Everything has changed, absolutely nothing’s changed (Pearl Jam + Time = Magic)

Everything has changed, absolutely nothing’s changed

That’s not the correct line from Pearl Jam’s “Corduroy”, but for years I always thought it was and have settled on it being correct for me.

I actually don’t listen to Pearl Jam albums that much. During off season, months will usually pass in which I don’t put on a single record. In the back of my mind, I know how good they are and that they’ll always be there. So I start to take them for granted, and slowly start to forget.

Then, they’ll release an album. I love when they release albums, because its one of the few times in my life I can definitively say, ‘on this day my life will be changed forever’. Not changed in any major way, but in a measurable way. Now when I do listen to PJ, I can choose from X numbers of albums, one more than before!

  • Ten I bought at Best Buy, in 8th grade. After borrowing a copy from a friend and falling in love with ALIVE (jeremy and even flow have never really come close in my mind, though Release is the best track on the album!)
  • Vitalogy I got for Xmas in 8th grade.
  • VS. I got around Easter in 8th grade – daughter had me hooked
  • I got No Code when I was a sophomore. My mother and I went to the DMV to get my learners permit, and I stopped at Tower Records next door. I had been listening to “Who You Are” on repeat nearly the entire month before that back when people still bought discs of SINGLES!
  • Yield I got in ‘98, when I was a Junior. I was working at CompUSA at the time, which closed at 9. Thus to get it that first day, I had to have my mom pick it up before she got me from work.
  • Binaural was in 2000. I was in Southern California, that Urban wasteland of highways and roads. Jessica had to drive me to Best Buy to pick it up.
  • Riot Act was fall of 2002. I got it at Streetlight Records on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz, on my way to one of my very first staff meetings at the group home for teenagers with autism I ended up working at for almost 2 years.
  • Pearl Jam [Self-Titled], I pre-ordered through the ten club. It technically arrived on April 29th, but I didn’t get it until the 30th when Mike Arens picked me up for the airport and we rolled back to Boulder.  No idea where I had taken a trip to.
  • Backspacer I ordered through the fanclub and listened to for the first time in Gunbarrel, Colorado while waiting for my girlfriend to finish work so we could have a picnic.
  • Lightning Bolt I pre-ordered from iTunes off my  iphone while sitting on a lake in wisconsin, completing the destruction of the music industry.

Now, back to what really matters. It’s not even the albums that make me love this band, it’s the live shows.  Growing up outside of Chicago spoiled me a bit, as Eddie grew up there as well and all the chicago shows I saw in the 90’s were always just a little bit special – rare songs, longer setlists, and the extra energy of playing for a town one of their own had grown up in.  When I started seeing them outside Illinois in my college days, I realized they actually carried that energy to EVERY show.  The magic of experiencing those shows, across many different cities and towns, is what has REALLY stuck with me.

No two shows are ever alike. No setlist is ever the same. Their catalogue is so huge there’s no way it could be. Songs are always played differently, the band always sounds differently, the energy of the room is always unique, my seats are always different, daughter/betterman usually have unique tags, and you never know who’ll they’ll cover or what famous rockstar will show up on stage with them.

Yet, every Pearl Jam show is also exactly the same. I know the structure of the show and what it will be like: eddie drinking a bottle of wine, length generally between 2-3 hours, 3 sets, last one always ends with a rocking cover (usually Baba or RITFW), and then Yellow Ledbetter, and me walking out in a daze. State experience indeed.

Everytime I go to a Pearl Jam show, I’m a completely different person. Years go by between Pearl Jam tours, and often months between shows. I’ve seen them at Soldier Field with Steve when I was hardly pubescent……..Madison Square Garden with Matt in New York……St. Louis with Lorne………Indianapolis with Seth/Pete…………….San Francisco on Halloween with liz, shawn, and mark……..Ed at the Tibetin Freedon concert closing out high school……….acoustic with ben harper at the Bridge School Benefit……..Santa Barbara for the re-unification of Temple of the Dog after driving 6 hours straight with Matt, and of course, the United Center with Kelly, United Center shows with Alan & Matt, last week’s weather delayed Wrigley show, and my first LA show this fall.

Every time I go to a show, I’m re-living those concerts, those moments. I am those moments, I am inhabit all those selves at once: I’m Jason at a Pearl Jam show, having the best time in my life.

But I’m also not. I’m different. I’ve grown. I’ve changed. I’ve deepened my awareness since, and hopefully cultivated myself into a better human being. I have new memories, new pains, new regrets, new stresses, new joys. I even look different physically.

Then suddenly, when those lights go down, that all falls away. I fall away. I’m living that same moment I’ve lived a thousand times before. It IS the same moment as all those times before. I simply Am. That’s the thing about Pearl Jam shows for me, when I’m there, I feel it, I get it. All those meditations and practices make sense. I just AM. I settle in to rocking out. The moment that lasts forever and never goes away……never changes……..the past, the present, and the future…….are ALL just one big pearl jam show.

So yeah, while I technically have the lyrics to the song wrong, they work for me. And that’s the beauty of art, and music, and anything out there creative. We make these works are own because they become parts of our lives, and the best artists embrace that, and even though they’ve played their hits THOUSANDS of times, the bands that last find a way to play each song like they’d never had a chance to before.

Everything has changed, absolutely nothing’s changed. Impermanence and Permanence. Maybe you get it, maybe you don’t. Either way, I hope you have something in your life that affects you in similar ways.

My PJology – 25 shows and counting!

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