In the summer of 1991 Pearl Jam's album Ten was released and it changed my life. Since then, Pearl Jam has been my favorite band. I've seen them play around the country many times. Each Pearl Jam show features a new setlist created by singer Eddie Vedder on the day of the show. To more experienced concert goers, who attended shows in the 1960s and 1970s, this type of setlist is nothing new. But, for younger music aficionados like myself, a new setlist at every concert is something special. My first concert was a Motley Crue show at the long gone Met Center here in Minnesota on March 06, 1990 (here's my ticket stub). Motley Crue played virtually the same 17 songs two nights earlier in Omaha as they did in Minnesota and three nights later in Madison, Wisconsin. Over the years I've seen more band's with fixed setlist than I've seen those who mix it up on a nightly basis. Anyway, when Pearl Jam announced it would be playing Boston's Fenway Park this summer, I immediately logged into my Pearl Jam fan club account and entered the drawing to purchase tickets. Weeks later I was notified that my name had been drawn for two tickets to the August 05, 2016 show. Flights were booked, hotel reservations were made, and as Pearl Jam sang in the song Corduroy, the waiting drove me mad.
When purchasing tickets through the Ten Club, Pearl Jam's fan club, members don't find out the specific location of their seats until they pick up tickets at the Ten Club table in the will call area of the venue. This helps cut down on ticket resellers jacking prices way up, ensures the bands biggest fans get the best seats, and prolongs the suspense for all of us intending to attend the show rather than sell the tickets. Members of the CA community will likely be please to know that the price for the absolute best seats in the entire venue, yes including the front row, were sold for $85. Pearl Jam has a thing for keeping ticket prices low in addition to donating a portion of the ticket price to charity (Pearl Jam's Vitalogy Foundation donated $1 per ticket from the Fenway Park shows to four Boston-area non-profits: ArtsBridge Institute’s ‘Music in Common’ Summer scholarships, Roxbury Youthworks, Inc.'s 'GIFT' program, ZUMIX, and Songbird Sings Inc's Veteran's Voices program.)
My wife and I arrived in Boston on Thursday, August 04, 2016. The Ten Club encouraged all members to pick up their tickets the day before the show, to avoid long lines at the venue. I walked from our hotel, the Hotel Commonwealth, a few blocks from Fenway Park, to the will call area as soon as we arrived. It was great to see the ballpark again. I hadn't been to Boston since the summer of 1990 when my dad and I took a baseball tour to ten stadiums over the course of two weeks. This time at Fenway I saw Pearl Jam banners and merchandise everywhere in addition to Red Sox gear. When I located the Ten Club ticket table I was pleasantly surprised to see nobody in line. I spent about thirty seconds showing my ID and signing and envelope, and I was presented with two tickets in section B3, row 11. I was very pleased with this seat location and briskly walked back to the hotel to share the good news with my wife. Sure I could have called her, but there's nothing wrong with a face-to-face conversation once in a while.
Thursday evening we had dinner at Island Creek Oyster Bar on the recommendation of San Francisco Bay Area audio dealer Tim Marutani. The food was fabulous. The raw oysters were so fresh it was crazy. Crazy for someone from Minnesota who is used to oysters that can be fairly dry and have the texture of chewing gum. Following dinner we went on the Ghosts & Gravestones Boston Firghtseeing Tour. This tour wasn't my favorite part of the trip, but my wife loved every minute. It was interesting to see Paul Revere's and John Hancock's graves and to see the old cemeteries of Boston, but I'd rather do it on my own than a tour.
Friday was the big day I'd been waiting for for months. In the afternoon we took a stroll around Harvard University, and had lunch at world famous Mr. Bartley's. According to Bartley's, "The laundry list of celebrity customers and fans includes Johnny Cash, Jaqueline Onasis, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Bill Belichick, Al Pacino, Adam Sandler, Tom Werner, and Katie Couric." During lunch I sat next to a sign that said Al Pacino sat here and another one that said Tyra Banks sat here (but not a the same time). Interesting place with pretty good pub food.
We walked to the concert about seven in the evening and entered Fenway Park. Our seats were right on the field and we followed the signs that said Turf Seating. Eventually getting to the fired and walking out right next the green monster was a really neat feeling. I'd probably seen the green monster one hundred times on TV watching ESPN as a kid and saw it from a distance when I saw a game at Fenway back in the day. Walking right up to it and seeing Pearl Jam's name in the box score area was an experience I won't soon forget. Before the concert started I just had to purchase a couple Peal Jam / Fenway shirts, a hat, some baseball cards featuring members of the band, and a poster. I don't normally purchase much merchandise at concerts, but when it's this special of an event, I'm all over the unique items. There were several shirts created just for this event and she for both the Fenway and upcoming Wrigley Field concert. Perhaps the most coveted of all Pearl Jam merchandise at a PJ show is the event poster(s). At each concert the band sells a unique poster designed especially for that show by one of a handful of artists. For the Fenway shows Pearl Jam released five different posters. Carrying around five large poster tubes and holding them during the concert isn't my idea of a good time, so I purchase a single poster. I selected the one that looked like an old-time baseball player standing with a bat. An interesting note, on the back of the posters is a hologram seal / sticker that says Say No To Flippers - Official Pearl Jam Event Poster. This is likely the band's attempt to curb the secondhand market and discourage the folks who purchase the posters with the sole intent to sell them on sites like eBay.
Not long after purchasing merchandise and taking our seats, Pearl Jam slowly walked out on stage and started playing one of my favorite songs, Release. The band opens up its shows with fairly mellow songs and builds up the crowd's energy before blasting into hard rock and roll. The band played many "hits" and, as Joni Mitchell calls them, "misses." No matter how many times I see PJ, I never get tired of hearing even the most popular songs. Some of my highlights from this show are hearing Eddie's solo track Society from the Into The Wild soundtrack, Bob Dylan's Masters Of War, State Of Love And Trust from the Singles soundtrack, Alive, the song that originally got me hooked on PJ, and the final track of the evening, The Who's Baba O'Riley. I've seen PJ cover Baba a few times to end shows and it's really a special moment. All the lights in the venue are turned on so it's possible to see the entire crowd sing along to "Teenage wasteland, it's only teenage wasteland, they're all wasted!" After every Peal Jam show I've seen over the years, there is one sense that I always have, that I got my money's worth. That the band didn't phone it in. Eddie Vedder runs all over the stage, sings his ass off, and communicates to the audience throughout the entire three-hour plus, thirty-three song show. August 05, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston was another shining example of why I love this band.
Here are a few videos from the evening. The first one is pretty short and was shot by me. The rest of from other PJ fans. A larger PJ Fenway image gallery is at the bottom of this post.
Saturday Night In Boston and Blackwing Music and Willy Tea Taylor
How I get from Pearl Jam at Fenway Park in Boston to California based Blackwing Music and its artist Willy Tea Taylor is a winding road that I stumbled upon by accident. After eating breakfast at the Boston Public Market, lunch in Little Italy / Boston's North End at The Daily Catch, and dinner at The Fireplace in Bookline, we walked to Brookline Booksmith. BB is located just outside of Boston near Coolidge Corner and opened in 1961. It's an old-school bookstore. The kind that has been disappearing around the world for quite a while. Walking through this store, I noticed some special looking pencils. Yes, even a digital guy like me is interested in some purely analog items. The pencils were from a company named Blackwing. The Blackwing 602 model of pencil has a slogan that said, "Half the pressure, twice the speed." I noticed all the pencils from Blackwing had replaceable erasers housed in a nice metal casing. I picked up a Blackwing 602 and a Blackwing Pearl pencil. Writing with these pencils on quality paper is really nice, especially when I spend so much of my life hunting and pecking at a keyboard in front of a computer screen.
When I returned home from Boston, I did a bit more research on Blackwing pencils and the company. There is an interesting story here, but it's for another time. From the Blackwing website I stumbled upon Blackwing Music, the brand's record label. On the Blackwing Music site, the artist Willy Tea Taylor is prominently featured with his new album Knuckleball Prime. Looking further into Willy and the new album I noticed musicians from Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers were featured backing Willy on guitar. I listened to a few tracks from Knuckleball Prime, watched a quick video featuring Willy, and was sold. I purchased the digital download of Knuckleball Prime. This is a really great album of Americana music that's all original and has an incredibly organic feel. The sound quality of the album is pretty good as well. I highly recommend ordering the physical disc because the digital download is a very lossy 192kbps MP3 version. I would say I wasted ten bucks on the MP3, but great music is great music and now I know I need to order the to get the lossless version. Highly recommended.
Knuckleball Prime was recorded by Phil Harris at PH Balanced Studios, Nashville, TN and Vanessa Parr at Earls Music, Los Angeles, CA and Mastered by Rueben Cohen at Lurssen Mastering, Los Angeles, CA
Researching Willy a bit more I stumbled across free live recording available as a lossless FLAC download at 24 bit / 48 kHz. The live show was recorded at Moe's Original Bar B Que, Tahoe City CA, November 10, 2015. Here is a link to the download - LINK
Here is the title track from Knuckleball Prime, that got me hooked.
Walking toward the field
Fenway concert Seating chart
The poster I purchased, front and back
Here are the ear plugs Pearl Jam has available at its shows. A $5 donation get you the case and earplugs, while the money goes to the MusiCares Foundation. I picked up a few pairs at Fenway.
The following three are not my photos, but I want to include them to show how cool the concert was.