Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pearl Jammer

An occasional pastime for me and my brother is to go to a Pearl Jam concert. Well, we've only been to two now, but I'd like for it become a pastime. A couple of years ago he took me to see the PJ20 tour kickoff at Alpine Valley. That was a birthday present to me. The concert at Wrigley Field he took me to last night was also a birthday present. I need to make some big money to return the favor and take him to something huge, someday. Perhaps the next Pearl Jam concert. Eddie Vedder wants to come back to Wrigley Field, perhaps do a double header, and I hope he does.

Pearl Jam is a special thing for me and my brother. I inadvertently turned him onto it when he was in 7th grade. Shopping at a music store in the Auburn Mall (Auburn, ME) a store since closed and turned into something else, maybe a Bath and Body Works or a smoothie place, I picked out a birthday gift for him. At random, I chose a cassette tape of Pearl Jam's Vs. because I liked the image of the snarling sheep warped by a wide angle lens. He fell in love with it, and soon bought the tape of Ten. And then we got CD players so he got the subsequent albums after that on CD. He got really into them. One time I was talking to a friend on AIM, my brother came in the room, looked over my shoulder, saw he had mentioned Pearl Jam. My brother got me to ask him if he was a Pearl Jam freak. My friend's reply was: I like Pearl Jam but I wouldn't say that I'm a freak of theirs. 

My brother went to see them play as much as he could in college, was in a Pearl Jam cover band too, and bought all of their bootleg CDs. His collection was wide and deep. I remember during one semester break when I too had moved on to college, riding with him when he went to participate in a nordic ski race at Lake Placid, where the old Olympic trails were, and we listened to a shit load of Pearl Jam. The bootlegs. In the dark of night as we drove, I imagined myself there. It seemed like a good show. 

Finally we got to go together. And it's a fucking treasure. It's uplifting without the cheese. Grunge can vibrate goodness. Sometimes seeing the pseudo sense of worship that is a rock concert can be off putting. But when I see it at a Pearl Jam show, I feel like these guys deserve to be rock gods every night they go out there and do their thing. Seeing the people around me getting into it, I feel as though even though they're letting themselves float away, they are grounded good people to be in the vicinity of. 

A couple of similarities between the two I've been two. A shit load of rain. And late late late nights. 

When I was at their Alpine Valley show, it was night 1 of 2. That was the rainy day, a wet soaked, cold one. It was also two days after a fiasco of a moving experience where the movers didn't show up and my girlfriend and I had to make car trip after car trip until 6am. No sleep. Yet the discomfort of tiredness and damp chills was soothed by the crooning and riffing. Like I said, it's uplifting. A sort of dirty, lax, unpretentious church. Then my brother's friend got too drunk and needed someone to drive him to our campsite. He couldn't remember where he parked exactly. We embarked on a romp through fields through to other fields searching until the lot was mostly cleared out. I continued to magically find burrs on my shoes for weeks after removing any and all that appeared suddenly on my shoe laces. Ghost burrs.

Last night, Pearl Jam played for half an hour before impending storms were looking via radar to smack Wrigley Field. They were pressured to take a break, and the Pearl Jam guys seem to take heart the safety of their fans after some were trampled at a Denmark show in 2000. So the field was cleared, the storms hit. Our seats were on the 3rd row of the upper deck, along the 3rd base dugout. Just barely shielded by the overhang, the east blowing wind kept us from being drenched. The spray was refreshing, and lighting seared the skyline. It was beautiful. It passed. We waited. We worried about the show being able to continue. There was that Wrigley Field curfew, which we were pleased to learn when they finally took back to the stage at 11:30pm, had been lifted. "Ernie Banks used to say, 'let's play two,'" Eddie Vedder quoted and continued with his add-on. "Let's play til two." Everyone went nuts. 38 songs were played. Quite a few were from Yield, one of my favorites. They also played Bugs from Vitalogy and people were geeked. Showed that some true fans were there, to get psyched over a rarely played track. I'm glad they got to finish. Out of all the people who've done Wrigley Field concerts, it seems to mean the most to Eddie Vedder. A Cub's die hard. An Ernie Banks fan, who joined him onstage after the rain delay.

Rain blown by the wind at Wrigley Field, delaying the Pearl Jam concert.
It ended a little after 2am. Knowing public transit would be packed, and infrequent, via the bus to get back to Logan Square, my brother and I walked home. 2.81 miles. I enjoy a good walk, so does he, so it was tolerable. We were energized, though exhausted and in a pleasant daze. I thought about how it now being July 20th, it would have been my dad's 63rd birthday if he were still alive. I thought about how he would have been pleased to see my brother and I spending time together seeing a great show. I also thought about how one time when my brother and I were in high school, he overheard us talking about punk music. He asked what we were talking about. We replied that he wouldn't know what we were talking about, that it was about punk music. He said that he liked some punk music. We laughed and said "sure, sure, name a punk band!" He said that he liked Pearl Jam. "Haha, Dad! Pearl Jam isn't punk music! Oh boy oh boy, geez Dad." I felt bad about that. Like we were barring him entry into a little club. 

Last night Pearl Jam played a track from their upcoming album. It was a hardcore one, perhaps quite a bit punk influenced. My dad got the last laugh. 

We also saw my friend Dr. Kenneth Noisewater at the show. Read his blog - The Gancer!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Rain Slickers, man.

Sometimes I fantasize about walking in the pouring rain. Like it'd be refreshing. Last week I got caught in the rain twice. The first time I was coming up from the underground part of the Chicago Blueline. It was suddenly very dark out and I wondered, shit, how late did I work? Then I saw black clouds and I thought, shit, I better book it when I get off at the stop. Pulling up at California, and stepping out off the train, boom! Thunder, lightning, and torrential down pour. I hunkered down in the entrance for 10 minutes until it lessened. I thought it was exciting though. Shared some glances with others that had a similar plan, and I was like, this is a nice sense of community.

The next day I was crabby. I was trying to work out something in my mind and while walking home from the Blueline, it rained. A heavy rain. It scattered my thoughts. I pulled out my umbrella from my man bag. Soon after, a gust of wind popped it out so it was concave, facing up. I flipped my wrist to right it. The wind was persistent. A few of these back and forth spars caused the fabric to rip off from the spokes. This irritated me and I cussed and hit it against a sign post. It wasn't my most patient moment. I had felt myself getting soaked. My man bag getting soaked. And instead of feeling recharged by the rain, my anger was fed.

I thought about my destroyed umbrella as a symbol of the day. I thought about ducking into a Walgreen's, but did I want to spend 7 bucks on something the Chicago winds would mess with again? And again. And again. It becomes its own line item to budget: umbrella supply. Plus I've been getting this minor form of OCD lately: during a recent Walgreen's checkout, the terminal asked me if I wanted to donate $1 to fight diabetes, my brain said "if you don't donate right now, you'll get diabetes" and so being soaking wet, I didn't want that kind of pressure.

Rain slickers, man, rain slickers. My consciousness is catching up to their existence, and I'm liking the idea of quitting umbrellas altogether. As I walked some more and looked periodically at the mess of my umbrella's remaining structure, I started to feel good about myself. I had taken out my aggression for the first time in a long time. The day's shortcomings were not taken out on a wife, or a small animal. Instead I demolished an item that's not actually that useful in the windy city.

Rain slickers, man. After a crummy day, the image of a bright yellow rain slicker was a hopeful beam peaking through the overcast.