Still Jamming

In the past year, I have attended numerous 50th birthday celebrations, and there are more on the horizon. Some of these celebrations were large-scale, elaborate events. Some were small and intimate. Still others were a complete surprise to the 50-year-old being feted. With each event, I wondered how I would commemorate my own milestone, and each time, I would draw a blank. Then, fate intervened.

About six months prior to my big day, one of my favorite bands made a big announcement. Pearl Jam was hitting the road this summer for a handful of U.S. dates, one of them being August 18, the day after my 50th birthday. Not only were they playing on the heels of my birthday, they were playing at Wrigley Field, which is not too far from my home. It seemed too good to be true; only, thankfully, it was all real.

With concert tickets in hand, plane and hotel reservations made, and plans to meet up with some of my college friends, I blew into the Windy City and awaited the best birthday gift that I have ever given myself. As soon as I took my seat, I took it all in. The historic venue. The gorgeous summer evening. The throngs of loyal fans. It was well worth the 2 years and 13 days that I had waited since last seeing them at Fenway Park.

This was only my fourth Pearl Jam show, which is nothing compared to the faithful fans whose concert attendance hovers in the triple digits, but I wasn’t concerned with how many shows I have missed over the years. I was only focused on the show that was unfolding before me. I was mesmerized from the start.

Words fail me when it comes to describing what music means to me, especially the music of this band. I thoroughly enjoy music that spans every decade and genre, but not all music touches my heart and moves me. Their music does both.

Their music has provided the soundtrack for my adulthood, especially during my 40s.  During that decade, there were enormous changes that occurred in every area of my life, but the one thing that remained constant was Pearl Jam’s music.  Sometimes, their lyrics said what I found impossible to articulate, and other times, their music expressed emotions that were too intense for me to show.  So, I don’t just go to their show; I experience it.  And what an experience this truly was for me and the other 40,000+ fans in attendance.

Even though this was not my first Pearl Jam concert, every performance is different, so, it is never the same show twice.  They switch up their set list every night, so, the audience waits in eager anticipation to discover which of their many songs made the cut.  Everyone has their favorite songs that they want to hear again and their bucket list songs that they have never heard before in concert.  I am no different, and both of my lists are lengthy.

On this night, Pearl Jam played not one, but four, of my bucket list songs.  Happy belated birthday to me indeed!  These four songs each have special significance to me, so, hearing them echoing throughout the ballpark was absolutely overwhelming in the best way possible.

The first bucket list song played that night was Hail, Hail This song captures how I have felt in certain relationships that have left me feeling like I am not enough and grappling with unrequited love.  It is wrought with lots of energy and raw emotion, and it hits me like a jolt of electricity every single time.

if you’re the only one, will I never be enough?
hail, hail the lucky ones, I refer to those in love
swore I’d love you till the day I die, and beyond..
are we going to the same place? if so, can I come?
it’s egg rolling thick and heavy
all the past you carry
oh, I could be new… you underestimate me

Next up was Not For You.  If I ever tell you that this song reminds me of you, trust and believe, that I am not paying you a compliment.  I have sung, or rather screamed, the lyrics of this song in the privacy of my car or home, when angered or hurt by the list of people who are associated with this particular song.  The refrain is simple and direct and sums it up best.

this is not for you
this is not for you
this is not for you
oh, never was for you…fuck you…
this is not for you…

After two raucous bucket list songs, it was time to slow the pace a bit for Footsteps.  As soon as I heard the opening blues tinged notes of this song, I was transported back to all of the times over the past few years that left an accumulation of invisible emotional scars and a few visible physical scars.

Ah, don’t even think about getting inside. Voices in my head. Ooh, voices.
I got scratches all over my arms. One for each day since I fell apart.

I did, oh, what I had to do. If there was a reason it was you.

Just when I thought it could not get any better, it did.  As soon as I heard the opening notes of Breath, my entire face lit up.  This song speaks to me and my desire to run away sometimes to see what else is awaits me.  There is just such a longing to this song, and I simply love it.

I suggest you step out on your porch.
Oh yeah.
Run away my son. See it all. Oh see the world.

After these four bucket list songs and twenty-eight other musical gems, I exited Wrigley Field feeling immensely grateful and overjoyed, and I wanted to do it all over again.  Thanks to some fellow fans on the train back to my hotel, the show continued with the impromptu sing-along of Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.  Although the lyrics of this song indicate that hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away, my heart and thoughts remain, and they were healed and re-energized, as they always are, by Pearl Jam’s music.  It was truly a very happy birthday!

That’s another story . . .

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