I have not been able to stop thinking about this video since I saw it posted a couple of weeks ago.
That. That is Eddie Vedder, performing his first set as the lead singer for Pearl Jam. He’s terrified. Terrified, and also perfect. He already has the voice. What he’s lacking here is confidence, which you see a couple of years later when his hair is down to his waist and he’s crowd-surfing and climbing the stage scaffolds and generally transforming the experience of hearing music for a generation.
Pearl Jam was the music to which I would slam doors, angry, and blast Alive, over and over, until I felt better. I loved Yellow Ledbetter. I still love Yellow Ledbetter. It tears me up when he mumbles “make me cry,” and then Stone or Jeff or whomever has the guitar launches into that gorgeous chiming solo. The night I saw them play at a football stadium in Charlotte will forever be held up as an example of what music can do to you, to the very core of your being.
Seeing Eddie Vedder, solo, is on my life list. He performed at Wrigley Field with Bruce Springsteen about three shows before I saw Bruce last fall. I’d have perished of happiness, with Wrigley Field and Eddie Vedder and Springsteen all together. Probably best that I missed it.
We started music practice tonight, y’all. After all the bossiness about country western music night a few weeks ago, it was pretty clear to everyone that I was dragging my feet and avoiding actually playing or singing in front of anyone. So I ran into Jason and Veronica at Capital Club the other night, and as always, we mumbled something about “let’s practice next week,” and Veronica has known me for years and years and said, “Jason will be at your house Tuesday at 7. He will bring beer. I’ll come sit quietly on the couch.” First I said, “Stutter stutter stutter,” and then, “I know you guys are married and all, but there will be no witnesses. Sorry. Just Jason and beer.” Veronica was a good sport about it. Jason asked me if it would be easier to just start with the whole singing crowd and drown each other out, and my response was something like “Sweet Lord no. NO WITNESSES.”
It was really fun. Better than fun. We started out pretty solid, but a little tentative; we changed keys a couple of times, and we need to work on the phrasing. But we weren’t bad, and then we were kind of good. Our set list grew from five or six to about twenty-five. I can strum along okay, but Jason is really damn good. We did some back and forth, and had to look up a couple of things on youtube, and suddenly I exploded with I KNOW A FABULOUS BLUES SONG WE HAVE TO DO and just belted it out and mostly played the hell out of it. Jason picked it up pretty quickly and, like I said, he’s really damn good. We sang the blues.
And then I was like, what the hell just happened, and who am I?
I’ve said this before, but when I did career counseling a hundred years ago, right up next to “artist/architect” was “musician,” in terms of things which would make me happy. The part of the test which made you evaluate your skills and interest showed exactly what you’d guess: I do actually have the skills and interest for architecting. I do not, however, have any actual skills required to make a living at music. So I went to design school. The career counselor looked at me hard, though, and asked how much music I was doing, and I mumbled something about futzing around with the guitar now and then, and he told me, “I think you should consider adding more music to your life. I think you’ll find yourself surprised at the energy it gives you.” I remember that every time I pick up an instrument, no matter how badly I play it.
I guess the point of this is, who ever knows where anything will take you? Eddie Vedder, I’ll bet, didn’t always know he was going to be Eddie Vedder. He looks a little more certain by the end of this song, when he’s moved from holding his arm to standing defensively with one hand in his pocket, but he’s not there yet. No matter. He got there.
I have tentative practices with three other band members this week. And then maybe we will try it with more than two people at a time. Baby steps. None of us are planning to quit our day jobs; just curious to see what happens if we all start trying new things, doing things which terrify us a little bit, getting out of our comfort zones, having some fun.
You never know where following your passions will take you.
We have a lot of rehearsing to do.