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jeff article

Pearl Jam survives death of music genre
By ALLAN WIGNEY -- Ottawa Sun

It was a difficult time for aging rockers. New sounds were emerging from the unlikely musical hotbed that is the Pacific Northwest. Wild, unbridled sounds that appeared to owe no debt to The Eagles and Supertramp. Sounds that therefore must be stopped.

Ah, but this movement would prove less easy to sweep under the industry's carpet than punk had been a decade earlier. For one thing, this new breed of ruffian didn't look the part of the public menace. Safety pins were one thing; jeans and plaid jackets, frankly, appear threatening only if you are a tree.


The media labeled it 'grunge' and proceeded to herd Pacific Northwest bands into one all-encompassing pen. They even worked out a compromise with those who feared being left behind: Your music is 'alternative,' the old guard informed the kids, ours is classic rock.

Bassist Jeff Ament remembers it well. Together with guitarist Stone Gossard, Ament had been at the frontlines of the nascent grunge scene, paying dues with Green River and Mother Love Bone. But, he insists, by the time the pair had recruited guitarist Mike McCready, drummer Dave Krusen and vocalist Eddie Vedder to form Pearl Jam, grunge was but a distant memory for them. Even if the media continue to tell a different story.

"I think I've become numb to that over the last 15 years," Ament says of Pearl Jam's enduring status as official grunge godfathers. "It really bothered me at first, to some degree, because I never felt like we were a grunge band. Stone and I did that when we were in Green River, but we always had aspirations to do something that was more than just one kind of thing.

"I think at that point we were aspiring to be a Led Zeppelin kind of a band where you could pick up your acoustic instruments or you could go out and rock or you could play a country song. I love all those bands we got mentioned with, but it never felt like we fit into that group very well. So the fact that they're still saying, 'The band that survived grunge' is kind of funny."

Fighting the industry

Yet, regardless of whether it's the sound or the label, survive grunge Pearl Jam has. This, despite getting caught up in the inevitable grunge backlash, going through a succession of drummers and very publicly fighting the music industry law only to have the law win.

Five years after its most recent studio album (a nearly completed new one will see release "before the next Guns N' Roses record," Ament jokes), Pearl Jam has maintained a loyal following through constant touring.

In that sense, Pearl Jam's profile reminds Ament of another classic-rock band.

"In some ways we've tried to model ourselves after The Grateful Dead," he says. "I think we spend a little bit more time on our studio records than they did, but they had a really cool thing going on -- how they treated their fans and how their fans treated them.

"We've been lucky enough that our core fans have always been there for us, whether radio and MTV have played us or not. That's pretty great existence in our book."

It is not, however, the DIY existence the band envisioned when Pearl Jam boldly stood up to Ticketmaster nearly a decade ago, accusing the megacorporation of controlling a music industry monopoly ... and ultimately going down to defeat in the courts.

"We saw something starting to happen with the industry and we called them out on it," Ament explains. "More than anything we wanted people to know where their money was going. And the one thing we did win about that was that they have to print on their tickets what the surcharge is.

"But we thought we were bigger than the industry at that point and said, 'We're going to go out and do our own shows.' We did about 10 or 15 shows that we built from the ground up and it just about killed us.


"So by the time we got ready to play shows on the next tour there really wasn't an option. If we wanted to play Chicago at any venue that held more than 500 people we had to play a Ticketmaster venue."

For the record, Ticketmaster is not the source for tickets to Friday's Corel Centre show. But then, local Jamheads likely already know that. Just as they know that their heroes were never grunge ... and should not be held responsible for the countless Eddie wannabes that spring up each year.

"Now, when I hear somebody on the radio that sounds like Ten-era Ed, I find it funny because they forget that Ed has about five other voices he can do. They just don't have the versatility he has, or the versatility our band has."


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Very nice!! Thank you for sharing!! I really enjoyed reading that, minus the big mistake on the writer's part, saying they hadn't released a record in five years!

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