Y’know what? I give up.
One year ago this second, Pearl Jam was on stage at the Fort William Gardens…and I’m no nearer to writing about it now than I was last September. Tonight, I thought I’d give it another go; it seemed like an appropriate way to mark the occasion, and much less cloying than sitting in a darkened room and listening to the bootleg at an excessively loud volume (which I was reasonably sure I would end up doing, by the way). But once again, I’ve failed–and I think I’ve figured out why. Simply put, seeing Pearl Jam in Thunder Bay meant too much to me. It was such a momentous occasion–and for so many different reasons–that I probably shouldn’t have bothered trying; I should have given up on September 10, 2005, and accepted that things like seeing your favourite band, in your hometown, in a building where you practically grew up, just aren’t meant to be written about.
But I kept on trying–but each and every time I’ve come up short. I’ve ended up with a bunch of semi-related points, but I’ve never been able to make them coherent. So tonight, I’m going to officially quit trying. Instead, I’m going to leave well enough alone and accept the inevitable: that I can’t write about seeing Pearl Jam in Thunder Bay. Even today, I’m still not convinced it actually happened–like when the Barenaked Ladies were selling out arenas in the United States. I mean, I know it happened: I was there. In fact, during one of the songs (either “Corduroy” or “Save You”) I literally pinched myself to make sure it was really happening. But that doesn’t mean I’ve come to grips with it.
You’ve got to understand: Pearl Jam’s Canadian tour in 2005 consummed me. I thought about it incessantly for four-and-a-half months; then, for a week-and-a-half, I lived it for twenty-four hours a day. But from the outset, the Thunder Bay concert was the lynchpin of the operation. Everything else was secondary; I would have happily sacrified the other six shows for it. Which is somewhat ironic–because objectively, it wasn’t that great of a Pearl Jam concert. I’ve seen enough “classic” Pearl Jam shows (Buffalo and State College ’03, Buffalo ’04, Toronto ’06) to know the difference between the great and the merely good. Thunder Bay was merely good; in fact, objectively speaking it probably wasn’t even the best Pearl Jam concert I saw that weekend. But subjectively, it didn’t matter: the band could literally have played “Cropduster” twenty-three times and I’d have thought it was the greatest thing ever. In a weird way I’m glad we got what we did: a standard issue Pearl Jam concert, replete with the requisite hits, the occasional wild card (like “Cropduster”, a truly awful song by the way), a few covers (“Driven to Tears”, “Last Kiss”, a “Rockin’ in the Free World” in which Supersucker lead singer Eddie Spaghetti’s son practically stole the show) and a rambling Eddie Vedder (which is the ultimate “x” factor where Pearl Jam is concerned). It was a solid show, and it wasn’t spectacular.
But again, it didn’t matter: nothing could have detracted from the experience, especially since the Fort William Gardens was so omnipresent during my childhood. I learned how to skate there. I saw so many hockey games there I literally could not keep track; I watched two local teams (the Twins and the Thunder Cats) win national championships there, saw the 1988 Soviet Olympic team play there, even witnessed a game in the legendary career of Brett Lindros there. I saw one of my very first concerts (Our Lady Peace) there; three years later I walked out of the Guess Who after suffering through half of their set. I’ve seen curling there; hell, I’ve curled there (at the adjacent curling club) in a league! Once, I performed an ice dance to “Cover Girl” by New Kids on the Block there (it’s a long story). Then throw in the fact that some of my best friends in the world–Brad Jorgensen, Heather Armstrong, Kim Thorvaldson, Beth Fuchihara, Heppler, the Tempelmans–were at the concert, and we’re talking unprecedented cosmic alignment.
In light of all that, how could I deign to write about it? I couldn’t–and as of right now, I’ve given up trying.