Today, June 30, is a significant date as far as my own relationship with Pearl Jam is concerned for two very different reasons. Firstly, June 30 is the anniversary of the tragedy at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark, in which nine fans were crushed to death by a crowd surge in front of the stage. I can still remember the morning after, when my mother marched into the den at 743 Confederation Drive to inform me that people had died at a Pearl Jam concert; she seemed far more concerned about the fact that the three of us were seeing Pearl Jam later that summer in New York and that the band clearly attracted violent fans–can’t blame her, I guess–but in the days and weeks after the tragedy, the one thing that kept leaping out at me was just how uncomfortably familiar an accident it was. The night before Roskilde, I’d been pressed against the stage at the old Coyote’s in Thunder Bay for an I Mother Earth concert, and when you’re in that position the last thing on your mind is, “Hey, I could actually die up here.” The fans who perished at Roskilde–Pearl Jam, irony of ironies, was actually playing “Light Years” when things started going haywire–didn’t die because they were causing mischief: they died because they were being rock n’ roll fans. You never think of potential death in crowd surges as a potential occupational hazard of the live music experience; after Roskilde, however, you’d be a fool not to. For me and most other Pearl Jam fans, everything changed after June 30, 2000.
But June 30 also marks a much happier Pearl Jam related anniversary: seven years ago today, I saw the band live for the first time, at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Earlier that same afternoon, England had been eliminated from the 1998 World Cup of Soccer in dubious fashion (see: David Beckham, Diego Simeone), so it was with heavy (and slightly angry) hearts that Ian and I arrived at the venue that night. Three hours later, I left a different person, with vision of “Alive” still running through my head–not to mention the jam on “My Generation Blues” that bled seamlessly into an explosive, show-closing version of “Porch” with the audience going nuts. I’ve seen Pearl Jam eleven times since then, and while each of them has been special in its own right I’m still not sure if any of them have gotten close to matching the emotional impact of that first show. I still haven’t worked up the courage to find a video of the Minneapolis show–I’ve got all the footage I want right here in my brain.
In keeping with this spirit of remembrance, a few other significant milestones happened on or around this day:
- June 28, 1945: Ian Johns is born, setting the stage for the world to become a better place…thirty-five years later.
- June 28, 2003: Pearl Jam in Toronto, in which the finale (“Baba O’Riley”) miraculously coincided with the start of the Symphony of Fire show at adjacent Ontario Place. Magical moment.
- June 29, 2000: the aforementioned I Mother Earth concert, still one of the few shows I’ve ever left feeling thoroughly satisfied
- June 29, 2003: Pearl Jam in Montreal, an incredible show that’s egregiously overlooked when the best shows of the 2003 tour are being discussed
- June 29, 2004: the Tragically Hip’s latest album, In Between Evolution, is released
- June 29, 2004: me and Talia are *this close* to the Tragically Hip as they play an exclusive show at the Mod Club in Toronto. We hear the new album in its entirety, plus a few of the usual suspects; hearing “Grace, Too”, “New Orleans is Sinking”, “Courage” and “Fully Completely” in a venue the size of your typical classroom redefines the meaning of the word “surreal”.
- July 3, 1999: Bob Dylan and Paul Simon–together!–in Duluth, Minnesota; still haven’t come to terms with how cool it was hearing Dylan play “Highway 61 Revisited” right next to Highway 61.
- July 8, 1950: Marilyn Johns (nee Olsen) is born, setting the stage for the world to become a better place…thirty years later.
- July 12, 2003: Pearl Jam in Hershey, Pennsylvania, a show at which Eddie Vedder launched into one of the most notorious rants of his career in music. It started like this: “There’s this little coquette down here who keeps trying to impress us by taking her shirt off and showing us absolutely nothing.” And it was all downhill from there.
Off to school–take care, everybody.