If you were at Pearl Jam’s concert Monday night you’ll recall Eddie Vedder pausing before “Off He Goes” to give a 7-year-old boy a guitar pick. That boy’s name is Matthew and he was attending his first ever concert with his father Jeff, an Ear Candy reader. This is their story, as written by Jeff Tuesday morning. It is a story that doesn’t just convey the power of Pearl Jam, but the power of music in general. Be warned, it’s a tearjerker so have some Kleenex ready.
Tonight was an absolutely life changing night. Today I took my seven (almost eight) year old son to his first concert, of any type. I debated on it, but I really believed that he was ready to have this experience, to have it and hold it, and appreciate it for the rest of his life. He was ready. We got Backspacer in the mail Friday, and spent the weekend getting familiarized with it. He already is very in touch with the rest of the catalog, definitely has his favorites. But he is a new fan and, he really, really digs the newer stuff, mostly from the last twoalbums.
We got down to the arena about 5:30, we were going to check out Easy Street, and the pre party at TS McHugh’s, but I couldn’t resist, so we went to the 10c ticket window. And we got good news. Row seven. Dead center.Unbelievable. The greatest part of these seats was the fact that there was a wide aisle (maybe five feet wide?) directly to our left, we were on the aisle. And there were about three rows of people in front of us, so my son was able to just rock out, and see everything totally unobstructed. This could not have worked out better, it was meant to be.
Not one security guard said one thing about it. People were coming up left and right, high fiving him, jokingly asking if he wanted to trade seats with them. We both decided we wouldn’t have sold our seats for a million dollars. And that was before the first note was played.
We sit, and revel in these gifts from the heavens for awhile. What he said next really cracked me up. He said, “Dad, I’m just so excited. I feel like I can’t hold my feet still! And I have this feeling inside my stomach!” I was able to look at him and say that I felt the exact same way. I always do before a show. Now some people will say it was a waste of a five digit 10c numbered seat to bring a child, but this is a kid who somehow knows he is going to experience something special.
Ben Harper’s set was great, nice warmup. We play with the earplugs for the first couple songs, get them just right. Opener is Long Road, not something he’s really familiar with. I always dig it, though I’ve had it as an opener at least a couple times previously. Corduroy, and he is jacked. I made a point to familiarize him with the staples I guessed he would hear, and this was one. He’s totally smiling, and trying to figure out how to move somewhat rhythmically. Very entertaining. For the first time in my life, after 21 shows, I’m more entertained at the show by someone other than the five guys on stage!
Gonna See My Friend, again he is into it. One he said repeatedly he wanted to hear before the show. Singing along, I’m loving it. Got Some is another winner, same thing. Around this time, I notice Ed distinctly pointing at him, and connecting somehow. It seemed like he tried to throw him a guitar pick, but it went astray. It’s a thing I think it takes a parent to relate to. But there was just a lot of joy in that room, and my boy was immersed in goodness. Hail Hail / Amongst The Waves / Daughter. After daughter, he says “That’s it? What’s up with that?” There was no tag. That made me laugh too.
Evenflow and he gives me that look that any parent knows, like on their birthday when they open a gift that they really wanted, but really had no expectation of it actually showing up. Johnny guitar /Unthought Known / WWS. He was probably the only one there that didn’t notice the gaffes in WWS. He dug the avocado album, especially the upbeat stuff, so he’s happy. He got that look I see a lot of Tenclubbers get when they hear a song they almost somehow forgot about,but wanted to hear, and forgot they wanted to hear it!
Small Town. He is belting out the “I just want to scream hello,” and that was a special moment. I pull him close, and kinda just love on him like parents have to do at times. What happens next I still am having a hard time believing actually happened. My whole body just gets covered in goosebumps and I get the chills. Eddie goes down to one knee and says to the people in the first row, “Hey, could you do me a favor? I see there is a little boy up here in about the sixth or seventh row, could you hand this back to him?”
I can’t believe this is happening. He walks up the aisle, and it gets passed back. Ed asks, “What is he, about six or seven?” Seven, I yell back at him. Matthew is holding this guitar pick like it is a piece of gold. I hold him up, face to face with Ed, and my son tells him thank you. “What is this, about your fourteenth show?” Ed asks, jokingly. Whatever else happens tonight, this day is just unbelievable. There are no words to describe.
Off he goes and I’m still just in shock. Down / Save you / The Fixer / Life Wasted. We’re just rocking out. After the first set, he tells me anxiously, “Dad! Bathroom! Quick, Real quick!” You can’t ask for better timing than that!
We come back to the band just in time to see the band taking the stage with acoustic guitars. Matthew: “Acoustic guitars? Can I take my earplugs out?” Your call, I tell him. Beautiful arrangements. We are getting the whole experience, with the string arrangement. We were awful close, I couldn’t really pick up the entire effect, but I can’t wait to hear it on the boot. Just Breathe and The End sound amazing.
Inside Job and earplugs go back in. This is Mike’s opus. “On my knees to rise and fix my broken soul, again” is one of my favorite all time lines. Then the happiness that is exuded in the final jam of the song is just a beautiful end to the song. RVM
“Is the concert over?” I get a panicked look. Oh, no I assure him. We will probably get two or three more I say. Given to fly he knows and loves, and I always appreciate. DTE is fun. He has fun smiling and shaking his hands at the Hallelujah part. At this point I’m looking for Ledbetter or alive, but I see stone reach for an acoustic… hmmm…. Betterman, and it caught me off guard!
Singing, lots of it. My favorite story from my trip to the Boston show last year is always the crowd participation during this song (when the spontaneous applause stopped the song for nearly a minute). We’ve heard almost all the staples!
Ed announces they are playing a song by The Who,and I get the surprised birthday look again (he LOVES Baba O’Riley), but doesn’t seem disappointed, though he is not too familiar with Quadrophenia, and “The Real Me.” A fun time with the horn section!
Indifference, and I was shocked not to see Ben Harper, but it was good nonetheless. What happened next was the perfect ending to the night. Matthew has two favorite PJ songs, Sad (odd, I know), and Alive. The first riff hits and It’s like twenty surprised birthday looks wrapped into one. At this point, he is standing on the chair next to me, and I’m in the aisle.
We have our arms around each other, and again, I’m not even looking at the guys on stage, I’m looking into my son’s eyes, as he is looking at the band with the adulation I usually do, and I’m singing at the top of my lungs, with him “I’m still alive.”
That was a defining moment in my life that happened at this instant. We have all battled and fought in our lives, but at this moment, I felt completely successful and content with every aspect of my life. I’d done something right. I’d done the most important thing right.
Now you can believe this, or not believe it, but exactly after the second chorus, I glanced away from my boy, glanced at Ed, and he has this ear to ear grin, and he points directly at us. Somehow he connected there like I never have before, and in 21 shows, there have been connections.
Listen, you can say I am into trivial things. Or that I overvalue things that aren’t that important. Not to others anyway. But to me, life is all about “those moments.” You know, those moments that you have a feeling in your heart that can’t be explained. You don’t know if you weren’t there. Whether it’s your favorite team hitting a winning homerun in the ninth inning, or your favorite band doing something on stage that amazes you, life is about these precious moments. They are irreplaceable. And when I’m gone, and not on this planet anymore, I want there to be moments like these for people to remember. That’s far more important than fancy things, power, or status. That’s something that doesn’t get taught in schools. It’s something that five guys from Seattle taught me.
On the walk back to the car, Matthew told me it was the best day of his life. We stopped to get burgers at Dick’s, and he was a celebrity for the night. He got recognized by at least 5 or 6 people. He is showing off his pick and grinning, talking with these strangers, yet somehow we are all friends.
I carry him up to our apartment (he passed out on the ride home) and lay him in bed. He looks at me and says, “Dad I love you so much. We had such a great day.” Yes, I answer, we just had a day that neither of us will ever forget for the rest of our lives.