Pearl Jam | Los Angeles Sports Arena | Nov. 23-24, 2013

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Pearl Jam got me drunk my freshman year of high school. Well … not literally … let me explain.

I was a decently athletic kid back in the day. I played three sports and earned a varsity letter that year in Track & Field. To celebrate Spring break, the varsity letterman had a house party in the hills. A classmate of mine’s brother was a member of the club, and he invited a couple of other fellas to join in on the fun.

Being an underclassman, attending the privileged lettman party was a bit intimidating. My only point of reference of what parties of that ilk were like I gleaned from movies like “Sixteen Candles” and “House Party“. I was anticipating the latter, and I shuddered at the though that I could be that party’s Long Duk Dong.

When I got to the party, the varsity letterman and their upperclass female friends were already there boozing it up. The hot, unattainable upperclass females aside, I noticed the music playing the background. It was Pearl Jam’s “Ten”, and it was on repeat for the whole evening. At least, that what I remember.

With nervous anticipation, I stepped into the party and grabbed my first beer in a plastic, red cup … ever. In the kitchen, a crowd had amassed around willing participants beer bonging, and before I knew it, I was on my knees, taking tips from others about how to effectively take in the 4 beers in one incredibly large “shot”.

The rest of the evening, truth be told, is a bit of a blur. I remember hearing “Alive” and “Why Go” while I was babbling about how my parents would kick my ass if they found I was a drunk. I remember flirting with the sophomore I had a crush on in the backyard while “Black” was playing. I remember listening to “Release” while I was nibbling on tree leaves because some of the varsity letterman convinced me that it would freshen my breath so that my parents would never be able to tell.

I woke up the next morning with my first hangover ever, and with Pearl Jam melodies echoing in my head. Pearl Jam may not have actually gotten me drunk, but they were there with me, and I remember that vividly, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

Pearl Jam has been on my concert going bucket list for the longest time. When I heard they were playing two nights at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, I and a friend jumped at the chance to get tickets and tickets were purchased for their show on the 24th. Knowing that Pearl Jam never plays the same set twice, I kept my fingers crossed that Sunday would be the day they would play most of the tracks off of “Ten”.

Hours before the show on the 23rd, another friend of mine called to invite me to the show for that evening. WHAT?!?! Canceling the plans I had made for the evening, I accepted the gift that the music-gods offered, and thank the heavens that I did as they played almost all of the songs from “Ten” that left such a strong impression on me at that party.

I won’t wax poetic about the shows as they have been eloquently written about HERE and HERE. The set lists for the 23rd and 24th can be found HERE and HERE respectively.

Though I didn’t beer bong for either of those shows, I did have a couple beers and reminisced about those early days of my halcyon youth, watching them kill the stage with their musicianship and music. Cheers, Pearl Jam. Next round, or beer bong, is on me.

Highlights from November 23, 2013

Highlights from November 24, 2013

Unfortunately, the Flickr slideshow below is not currently available on mobile devices. If you are on a mobile device, please click THIS LINK to get redirected to the set of photos.

Soundgarden | The Wiltern | 2/16/13

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I was a freshman in high school when “grunge” was trending. I’ll be honest with you … I was more of a Pearl Jam fan, and often pledged allegiance to Pearl Jam over Soundgarden, but over the years I’ve realized that that was just plain stupid. Stupid, unfounded childhood preferences. To think of all the amazing music I would have missed out on if I still thought so close minded today.

Plain and simply, Soundgarden’s music kicks ass. This concert is supporting their current album  “King Animal”. I wrote my review on the album here. They’ve been on an 18 year hiatus. Who knows whether their reunion was more for the money than for the music, but I could give two shits about that. Their music still kicks ass; their older songs holding fast against the sands of time- I think Morrissey would agree…..

I saw this concert tour as a musical blessing that couldn’t be passed up. I remember waking up early to get online  for the ticket pre-sale (and those who know me, know that I HATE paying the ticketing service fees).  I remember clicking the refresh button at least 50 times to finally get through to purchasing my tickets. That ticket confirmation email was like digital nirvana (no grunge pun intended). I mean there were some that thought that Soundgarden would never perform together again. After all, the band disbanded after their release of “Down on the Upside” on very acrimonious terms, most stemming from creative differences.

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The concert was everything Soundgarden fan could hope for. They played a solid set-list, powering through over 2 hours of material, covering their entire catalogue. Now, if you were a “new” Soundgarden fan, you were probably expecting a bit more “excitement” from the set.  The Wiltern had a “No Moshing, Stage Diving” policy, so that may have put a little damper on things.   And while Chris Cornell has an amazing rock-and-roll voice, his stage presence is a little, to put it bluntly, boring. It also could have helped if it wasn’t so sweltering in the venue. But while the stage performance may have been a little lacking, their music makes up for it.

IMG_0105The acoustics in the Wiltern were adequate. My friends found some space stage right about 2/3 the way in from the rear. I spent parts of the show roaming the venue, and thought that the acoustics were better in towards the rear of the venue. I also thought that the bass was a little too overpowering at times, but that could have very well been a result of my cheap ear-plugs. I thought that on the louder songs of the set, Chris voice got drowned out at times.  The drumming, in my humble opinion, was excellent. Matt Cameron smashed it, and was perhaps the most lively up on stage.  Not the most perfect concert levels, but bearable.

A friend of mine noted that towards the end of the show, before the encore, Ben Shepherd- the bassist- appeared to be pissed about something, throwing his bass off-stage, stage left. I can’t speculate as to why it was done, but it was something to note… new inter-band turmoil arising?… or just band levels?…

A little personal side story to the show:  I am a self-professed music dweeb.  I’m big into music memorabilia.  I bring a poster tube with me to shows.  If that isn’t too dweeby for you … LOL.  I was waiting in line for merchandise, when the guy right in front of me got an autographed copy of the poster.  I asked the sales people what was up with the signed poster, and they said that Soundgarden signed a handful of the posters and they were randomly inserted into the pile.  I offered some extra cash on the side if they could sift through the stack for another signed poster, and after flipping through the top 10 copies, they said they couldn’t go through the whole pile (apparently there were 150 posters printed for the event.  I still bought a poster, but I told them that I would keep swinging by to check in.

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The concert poster… unsigned.

I hit up the merchandise booth several other times throughout the evening, and the last time I showed up they said that there were no more signed copies of the poster.  I was bummed, but figured that that was life.  As I was about to head back inside to the show, the guy I had been bugging throughout the night just happened to add, “Well, there is 1 signed vinyl left…”

WHAT!?!?!  Of course I’d buy that!  In fact, it was the perfect night cap to the evening.  After all, my deluxe vinyl is still in its shrink wrap.  I tipped the guy $10 for hook up on the souvenir.

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The Jackpot!

If you want to check out some other music treasure that I’ve collected through the years, click through this link.

I ended up hitting up a bar where a buddy of mind hosts and DJs karaoke after the show. I showed him my treasure from the evening, and recounted some of the highlights- and not, I didn’t sing “Outshined” even though I had bothered my friends with a rendition of it all day. I called my cabbie (in LA, it’s a must to have the number of a cab that can pick you up without waiting) and we spoke about the show.  I told him it was “great”, but what I really wanted to say was that it was “good”.  I don’t want to diminish the concert in any way, after all the simple fact that they are performing again is, in its own right, amazing, but I still wanted more.

Below is the setlist.  I’ve inserted a couple video snippets of “Outshined” and “The Day I Tried To Live” (a couple of my favorite songs).  The Saturday setlist was the short setlist of the three day stint at The Wiltern.

1. Nothing to Say

2. Flower

3. Outshined 

4. Gun

5. Jesus Christ Pose

6. By Crooked Steps

7. Room a Thousand Years Wide

8. Attrition

9. The Day I Tried to Live 

10. Been Away Too Long

11. Worse Dreams

12. Get on the Snake

13. Ugly Truth

14. Non-State Actor

15. Ty Cobb

16. Drawing Flies

17. Blow Up the Outside World

18. Fell on Black Days

19. Eyelid’s Mouth

20. Loud Love

21. Rowing

Encore:

22. Searching With My Good Eye Closed

23. Rusty Cage

24. Beyond the Wheel

Note: Blind Dogs and New Damage were on the Encore set but cut for time