by Jessica Price -
SGN A&E Writer
THE HOME SHOWS
August 8 (& 10)
'Seattle is our hometown. When there are challenges here, we want to be part of the solution. It's heartening so many organizations and individuals coming together to do the same. It's going to take all of us.' - Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam
The Home Shows: From Concept to Stadium
Pearl Jam launched the first of two sold out benefit shows August 8 at Safeco Field under the tagline 'Banding Together to Fight Homelessness.' The Home Shows marked Pearl Jam's first hometown appearance in five years, rivaling only the Rolling Stones in total attendance. The pair of benefits were the culmination of months of carefully orchestrated planning, a remarkable feat for a band that has grown as Seattle itself has grown. When the shows were announced in January, the scrappy band that played their first-ever performance at the tiny Off Ramp (now El Corazón) back in 1990 pledged a minimum of $1 million toward the city's most overwhelming problem. A goal was set to raise $11 million between the shows and partnering organizations and supporters.
To strategize, Pearl Jam and their team quickly assembled an 11-member Advisory Committee of advocates and foundation members to lend their expertise to The Home Shows campaign. Seattle has the third largest homeless population in the country, with over 12,000 people living without shelter on any given night; 5,000 of those individuals are youth. As our city thrives and the price of housing soars many of our neighbors are just one calamity away from losing everything. The widening disparity between income and the cost of living often hits the most vulnerable among us the hardest. While no two stories are the same, once an individual is on the streets the ability to rise again to stability, safety, shelter, and employment are a seemingly insurmountable task.
Jonathan Kumar, founder of Samaritan, stated recently in a discussion with Nordstrom employees that it takes roughly $1,000 to get one person off the streets and into housing again. 'As a community, we have a responsibility to influence policies and systems that force people into homelessness,' added Colleen Echohawk, Executive Director of Chief Seattle Club and member of The Home Shows Advisory Board. While she admitted she wasn't familiar with Pearl Jam at first, she has become a huge fan and has been touched by their passion for the homeless and for their home city. 'The band has been amazing,' she said.
By August, The Home Shows brought together over 140 partners and supporters as far-reaching as nine charitable foundations, four sports teams, 80+ restaurants, and 60+ local businesses including Nordstrom, Microsoft, Expedia, Zillow, and Swedish. Restaurants participated in donating proceeds on the nights of the concerts, businesses organized email campaigns for employees and over 3,500 individual donations came in from around the country before the concerts.
And was it all worth it? Most definitely, yes!
The Home Shows: 'Given to Fly'
In the week leading up to the benefits, the excitement was palpable even to nominal fans. Many locals recall the days when Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden were our biggest cultural export, eclipsing Amazon in popularity years before the tech boom would transform our city. Starbucks played Pearl Jam in cafes non-stop, restaurants advertised benefit nights, and Pearl Jam 'tour dogs' and Ten Club members (Pearl Jam's longtime fan club) began pouring into the city to see the boys on their home turf.
Fans from as far away as Australia and all around the US stopped at Pearl Jam places of interest, snapping pictures at the Crocodile, the Showbox, Easy Street Records, and the Moore Theater, where Pearl Jam shot the video for 'Even Flow.'
On the evening of the first show, the lines were long but spirits extremely high. Taking the stage in centerfield just as the sun set, Pearl Jam kicked off with 'Long Road,' 'Release,' 'Low Light,' and 'Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town' before Eddie Vedder addressed the massive baseball stadium. 'We are Pearl Jam. We are from Seattle, Washington. I guess that must mean that we're home.'
'Corduroy,' 'Go,' and 'Do the Evolution' followed, along with a handful of covers, a wild card that Pearl Jam has mastered with excellent song choices timely in message. Neil Young's 'Throw Your Hatred Down,' 'I Am a Patriot' by Little Steven, and a few bars of 'Help!' by the Beatles accompanied by Vedder's acoustic guitar spoke volumes for the benefit's purpose.
Notably, the band didn't proselytize or speak much about the concert's underlying message until Eddie Vedder stopped for a moment, remembering a homeless man he'd made the acquaintance of before the band's first European tour in the early '90s. Within another tour or two, Vedder's search revealed that his friend had passed on, never to know that he was inspiration for the hit song 'Even Flow.'
As a sweet summer breeze drifted through Safeco Field, the band delivered song after song marked with years of skill and familiarity. 'Black,' 'Setting Forth,' and 'Porch' preceded two sprawling encores. Before the first, Vedder reminisced about neighborhoods the band once lived in, places they played, thanking the fans for supporting them over the years and caring enough about their music to provide a livelihood to support them and their collective families (10 children and 8 dogs between them). During a plaintive acoustic version of the White Stripes 'We Are Going to Be Friends,' Vedder's two daughters appeared with their two favorite school teachers, dancing and enjoying a moment on stage with dad.
The kids' teachers weren't the only surprise guests, as Seattle's Brandi Carlile took the stage for 'Again Today.' 'Better Man,' Pink Floyd's 'Comfortably Numb,' 'Alive' (their first hit single), 'I've Got a Feeling' by the Beatles, 'Rockin' in the Free World' by Neil Young, and 'Yellow Ledbetter/Little Wing' by Jimi Hendrix concluded the three hour set on an extreme high.
It was a perfect evening, the set a mix of old and new with a helping of beloved cover versions. Pearl Jam's gorgeous talent, honed from nearly thirty years and ten studio albums, is undeniable and as real as their humility. Caring for the community has always been a part of Pearl Jam culture. In the words of Nick Lowe (which Pearl Jam has probably covered at some point in time), 'What's so funny 'bout peace love and understanding?'
Visit pearljam.com/thehomeshows to learn more on the campaign against homelessness and actions you can take.
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