When you look at the audience at a Pearl Jam show, you’ll find that most fans are somewhere between the age of 40 to 50 years old with a small majority of men. There is nothing surprising in this fact (or rather than fact, it’s my personal experience) considering the genre of music that Pearl Jam plays and the time they had their big break through in the nineties. Most of us were teens during those years, the band was pretty hard to avoid back then, and research shows that people form their musical identity in their early teens or a little earlier. So when I see a new young(er) face in the fan community, it always catches my eye and sparks my curioisity. How do people discover Pearl Jam these days when there’s no music on MTV and the media in general is dominated by crappy meaningless pop?
29-year-old Sofie Thybo Pedersen showed up at a Pearl Jam Nordic gathering at a bar in central Copenhagen in January. She showed up alone and knew nobody there but felt like a part of the Jamily right away, and that’s what’s so cool about the Jamily: You’re never a stranger. You’re a part of the tribe. The day after the meeting I contacted Sofie to ask if she wanted to do an interview for the blog, so I could ask her more about her story of becoming a Pearl Jam fan and share it with the world.
How did you discover Pearl Jam?
“To begin with it was around the accident [Roskilde 2000] when I was 10 years old. I remember my dad told me that something had happened at Roskilde Festival and a lot of people had died. He told me a lot of incorrect facts, that I know today were wrong. Sadly, that’s how I learned that Pearl Jam existed.
Fifteen years later I was at Roskilde Festival where I saw the documentary Nine Rocks about the accident. There were Pearl Jam songs in the background and I thought, maybe I should check that out when I get home. And I did and thought to myself, that’s not really me. Many people say that Pearl Jam’s music grows on you, so you have to listen to it a few times. And that’s also what I did and ended up loving it in the end.”
Pearl Jam just goes deeper than any other band.
Where did you start then?
“With Ten. I bought Ten and Vs. in one package and just started with them. And I thought Ten was the best. Around that time I had had a summer fling in Japan and missed him a lot when I got home and cried and cried and cried all the time. And I was just listening to Ten, and even though the songs aren’t about unhappy love but many other things…”
…well, except for Black
“…yeah, but it’s also about fathers you didn’t know and kids committing suicide, but it helped me immensely anyway. Pearl Jam just goes deeper than any other band.”
What is it that makes them stand out from other bands? What is it that they’re doing that’s better?
“It’s hard to say. When they’re playing live it’s just more intense and more intimate. You feel something really extraordinary. It’s also like that on their albums. And Eddie just seems magic, both as a human, an artist, and a frontman. Even though they’re not my favourite band, they’re in the Top 5…”
They’re not your favourite band?! What are you doing here, get out, haha! What other bands do you listen to then?
“I listen to Mew, I don’t know if you’ve heard of them [Danish band]. I really like them and have listened to them a lot. Also a prog rock band called Porcupine Tree. Mew is also inspired by grunge even though their music is totally different. They were huge fans of grunge.”
But when they started out, their music was completely different. Their first single on Barometeret [Danish alternative chart] was super weird.
“But that’s what it’s like. Sometimes bands claim to be inspired by something, but you’re like “Ok, I don’t hear that”…”
I was thinking to myself I’d love to be in GA, there seemed to be a party going on down there.
…but then when you know it you can hear it in the little details…
Have you been to any Pearl Jam shows?
“Yes. I saw them in London last year. I was supposed to see both shows but then night 2 was cancelled, so I just saw the first one and then I went to Prague after that. I travelled alone. I always travel alone. I had seats because I’m not a Ten Club member, so I just took whatever tickets I could get. “
Well, there are no bad seats at a Pearl Jam show.
“No, but it still felt like watching a show that I didn’t really… it was like watching a live DVD, kind of. It wasn’t quite the same but it was still amazing. I’m glad there was a big screen, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to see anything. I was thinking to myself I’d love to be in GA, there seemed to be a party going on down there.”
How was the atmosphere around the venue and before the show? Did you go to the preparty?
“It was a huge arena, so I was just walking around, getting something to eat, talking to some of the other fans. But it was also kinda cool to just walk in and sit down with a beer, instead of waiting in line for 8 hours to get a good spot. But I’d like to try that one day.”
You brought some things that you wanted to show me?
“Yes. I found this cd [Pearl Jam: Evolution 1985-1993] in some music shop somewhere and it’s just kind of the evolution of Pearl Jam. It has Green River and Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone on it. I wonder where it’s from. It’s still kinda interesting to hear Eddie’s bands from before Pearl Jam. “
Gossman Project? I don’t even remember what that is.
“I think it’s just Pearl Jam without vocals…”
Oh so that’s what they called themselves on the demo before Eddie joined? E-Ballad, that rings a bell… is that Jeremy? I remember hearing the title and it’s another name for one of their songs on Ten. [correction: it was the working title for Black]
“Inside it just says “A Love God: Andrew Wood”. It’s so typical of Andrew Wood to describe himself like that. And then it lists all the bands that were the “parents” of Pearl Jam. That’s really interesting because I’m very interested in rock history. I think this is one of the most unusual items I have in my collection.”
That’s a pretty good find! What else did you bring?
Sofie shows me her copy of the book “I Pearl Jams Fodspor” by Henrik Tuxen. The book is completely filled with notes and little post-its.
“This is from my master thesis [Sofie holds a Master of Arts degree in Danish and Communication]. I wrote my thesis on the subject artistic trauma communication. I took my starting point in the Roskilde accident.”
Wow, you really studied this book!
“I showed it to Tuxen once, and he was like “Aaaah! This is cool!”.”
Did you talk to him or any of the people in the book during your work on your thesis?
“No. I wanted to keep them out of it, because I think you either have to go all in with interviews or you should just leave it. So I tried to limit it like that. But I did randomly meet Tuxen at Roskilde Festival after I finished the thesis and told him about it. I wrote my master thesis as a comparative analysis of ”I Pearl Jams Fodspor” and the short documentary ”Nine Rocks” to find out, how you communicate trauma through books and films respectively. And it’s two very different things. A book is very much like, “this and that happened…”, whereas in a movie you can be more artistic, like “here’s a forest and it symbolizes this and that”. There is also a part of the documentary where footage from the accident is shown, and Alive is playing in the background. But I found out afterwards that Alive wasn’t played at the show. So he [director Tor Nygård Kolding] just added the music because it fit in so well. I thought that was kind of ironic and morbid considering the song title. But that’s ok when you make a documentary. You can’t do stuff like that when you write a book about it. You have to stick to the facts.”
That’s very interesting. You brought one last thing. What is that?
“That’s Live at the Garden. It’s just a live DVD. I chose that because it feels as if they said “Sofie, what would you like to hear?” and then they made this for me, haha. It’s the perfect setlist except that Alive isn’t on it. I was quite disappointed by that. But it’s really good. “
What’s your favourite song?
“Uhm, In My Tree. If I was a song I think I’d be In My Tree. You can interpret it in many ways, but I’m very introverted, and I like being alone. And the way I interpret it, it’s about like, sitting in a tree and being all alone and liking it even if it’s not quite right. Everyone else is gone, you wave at them but nothing happens… “
That’s what so cool. Eddie writes some really amazing lyrics, if you compare to other bands, right? It’s on a completely different level and you can interpret them in so many ways. So you can always make it fit in. That’s the thing, there’s always a Pearl Jam song for any given situation, no matter how you feel there’s always a song that described exactly how you feel…
What’s your favourite album then?
“That’s Ten. But then, I haven’t heard all the latest ones. I want to concentrate and focus on each one. But it requires a lot so I haven’t been through all of them yet. I’m going to do it chronologically. Sometimes I see something very old, like for example a video from Pinkpop ’92 where they’re going absolutely mad, and then I like watching something new afterwards, like the Sirens video, to see how old they’ve become, haha. How different they are now, you can sense that they’ve become fathers and are more like “I don’t want anything to happen to my kids, and the world is such a scary place”.”
When all the really old bands are dead and gone, then Pearl Jam will be the classic ones.
Do you see them as a classic rock band that’s just still around, or do you see them as a contemporary band? I’m curious about how people who haven’t followed them for 25 years percieve them.
“There are a lot of other bands that are twice as old, like Rolling Stones, for example…”
So they’re not in the same category as them?
“You could say they’re a different generation. In 25 years we might think that they’re all part of the biggest classic acts. But they’re not there yet. I think they’re rather a new generation of classic rock. When all the really old bands are dead and gone, then Pearl Jam will be the classic ones.”
What’s your biggest Pearl Jam moment?
“I think that must be seeing them end their shows with Alive and Rocking In The Free World. They did that in both Prague and London. That was pretty cool because I really like both songs. Also, when they played Jeremy, I caught myself sitting there dancing in my seat. My Jeremy dance…”
Could we make a little video of you dancing your Jeremy dance?
“Uhm, no haha.
It’s a bit difficult to think of some really big moments because I haven’t seen them so many times. I saw the movie Let’s Play Two at Empire Bio and there’s a scene with a guy saying he’s been in line for four days. He just lost his father, and then they play Release at the show, and it’s like “Now we all have to help this guy move on…”. And then there’s 20,000 people singing Release. I cry when I’m watching that. “
So when Pearl Jam tours again you’re one of those crazy people camping out for three days to get a spot on the rail?
“Hopefully! If I can get tickets. But when Ten Club members have to buy two tickets at a time I suppose there’s a chance that someone has a spare. “
There’s always someone with an extra ticket.
I’m an admin and founding member of the online Pearl Jam fan community, Pearl Jam Nordic.
Fan of PJ since buying Vitalogy in the record shop where I was doing an internship in January 1995. I’ve seen the band around Europe, USA and South America. Collector of Pearl Jam vinyl, show posters and all that crap.
I’m here to spread the jam and share my love for the best band in the world with anyone who wants to listen.