Famous Musician Week: The Time I Met Pearl Jam

So far, I’ve told you about my meetings with a few well known classical musicians such as Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Josh Groban, and Lang Lang.  Well, that is not the case today.

Today I am going to tell you about how I met Pearl Jam.  You know, as in the popular 90’s band from Seattle, known for hits like “Better Man”, “Nothing As It Seems”, and “Black”.  http://www.pearljam.com/

Again, it was purely accidental…


With most of my experiences meeting musicians, it was in thanks to a job that I had with the Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle.  And it is no different with this story.

As I’d said before, I worked in the Education Dpt for the Symphony where I got to teach people about musical instruments, perform on violin and piano all day long, and attend as many free concerts as I wanted to.  The section of the Hall where I worked was on the northwest corner of Benaroya Hall. We had our own little recital hall with a grand piano and an exterior entrance to 2nd avenue, just a block away from the Pike Street Market (where I would go on my lunch break and get THE most delicious gyros from the Greek Delicatessen).

The back entrance to our little world, with a series of special numerical codes to unlock doors, went through the basement practice rooms underneath the concert hall, through the chef’s kitchen, up a service elevator, and put you right backstage behind the big concert hall.  You had to take this route to get to another elevator adjacent to the concert hall, which then took you up another 2 stories to the administration offices on the top floor – where I went quite often to use the copy machine, check the mail, etc.

It had been the talk of the town that Pearl Jam was going to be performing at Benaroya Hall that week.  It was the first time that a “band concert” of that caliber and genre would take place in such a prestigous hall.  And being that Pearl Jam is from Seattle, you can imagine all of the local fans that were lined up down the streets for days outside the ticket offices trying to get tickets for this concert.  I also had many friends beg me to get them tickets for this concert, which happened to be one concert I was not allowed to get free tickets to.

Well, I was working one day that week, and had completely forgotten about Pearl Jam coming to perform and which day it was going to be.  I was just busy working and had some tasks to do that day that required me to go up to the 5th floor administration offices.  Several times actually.

When I went through the back entrance through backstage, I noticed that something was up.  This was not the normal pre-concert rehearsals that were going on.  Usually I would see casually dressed violinists or trombone players walking around.  But that day there were sound engineers all over the place, big huge cables along the floor backstage, and not a classical musician in site.

I didn’t think anything of it, because honestly what it looked like to me was another film scoring recording session with all the big cables and engineers.  But as I rode the elevators that morning, I found myself talking to grungy tattooed people.

Um, this person is definitely not going to be performing a Mozart Concerto as far as I can tell, I thought to myself.

Our conversations were just that – elevator chatter.  “Hi, how are you?” “Nice day isn’t it?” and yadda yadda yadda.

Later, I was back down in our little recital hall and asked my co-worker, “Soooo, what’s going on backstage today?”.  He looked at me as if I’d just asked the stupidest question of the century.  He answered, “Um, PEARL JAM.  Duh.”

Ah-ha!  “Ahhhhh okay, I was wondering about the tattoos.” I replied. And then I went back to work.

I’d listened to many of Pearl Jam’s songs over the years, but honestly I had no clue what they looked like.  Well, now I know. First hand. I’d been riding the elevators with them all day while making small talk.  Who knew?

You can catch their “Live at Benaroya Hall” CD that was released in 2004 at: http://www.pearljam.com/music/releases/Live%20CD%20Complete/live-benaroya-hall


Read more from Famous Musician Week here.


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