It was exactly 25 years ago today (Oct. 22) that Pearl Jam played its first-ever show, and we’re celebrating by taking a look back at that special gig. Considered the band’s official birthday by fans, October 22, 1990 found the new band taking the stage at Seattle’s tiny Off Ramp club to see if the San Diego singer/surfer Eddie Vedder they’d first flown in a couple of weeks prior was as impressive live as he had been on tape and in rehearsal.
That Monday night, Vedder, bassist Jeff Ament, guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready, and drummer Dave Krusen rocked their way through a slew of soon-to-be famous songs that would find their way onto the tracklist of the band’s classic debut Ten less than a year later. At that point going by the name Mookie Blaylock (after the basketball player), the group was so new they hadn’t even found their permanent name yet.
A least one camcorder-wielding audience member captured the band roar out of the gate with fully formed versions of “Alive,” “Even Flow,” “Black,” “Release” and several other tunes. Step back into the mists of time, and watch it all in the video player above.
“I could tell from the first two songs that this band was going to be an amazing live band,” Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell said in a 2001 interview with Spin. “All of the people standing around me, by about the third or fourth song, had this mysterial glow in their eyes like they understood that this was a special moment.”
“It's been a very intense Volume 11 experience.”
Cornell, who was already starting to rehearse with PJ’s members for the album that would become Temple of the Dog's self-titled debut, was just one of the many notable onlookers. Several members of the buzzing Seattle rock scene were there to witness the birth of Pearl Jam, presumably because Gossard and Ament’s well-liked previous group Mother Love Bone had been on the cusp of releasing its first major label LP just that spring when lead singer Andrew Wood tragically died of an overdose.
“I’ve written/played some of the most important music of my life,” Eddie Vedder wrote in a postcard home to San Diego on the day of PJ’s first show. “It's been a very intense Volume 11 experience.”
The rest, of course, is history. Ten was released the following August, kicking off a long, vibrant career — and continual praise for their powerful, epic live shows. The band’s most recent album, 2013’s Lightning Bolt, was its fifth No. 1 album, and PJ continues to wow huge audiences.
Last month, Pearl Jam headlined the massive Global Citizen festival in New York’s Central Park, and the set included Vedder’s stellar duet with Beyoncé covering Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” Next month, Pearl Jam hit the road again on a tour of South American stadiums.