Open Letter

Dear Pearl Jam,

Why don't you guys play more Seattle concerts?

March 28, 2016 Published in the April 2016 issue of Seattle Met

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Photo: Danny Clinch

I first saw you guys at the Off Ramp opening for Alice in Chains in February ’91—before Ten was even recorded—and it was the raddest thing I’d ever seen. Those early albums were my teenage years. I have the chorus to “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” tattooed on my forearm (“Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away…). I met my wife at one of the Memorial Stadium shows in ’98, and five years later our first dance at the wedding was to “Thin Air.” We named our first kid Vedder and the second one Gossard (the family dog’s named Eddie). As the years passed, I grew up, replaced some of the flannel in my closet with business suits (at least they come in plaid), cut my hair, got a boring tech job to pay the bills (and to procure the occasional piece of PJ memorabilia, like an unwashed rastacap worn by Jeff Ament), and moved from the city to Bellevue. But I’ve hung onto your music—along with my nipple piercing—as the last vestige of overly idealized ’90s dreams of rebellion and never-ending youth.

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So in January, when my old pit buddy Johnny texted me, “NEW SPRING PJ TOUR” while I was scanning through another soulless line of corporate/commercial code, I immediately rushed to the Porch on the PJ message boards to scope the dates. Two shows in Chicago and New York? Expected. Two nights in Philly? Okay. Stops in Hampton, Virginia, and Jacksonville, Florida? Uhhh…sure, whatever. As my eyes scrolled down the list of dates, though, my brain screamed with a ferocity that would put Eddie’s “Even Flow” vocals to shame, “WHERE IS THE SEATTLE SHOW?!?” 

I wish I could say I was surprised, but at this point I’m not. Why doesn’t Seattle’s greatest living band—the one that best represents the soul of the city and its grunge boom—ever play Seattle anymore?

Since 2005, you’ve played three Seattle shows: two nights at KeyArena in 2009 and another one there in 2013. That’s insane—especially considering the fact that you hit the road every year. By this tour’s end, you will have played Philadelphia three times as often as your hometown in the last decade. As a Seattle fan, I feel more neglected than my VHS copy of Singles. The other Seattle bands I grew up with are at least trying. Soundgarden has managed to play three shows over that time and the band was broken up from 1997 to 2010. There’s even been a pseudo-Nirvana show, thanks to the surviving members playing with Paul McCartney at Safeco Field in 2013. We need PJ. And no, seeing Mike McCready play “The Star-Spangled Banner” before yet another sporting event doesn’t count.

So what’s the issue? Do you think we’ve grown sick of you? Have you soured on KeyArena and don’t want to play anywhere smaller? Is Howard Schultz a fan and this is your way to stick it to him for selling the Sonics? Has Amazon priced you out of the city too? I’m grasping at straws here. It’s not like you’re not around; I saw Eddie vaping at the Sleater-Kinney reunion show at the Showbox.

How awesome would it be if you all just committed to an annual weekend of Seattle concerts? Not only would it show some hometown love, but it could essentially become a national gathering for us aging Pearl Jam fans to connect and celebrate the camaraderie that your music creates. (My wife’s got me doing yoga, so I might be limber enough to still go into the pit for a song or two.) Hell, Dave Matthews Band plays the Gorge every Labor Day weekend, and I don’t know anyone around here who thinks of Matthews as a local, despite his Seattle residence. He’s not a part of the city’s soul. You guys are.

And on a personal level, my kids are now old enough to finally get into Pearl Jam. My CDs now “mysteriously” go missing for weeks. I can hear Ament and Cameron’s rhythms pulsing from behind the little nonconformists’ bedroom doors while they slam into the walls. The thing I’ve been holding onto from my youth has now become theirs too. But they’ve been bugging me about when they get to see their favorite Seattle band the first time. Man, what should I tell them?

Keep on rockin’ in the free world,

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