In celebration of two decades as a mainstay of alternative rock and the corresponding release of the band’s much talked about documentary, “Pearl Jam Twenty,” Pearl Jam will be invading the National Stadium in San José on Sunday.
Costa Rica will be the only Central American country to witness a stop on Pearl Jam’s tour of Latin America, which started Nov. 3 in São Paulo, Brazil, and ends Nov. 24 in Mexico City. The concert will mark Pearl Jam’s first appearance in Costa Rica.
The band’s current lineup consists of guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament, organist Boom Gaspar, Matt Cameron, the band’s fifth drummer and former drummer of Soundgarden, and, of course, alternative-rock icon Eddie Vedder on vocals and guitar. All band members are renowned for their musicianship and have participated in various musical projects outside of Pearl Jam. Vedder has been particularly active, recording a ukulele-based solo album and film soundtracks and collaborating both in recordings and onstage with performers such as The Ramones, Neil Young, Mike Watt and U2, among many others. Members of the band are avid surfers, and they will likely take advantage of their time here to get their boards wet in some of Costa Rica’s famous waves.
“Pearl Jam Twenty,” which hit the streets Sept. 20 and was directed by veteran rock-’n’-roll filmmaker Cameron Crowe (“Singles,” “Almost Famous”), features plenty of footage of Pearl Jam’s acclaimed live shows, which the band’s disciples declare are life-changing experiences. The feverishly anticipated Nov. 20 concert will perhaps be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for fans in Costa Rica to revel in the sound that came to define rock in the 1990s and continues to be as relevant and striking as it ever was.
Drawing on the musical influence of a wide range of bands including The Who, The Pixies and Fugazi, Pearl Jam had its beginnings in Seattle, Washington, in 1990, rising out of the ashes of Pacific Northwest grunge pioneers Green River and Mother Love Bone. Pearl Jam’s debut album, “Ten,” was released in early 1991, and is generally regarded as one of the most influential mainstream rock albums since the genre’s inception. Although the record was slow to melt faces and win fans, sales started picking up in the second half of 1992, and “Ten” eventually went on to sell nearly 10 million copies. In the 20 years since then, the band has been prolific, releasing nine full-length studio albums that have sold an estimated 60 million copies worldwide. Pearl Jam has also released seven live albums, three compilation albums, 31 singles, an EP and enough official bootlegs for fans to be able to listen to one a day for the better part of a year.
Considered an original pillar of the Seattle grunge scene, alongside groups like Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, Pearl Jam has won enough awards, including four MTV Video Music Awards and five American Music Awards, to fill a decent-sized trophy case. The single “Spin the Black Circle,” a song about the band’s love of vinyl records, won a Grammy for best hard rock performance in 1996. Pearl Jam has been nominated for a total of 14 Grammy awards. Both “Ten” and 1994’s “Vitalogy” rank among Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums of all time. As an unorthodox honor that few can claim, a new species of mayfly, discovered recently in the Brazilian rain forest, was named Paramaka pearljam.
Perhaps the insect bearing the band’s name would never have been discovered if not for Pearl Jam’s tireless conservation work and effort in raising awareness for environmental causes. In 2009, the band toured to promote its album “Backspacer”; in order to offset its carbon emissions over the course of the tour, the band donated $210,000 to plant 33 acres of native trees in urban communities in the Puget Sound area. Pearl Jam members have been active in humanitarian work and political campaigning as well. They are known for their strong pro-choice political stance and for their criticism of the George W. Bush administration and U.S. foreign policy. In 2007, Vedder was nominated for youth animal rights group peta2’s Sexiest Vegetarian award.
The group hasn’t seen a career without criticism, however. Flipside, the Los Angeles, California-based punk rock fanzine, reported Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain to have labeled Pearl Jam as “sellouts.” NME, an authoritative British music magazine, agreed, saying the band existed to “steal money from young alternative kids’ pockets.”
Despite occasional unkind words spoken of their heroes, Pearl Jam’s fans remain true to the end. Collectively they are known as “the Jamily” and have often been compared to Deadheads, the loyal fans notorious for following the Grateful Dead from concert to concert. Although Pearl Jam isn’t eligible for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame until 2016 – requirements state that potential inductees must have released their first record 25 years prior to induction – the Jamily sees Pearl Jam’s inclusion as an inevitability.
Fans in Costa Rica can gear up for the concert using Estadio Virtual Pearl Jam, a Facebook application that lets ticket holders see exactly where in the stadium their seat is located, as well as which of their friends are attending the event. The application can be accessed via production company RPMTV’s Facebook page. All fans who register their ticket with the application are automatically entered into a drawing to win one of 10 tours of the stage and backstage area an hour before the stadium doors open to the general public.
Tickets to the concert, which will start at 8 p.m. Nov. 20, are available for purchase at www.laboleteria.co.cr and range in price from ₡9,000-₡52,000 ($18-$104).
X Marks the Spot
Los Angeles punk legends X, revered for their poetic lyrics, onstage showmanship and rockabilly influences, will open for Pearl Jam on Nov. 20.
Although X never enjoyed the same commercial success as Pearl Jam, they are regarded as one of the most important U.S. punk bands of the 1970s and ’80s. Rolling Stone ranked X’s first two studio albums, “Los Angeles” and “Wild Gift,” among the 500 best albums of all time. Don’t dawdle on your way to the concert, because X is sure to infect the crowd with their contagious brand of catchy, high-energy punk rock.