Pearl Jam has long been
linked to flannel, but what about tie-dye?
music, Pearl Jam and its follow-them-anywhere fans have slowly become one of
the tightest communities in rock ’n’ roll, complete with a vibrant bootleg trade
centered around the band’s ever-changing, much-lauded live show that many claim
transcends the pomp and circumstance of normal rock shows for something more
Sure. Sound like the Grateful Dead? Absolutely.
parallel came in cassette tapes, and now comes in MP3s. Just like the Dead’s intricate network of tapers and bootleggers, Pearl Jam fans
have got you covered if you couldn’t make the show. PearlJamBootLegs.orgname just one site, has 665 Pearl Jam shows recorded and available for your listening
pleasure. While even that figure pales in comparison to some Deadhead tapers
(Rob McKeever of WheelToTheStorm.com has 2,318 Dead shows archived), it’s still
approximately 55 days worth of Vedder and Co.
successors of the Grateful Dead. Phish would, right? Well, maybe not.
The Grateful Dead
was the first band in a genre
it created, spawning countless musical children (Phish, Widespread Panic, moe.,
String Cheese Incident), and the band’s following was stronger than all of the
bands that came after. Pearl Jam, similarly, is the forebear of a genre (though it
hasn’t released a real grunge record
in 15 years), and has spawned countless musical children (Everclear, SilverchairCreed, etc.). And Pearl Jam’s following is undoubtedly stronger than any of these so-called "post-grunge"
Beyond each band’s genre, the Grateful Dead and
Pearl Jam fill similar roles overall in pop culture. Both bands are known by
virtually any music fan by their hits (we all know “Jeremy”; we all know
“Truckinmusical mindset. Putting Pearl Jam’s mid-'90s superstardom aside, of course, the
band is no Coldplay just as the Dead were no Rolling Stones.
Where the Dead/Jam parallels fray a bit, though,
is in fan identity. Mention "Deadhead" to the guy sitting in the next cubicle and he’ll likely summon the usual
image: tie-dye T-shirt, fingers in a peace sign and a joint dangling from his
lips. Although even that stereotype is increasingly false (Even Ann Coulter has
admitted Deadhead tendencies), the image sticks.
So what do Pearl Jam fanatics look like? Sleeveless shirts and long hair? Dudes in
flannel? Unless we’re speaking of the lumberjack constituency of the band's fanbase, the
answer is tough to conjure.
To Einat Shaul, a 28-year-old Pearl Jam fanatic from Israel, fans are united not in appearance,
but in dedication. As the Vedder’s “All the Way,” an ode to the Chicago
Cubs, goes, she says, “We aren’t fair weather fans; we’re foul weather fans.”
first Pearl Jam show in 2003 wasn’t so different: “There’s a flow of energy,
from the band to the people and the people to the band. It’s like a group
karaoke. Like a group hug.”
correlation goes well beyond the rapturous musical experience that Pearl Jam
and Grateful Dead fans ascribe to their favorite band—the concerts of both
bands are like a town hall meeting of the faithful, with friends reconnecting
and new friendships made—as well as other things
said Shaul of her 46 (and counting) Pearl Jam shows. She's currently following her favorite band on their European tour—and
it’s not her first time, either. Like the generation of Deadheads that followed
the band in VW vans, Shaul has traveled behind Pearl Jam with a whole
assortment of similarly-obsessed fans through Australia, the States and thrice
wouldn’t know it from the way she describes Pearl Jam shows: “You’re all on one
trippy journey together, like you’re around a campfire with your closest
friends. People coming back for their 90th show feel like they’re
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