there is ever a time that I heard him singing that I didn’t think to myself “damn this guy is insane”.

Last year I had the honor of seeing Temple of the Dog live in San Francisco. They performed one of my favorite Cornell songs, “Seasons”. Two different lyrics from that mean so much to me regarding my Cornell fandom. The first, “Could you crawl into my world And take me worlds away”, it is exactly the type of feelings that were invoked when I would listen to Cornell sing. And sadly, the other lyric from the song, “And I'm lost, behind Words I'll never find. And I'm left behind, As seasons roll on by”hit much harder today as we learn the cause of his death, and what he may have been going through or suffering from that few probably knew about until it was too late.

We’ve lost many from this genre of music, Andy, Kurt, Layne, Scott, Chris, and others. But this one in particular hits on a deeper personal level for the connection I’ll always have to him for helping me discover and explore music on a whole different level. I’m done dragging on about this for you, I just wanted to share what Cornell meant to me personally and I know he influenced many of you reading this in similar or completely different ways. I’d love to hear your stories as well.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Pearl Jam, The Coloring Book


If you've been looking for the Pearl Jam Anthology book on Amazon you may not have found it, but you may have found the Pearl Jam Coloring Book by Anthony Klitsch.  Based on the picture of the cover and the complete lack of endorsement by the band, this could be a pretty lousy coloring book, but hey ... it's $10 USD.

Pearl Jam (The Album) Turns 11


Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Green Romance Orchestra


Fans saddened by the "Abbruzzese snubbing" at this month's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction will be glad to know that Dave Abbruzzese maintains a Bandcamp presence and last month he uploaded a project called The Green Romance Orchestra.  The Green Romance Orchestra, or GRO, features Abbruzzese on drums with Texas musicians J. Paul Slavens, Doug Neil, and Gary Mueller.

It's the most original music featuring Abbruzzese's drumming that we've seen in a long time, and you can currently name your own price for their album, Play Parts I & V, at Bandcamp!

Pearl Jam Pop-Up Shop at Easy Street


Thank you to guest blogger and photographer, Travis Hay of Guerrilla Candy!


If you're looking to get your hands on some sweet merch or rare vinyl you might want to make a trip to Easy Street Records in West Seattle. The Northwest institution recently set up a Pearl Jam pop-up shop to commemorate the band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The shop, which had a soft launch on this year's Record Store Day (April 22), features shirts, jerseys, hats, hard-to-find vinyl and other goodies. Some highlights include sealed Valut vinyl sets, sealed Lightning Bolt Sevens sets, autographed Hockeytalker 7" records, an assortment of holiday singles, Patagonia backpacks and messenger bags, and jerseys, hats, patches, flags and pennants from last year's Wrigley Field and Fenway Park concerts.

Most of the pricing is roughly in line with what you will pay on Pearl Jam's website with a few exceptions. One those exceptions being items that were made available exclusively to Ten Club members such as the Vaults, which range in cost from $100 to $200, and Sevens, which is priced at $200. Holiday singles and the Hockeytalkter singles cost $10 each. Some of the Hockeytalkter releases are signed by Mike McCready and range in cost from $40 to $50.

Of course Easy Street Records has a long history with the band and the pop-up shop is the latest display of their friendship. In 2005 the band performed a surprise show at the shop  in support of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores. Shadow, Brad and RNDM have all played in-store sets at the shop. And in 1995, at arguable the height of the band's popularity, Eddie Vedder once helped out at the shop and worked as a clerk behind the counter. Those are just some of the many connections between the band and the revered record store.















Sunday, April 23, 2017

Pearl Jam Anthology: The Complete Scores


In celebration of World Book Day, Pearl Jam is offering to stuff your bookshelf with a new, deluxe book of their complete scores.  The book is available for $75 at the Ten Club and Amazon.
The scores of 130 Pearl Jam songs, all in one place. Pearl Jam Anthology - The Complete Scores is a deluxe, hardcover book providing scores of every song from Pearl Jam albums Ten through Lightning Bolt, plus three bonus singles. Contains lyrics and streamlined transcriptions of every instrument with guitar and bass parts written in both standard notation and tablature.

Pearl Jam Anthology - The Complete Scores will be released May 10th. In celebration of World Book Day, pre-order this must-have through pearljam.com and get an exclusive bookmark.
Also, to help in your celebration of World Book Day, Pearl Jam members have suggested their favorite books for you to check out.

JEFF AMENT - The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
EDDIE VEDDER - Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems by James Baldwin
MIKE MCCREADY - The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
STONE GOSSARD - Mating by Norman Rush
MATT CAMERON - Amerika by Franz Kafka

Monday, April 17, 2017

LiveNation/Pearl Jam Considering Key Arena Residency


A bit behind on this news, but since it's nothing concrete, I guess that's OK.  LiveNation and Pearl Jam are reportedly considering an extended residency deal as part of the upcoming Key Arena renovations.  Pearl Jam manager, Kelly Curtis, has even joined the advisory group to ensure that the renovations result in excellent live music acoustics.

Whether or not the residency deal goes through, we surely have some great sounding Seattle shows in our future.

Eddie Vedder to Headline the First, Annual Bourbon & Beyond Festival


The Ten Club announced that Eddie Vedder will be headlining Louisville's first ever Bourbon and Beyond Festival.  Here is the official announcement.
The festival takes place in Louisville, Kentucky on September 23rd and 24th. Eddie Vedder's performance date is TBD. Tickets are available now.

World-class musical performances include Stevie Nicks, Steve Miller Band, Joe Bonamassa, Band of Horses, Gary Clark Jr. and more.

BOURBON & BEYOND will be an enriching weekend featuring the best bourbons, top master distillers, Michelin-starred chefs, popular bartenders, world-class mu sicians, and many other craftsmen and craftswomen.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pearl Jam's Rock Hall Ceremony: A Review


On of our friends on the Red Mosquito Forum, durdencommatyler, made it out to Brooklyn for Pearl Jam's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  With many thanks and much enthusiasm, we share his review below.


I almost didn’t go. I didn’t have a ticket and all efforts to procure one had fallen through. I had one card up my sleeve but it would be a pain in the ass to play. What was the point? Was it even going to be worth the effort? It would’ve been easy to go home, spin some records, and hunt for a decent live stream of the event online.

As chance or fate (whichever you prefer) would have it, the playlist I was listening to on my commute switched songs just as the B train pulled out of the Dekalb Avenue stop. “Life Wasted” come blaring on the headphones. What was I thinking? This was a literal ONCE IN A LIFETIME opportunity. I couldn’t retreat into comfy pajama pants and too many tacos. Leave that for next Friday night when history wasn’t being made a mile down the road from my apartment. I decided to get off at the next stop: Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center. You only live once, right?

I was in my seat before the event began. Immediately, I knew I’d made the right decision. Pearl Jam is, was, and has always been the most important and influential band in my life. And as I walked through the doors into the Barclays Center I could see I was with my people. Everywhere, people of all ages, were decked out in Pearl Jam gear. A woman in her sixties was wearing a pantsuit; under the blazer was a vintage ‘Stickman’ shirt. There was a pre-teen proudly sporting a Lightning Bolt logo. A middle-aged man was wearing a shirt he’d clearly made himself: red with a ‘PJ’ drawn with black marker inside an upside down triangle: a clear reference to both Superman and Yield. Seven bands/artist were being honored but the bell of the ball was Pearl Jam. The people were here to see them. To see their band anointed and installed, once and for all, amongst the greatest.

Say what you want about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Maybe it’s cheesy. Maybe it’s completely stupid. Maybe it’s political or biased or hollow. Didn’t one of the evening’s inductees once pontificate publically about the silliness of judging and awarding art? The thing is though... this ceremony wasn’t about judging art at all. It wasn’t about an award. It was about celebration. Maybe art shouldn’t be adjudicated. But it deserves to be celebrated. Absolutely. Art is a celebration of the world around us as much as it’s a reflection. It’s an honor as much as it’s a question. The notion of an artistic “Hall of Fame” might seem absurd but gathering to dance and sing and celebrate music that has affected millions of people, that is anything but absurd. Communion and community are vital components. And for fans like me the chance to say “thank you” to a group of artists that has affected, shaped, challenged worldviews, molded, given joy, eased heartbreak, been part of a wedding or maybe even a funeral... for us, this opportunity was necessary. You could see on the faces in the crowd, hear in the performances on stage, feel it radiating from all directions: this really fucking meant something.

The evening began with a tribute to the late Chuck Berry -- often called ‘The Father of Rock and Roll.’ There was no more fitting way to begin than ELO’s blistering cover of “Rollover Beethoven.” I teared up for the first time because it was hitting me right across the face: so many people, so many eras, so many phases of rock and roll, and all of them were connected. Clear lines of history were drawn, and profound dots connected. Before the night was over we’d see modern rock, grunge rock, 70’s psychedelic rock, 60’s folk rock, 90’s rap, soul music, and then there was Nigel Rodgers to fill in all the gaps: a man who has performed or produced every other possible incarnation of rock and roll music. It was all there. And so were we.

David Letterman’s induction speech exceeded expectations. It was funny (of course) but it was also touching. He delivered a potent message about the importance of live music in one’s life and warned against taking that joy for granted. I don’t seek out live music as much as I used to and this was a tender reminder of why I fell in love with Pearl Jam to being with. It was also another reminder of why we were all there that night. I was touched by the letter Ed wrote to David’s son and that David felt comfortable sharing that letter with the crowd. But my favorite part of the speech was Letterman’s jab and Ticketmaster. The fact that all of us went through Ticketmaster to get into that room wasn’t lost on any of us and I’m thrilled that the elephant in the room got called out. I really miss David Letterman.

Bar far, the best part of the band’s acceptance speeches was how they combined to echo the spirit and history that permeated the entire evening. We saw each and every side of Pearl Jam through the years. Stone was funny and strange and thanked all those people behind the scenes, in offices, at home, and on the road who make the Pearl Jam experience so wonderful and unique. It was the inclusive side of Pearl Jam; the "Jamily" side of Pearl Jam. Krusen was shy and emotional, a man of few words but huge feelings. It was the grateful side of Pearl Jam. Mike (who managed to get the loudest and longest ovation of any single member of the band) spoke to the fans and to the history of himself and how it was inseparable from that of the band. It was the fan-friendly, fan-first side of Pearl Jam. Jeff (clearly the best dressed) seemed in awe of the entire night. He spoke of those who came before and those still left behind. I loved how he managed to mention other (perhaps more worthy in his mind) bands that were not in the Hall of Fame yet. It was the humble side of Pearl Jam. Matt Cameron kept the beat: short and sweet, in and out. The loose and pliable side of Pearl Jam. And then there was Eddie Vedder.

At the beginning of the ceremony when all the artists being honored were introduced, the camera panned to Ed. The crowd went ballistic. Eddie’s name was chanted from the rafters. The applause was deafening. The rumble went on for what had to be at least a full minute. Eddie Vedder the Rock God.
During his speech, we got all sides of Eddie Vedder –- not just Rock and Roll Ed. We saw the gas station attendant, the surfer, the music fan, the father, the husband, the band leader. We got it all. And once again we were reminded why Eddie Vedder is the dynamic and exhilarating front man that he is: Eddie Vedder finds a way to connect with every single heart in the room.

Ed began as though he were still that shy, reluctant kid back during those first three records. He voice was muted, his speech staccato. He didn’t look at the crowd much. There was a sly comment about evolution and how far we still have to go. Clearly, this was a reference to the idea of the ceremony itself, the strange need to archive artistic achievement in buildings and brass. We all smiled, reminded of that brash idiot on stage at the Grammy’s in 1996. I half expected him to flip us all off.

Deftly, Ed shifted gears into a space he’s always seemed more comfortable habituating: Ed the activist. Between jabs at the man currently taking up space in the Oval Office and lectures about climate change, Eddie looked invigorated. I started to wonder if they had another protest album in them. He looked ready to fight, ready to get back out there and incite. I had chills. I could feel something old and rusty coming to life inside. And I was hopeful. And there were tears in my eyes again.

Not long ago I wrote that I could imagine a world in which Lightning Bolt was Pearl Jam’s final studio album but they carried on as a live act for years to come. Perhaps in that world, we’d get new box sets and reissues, maybe even one or two more b-side/rarities collections. At the time I believed that I was okay with such a world. I’m not okay with it anymore. There is still life left in this band. The fire is there and it’s ready to be stoked. I’m not ready to lose them. Not yet. And I don’t think they’re ready either.

Ed went on for a long time. He showed several more versions of himself that we’ve gotten to know over the years. There were laughs. There were a few grimaces. I was pleased that he complimented Dave Abbruzzese’s skills as a drummer. Call it polite, call it a P.R. move if you want to, but he didn’t have to say anything. It’s easy to forget sometimes how gracious and giving Eddie Vedder can be, even when we’ve just been reminded by someone like David Letterman. Eddie Vedder is a lot of people. Like Whitman, he contains multitudes. Maybe some of them are uglier than others but they are all a part of who he is and he’s brought each of them to the band at one time or another. All of them were being celebrated and offered an opportunity to speak.

Ed closed with the newest version of himself. The one that probably divides fans more than any other. The ‘Just Breathe’ and ‘Future Days’ Ed. He was honest and gooey and full. He thanked his wife and his children and his mother. Jill was a weepy mess -- almost as bad as I was. It was tender and for some reason I felt proud. I don’t know anyone in Pearl Jam personally. We’ve never met. But as a group they have affected the way I think and feel and see the world. So much of who I am belongs to their music and their ideology, even when it was misplaced. You’re damn right I was proud of them. Proud of them for being men and fathers and husbands and for being inducted into the freaking Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And for embracing it completely.

The band performed three songs. Dave Krusen joined them on drums for Alive. It was the first time the original line-up had played together in something like twenty-one years. It was immaculate. Easily the best version of Alive I’ve seen. I don’t imagine it’ll be topped. The band were tight. Ed sounded great. The tempo was perfect. It was a highlight of the evening and of my concert-going career.

Given to Fly was dedicated to Michael J. Fox –- who was in attendance. I’ve long said that Given to Fly was a great song but that it never really moved me the way it did other fans. I’ve even gone so far as to call it slightly overrated. Perhaps it was my own nostalgia and sentimentality, or perhaps it was really that the band was just feeling, I don’t know, but I’ll never say Given to Fly is overrated again. I got it Friday night. Sitting in that room, watching myriad fans of all ages and genders and backgrounds throw their arms in the air and sing out with shameless joy... it was potent. The music lifted and carried me away. The intent of the song rang true for the first time. It was a special moment, one I’ll treasure and keep with me as long as I can. I’m not sure what made the energy so much different for me this time than at other Pearl Jam shows I’ve attended. Probably, it was the weight of the event. Probably, I was swept up in all that glitz and splendor. But I don’t care if it was artificial. I felt it then and there. For me, it was real. And once again, Pearl Jam changed the orientation of my insides.

Better Man was stellar as always. The crowd sang the first verse before Ed was ready. He had to laugh and shake off the moment. After a quick little speech he began the song again, singing the first verse over by himself. It was the first time I’ve heard Eddie sing those lines in years. Usually the crowd sings over him, drowns him out. Or he lets the room have that verse. It was oddly emotional to hear him sing those words. Knowing how hard Ed fought to keep that song buried. Seeing how the song wouldn’t let him. It’s pretty wonderful when you stop and think about it. The lift, the anthemic qualities of the song are a large portion of its power, but in that moment I would have loved to hear Ed perform the entire song solo. But in an evening drenched in special moments, I’ll gladly sacrifice that one pet desire.

The all-star jam of Neil Young’s Rocking In the Free World (complete with shout out to “Uncle Neil,” of course) was full of piss and vinegar and wild energy. But the best part for me was seeing Jack Irons on stage. It was brief and he was only side-kicking Cameron but man what a rush that was. I missed seeing Jack perform with the band back during those brief tours in the mid-90’s. It was just one more cherry to top a mountain of cherries on top of the two ton sundae that was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Pearl Jam delivered. The evening exceeded my wildest expectations. There were other, non-Pearl Jam highlights: Joan Baez being the biggest and brightest. Her speech was powerful and artful. Her playing was mesmerizing. Watching her getting down and super funky during the Tupac tribute set (I wonder if this was caught by the HBO cameras; I hope it’s on the broadcast because live it made me melt with glee) was fantastic: a human moment, one pioneer to another, across decades and barriers. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life. The Tupac induction was honest and moving. Seeing Steve Perry with Journey again brought a tear to my eye, though he didn’t perform with them. His presence was enough. Niles Rodgers was overtaken by emotion during his speech. It was a beautiful thing. This man is so talented. He’s played with and/or produced anyone who is anyone in the music industry. The man is a living legend. And he was bent with emotion as he expressed his gratitude. Don’t you dare tell me the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame doesn’t mean anything.

All in all, the experience was incredible: emotional and surreal. One of the greatest nights of my life. To some degree, it sucked that I went alone. It would have been nice to share the evening with close friends. However, in another, more earnest and somber way, it was fitting. A lot of my Pearl Jam experience has been between me and my headphones: listening, writing, thinking, absorbing. Alone. Allowing myself to have whatever experience I deserved without worrying about anyone else or how they were reacting was liberating. That ceremony was the culmination of twenty-six years of the best parts of my artist life. It was beautiful and humbling. And I can’t believe I almost didn’t bother trying to go.