The Bayfront Park Amphitheater in Miami was an unlikely place for a ninth grade Catholic school girl to be hanging out in 1994. At that time grunge had made its mark on the music industry, introducing bands like Alice and Chains, Nirvana and Soundgarden to the masses. But it was the Seattle-based grunge band Pearl Jam and its sound that immediately penetrated my soul.
I wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to see this band play live, even if it was a school night. I’ll never forget it. While I was lucky enough to hold one of the 8,000 tickets sold that night, I had no idea what was about to ensue.
As the band took the stage an hour late, a crowd of fans pushed down the surrounding gates of what was supposed to be an outdoor, intimate setting, to get a closer look at Pearl Jam. I later found out that this band who had experienced a meteoric rise to fame had attracted 20,000 fans to the area that night. The rush of the people behind me was a bit frightening at first. Once all of the fans were settled, we shared a bond listening to the riffs of lead guitarist Mike McCready and the melodic voice of lead vocalist Eddie Vedder.
This was my first taste of Pearl Jam and the beginning of my long journey with a band that I hoped would remain forever vital. Twenty-one years later, I am still following Pearl Jam – a band whose music, sound, and beliefs have aged like a fine wine. Pearl Jam has stayed together to feed the fans, and the music they produce and the shows they perform are more powerful and meaningful than ever.
Over the years my husband and I have traveled the world to see this band. I have met drummer Matt Cameron and own a drumstick signed by him. I also met bass guitarist, Jeff Ament, and I have stood within a few feet of Eddie Vedder, taking pictures of a man whose voice has led me through good times and bad. And I have had a conversation with legend, Mike McCready-a moment I will remember for the rest of my life.
While the encounters with “greatness” have been memorable, there is more to Pearl Jam than one might think. Yes, it’s the band, their sound, energy, and new set list at every concert that has me coming back for more. But it’s also the experience of it all. It’s what “the boys” produce on their own and it’s what they produce as a whole – a magical sound that puts an entire audience in a trance. It’s also about the “Jamily,” the fans, the followers of Pearl Jam.
And now, our “Jamily” gathers together again this Saturday, September 26, for a greater cause called the 2015 Global Citizen Festival. We won’t be gathering just to hear “the boys” play. We will gather together with an estimated 60,000 people in an effort to end extreme poverty at the fourth annual Global Citizen Festival on the Great Lawn of Central Park in New York City.
The festival is an action-rewarded, awareness-driven, free music festival where fans engage with causes related to international education and advocacy to end extreme poverty with headliners Coldplay, Beyonce, Ed Sheeran and Pearl Jam. The festival takes place at the same time as world leaders from 193 countries meet at the UN General Assembly in New York to discuss new global goals designed to fight inequality, protect our planet and end extreme poverty by 2030. The six-hour event, which will be hosted by Stephen Colbert, Salma Hayek Pinault, Hugh Jackman, Deborah-Lee, Kerry Washington and Olivia Wilde, is available for viewing on MSNBC on Saturday, September 26, from 3 to 10 p.m.