Pearl Jamband: Is Pearl Jam a Modern Grateful Dead?

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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 human.

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" bands.

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 through Europe.

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 coming home.”


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