Tag Archives: Pearl Jam

My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 2

Few things can get me out of bed early after a handful of post-concert hours of sleep. You concert junkies know what I’m talking about—that feeling every ounce of energy has been vacuumed from your body, and you’re so dried out you feel like you woke up in a sarcophagus. But I had major plans that morning, so faux hangover or not, I was jet-setting out of bed to get back to Seattle for a tour of the Paramount Theatre.

The Paramount is now run by the non-profit Seattle Theatre Group, which holds free tours for the Paramount, the Moore, and the Neptune theaters on different designated Saturdays each month. The tour of the Moore was the Saturday morning of our flight home, meaning we wouldn’t be able to see it. Thankfully, the Paramount’s tour was that Saturday, as it was highest on my list of must-see venues. Not only did the Paramount serve as the site for some notable concerts, it’s one of the most opulent, breathtaking theaters in the city.


The Paramount Theatre in Seattle

Opened by Paramount Pictures in 1928, the theater was originally a movie palace that showed silent pictures. It was designed by Cornelius W. Rapp and George L. Rapp, the same architects who designed the glorious Chicago Theatre; created in the same Neo-Baroque French-revival style with several contractual similarities, the Paramount is truly the Chicago’s kid brother. Hailing from Illinois myself, I had a special appreciation for their resemblances. The first time I visited the Chicago Theatre was in 2011, when I saw Eddie Vedder with Glen Hansard. The theater was so beautiful, I told my husband I wanted to die there so I could haunt it for eternity. (Shooting for the macabre moon.)


The grand staircase in the lobby was also featured in the movie “10 Things I Hate About You.”


The Black Crowes’ gear was being prepared for that night’s show during our tour.


The super cool Knabe Ampico grand player piano looks like a ghost is playing the keys–no human required!

The Paramount has a long and bumpy history, full of ups and downs like most grand movie palaces. By the early nineties, the theater had deteriorated into a sorry state. This is significant because it’s not only when Nirvana played their famous Halloween show at the venue, but also around the same time the theater was saved by Microsoft vice president Ida Cole. When Nirvana played the Paramount, it was literally a grunge palace. Though the tour guides didn’t really seem to like to talk about the rock shows at the theater, it was when Ida Cole was attending a Violent Femmes concert with her son she was moved to step in and rescue the theater from bankruptcy and possibly demolition.


Still image from Nirvana: Live at the Paramount.


The Paramount marquee as it is today.

Interesting factoid about this Nirvana show: it was supposed to be held at the Moore, but it was moved to hold a larger audience. The Paramount has 2,807 seats, while the Moore has 1,419. This show occurred one month after Nevermind’s release, during the tempest storm of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” taking over the MTV airwaves. This was literally the eye of the hurricane, before the album hit number one, before the band became jaded with media attention. That November, Nevermind was certified Gold and Platinum. Also worth noting is this show was the only Nirvana concert filmed in 16mm, so if you haven’t yet checked out the DVD, you seriously need to check your priorities.


Still image from Nirvana: Live at the Paramount.

Because the stage was being prepared for the Black Crowes show that night, our tour guides told us even though they usually take groups on the stage, we would have to respect the crew and stay out of their way. We were guided just about every other place, from the balcony to the backstage and dressing rooms, to under the stage where they keep their Wurlitzer organ. For a  theater junkie like me, it was utter paradise. We hung around talking to the tour guides so long, the crew was done setting up the stage and was now in the underground preparing for the show, giving us the stink eye. The guides pointed us up the steps for the quickest exit, and the next thing I knew, I was looking out at the theater from the stage. I totally lost it at that moment. Overcome by the view, the history, the gravity of what had happened there, the idea it could’ve been bulldozed, and probably my lack of sleep, I just burst into tears. The fact it was set up for a concert made the view all the more visceral.


One of two pictures I was able to take from the stage before I was shooed off.


The Paramount from the stage.


Parting glance.

I tried to hide the fact I’d totally melted into a weepy freak by the time I got back to the lobby. Whether it was from my over-emotive state, or from our clear appreciation of the tour, we must’ve left an impression on a couple of our tour guides. One of them took my husband and I aside and asked if we’d like to join a private tour of the Moore Theatre. Let me think about that for a second. Um, hell yes!


The Moore Theatre circa 1909.

 Built in 1907, the Moore is Seattle’s oldest continuously-operated theater. Though smaller than the Paramount, the Moore is grand in its own unique way. It’s impossible to keep from gawking at the ceiling—the thing yawns up into the heavens. A seat at the top of the second balcony perches you next to Saint Peter.


Check out the stained glass in those little windows around the chandelier orb.


If you can’t find St. Peter, you can chat up your pick of muses.


No, seriously, there are statues of muses in between the stained glass windows!

Of course, Pearl Jam fans will recognize this theater from the “Even Flow” video, when Eddie Vedder was boosted up into the old box windows and let himself fall into the waiting arms of the crowd below. The Moore hosted a number of notable events during that time period, including Sub Pop’s LameFest on June 9th, 1989, which featured local acts Tad, Mudhoney, and Nirvana. This theater would serve as an important stepping stone in the growth of local acts. Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Mad Season all played the Moore, along with countless other bands that would go on to pack larger venues.


The window box to the left is where Eddie climbed up and free-fell into the audience.


Still epic, twenty years later and beyond.


View from the stage. Impossible to get perspective on a point and shoot camera.

 The last of the old seats were literally being removed from the lower level on our tour. Try as I might, I couldn’t figure out how to finagle one into my suitcase for the plane ride home. Now the Moore is outfitted with super cushy ones, which is great for patrons, even though the old ones had a sort of old-fashioned, creaky charm. The Moore is still going through updates, so more changes and improvements will be developing in the coming years. It’s great to see the theater is being fixed up with the intention of  supporting Seattle’s art community for years to come.

After our impromptu tour of the Moore Theatre, we stopped by the Pearl Jam pop-up shop at the Showbox. By the time I got there, all of the merch was picked over, but I couldn’t complain. Being able to spend so much time in those old theaters was a way better use of my time than standing in another freezing cold line for a pack of trading cards. On the flip side, I was thrilled to be able to see the inside of the Showbox–I hit a theater trifecta!


Only decent shot I took of the Showbox. The inside is filled with funky gold and red trumpet lights.

Still exhausted from rockin’ at the Pearl Jam concert, we called it a night to get ready for an early road trip the next day. No offense to the city, but it was time for a little escape into the snowy woods to get a taste of what the rest of Washington had to offer.


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My Great Northwestern Adventure: Part 1

I stayed up almost until midnight waiting for the email. There was no guarantee it would arrive with good news—there was a 50/50 chance I would go to bed disappointed. I watched Twitter as fan after fan announced the arrival of their Ten Club email, my nerves bent to the point of frenzy. I’d only put in for one set of tickets for a single show, but I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat because I was desperate to see Pearl Jam. Getting the tickets meant I was going to Seattle for the first time.

Finally, anxiety weighing down my eyelids, my iPhone lit up with an email notification from the Ten Club. I dove for my phone and flicked open the email. It was a congratulations—the tickets were mine.

I screamed. I flew practically into the ceiling. My tears mingled with nut house laughter.

I was going to motherfucking Seattle.


If you’re going to do urban exploring right, you have to spend more than a measly weekend there. This was grunge Mecca. To be able to appreciate Seattle like it deserved, I was going to turn it inside-out. I’m all about discovery on my trips, hunting down historical locations to expose a fuller picture of what really happened. I don’t mind ratting around in back alleys and on abandoned roads to find a place where one little event helped shape history. That’s where the real color is, after all. So I did a little research, made some lists, and prepared to immerse myself. It was destined to be the ultimate grunge tour.

To keep this blog from running away into a book-length manifesto, I will have to gloss over some bits of my 10-day trip. Trust me when I say there were, in fact, too many epic moments to describe each in exact detail. Not only was there the Pearl Jam concert itself, but theater tours, coffee, a trip to Aberdeen, a number of record store raids, seeing a rainforest in the snow, more coffee, doing the truffle shuffle in front of the Goonies house, attending a secret Mudhoney show, a Singles tour, and randomly meeting a guy who used to pay Kurt Cobain to sweep floors.

Thursday, December 5th


Perfect coffee and coffee house dog.

Ironically, the first coffee shop I ever visited in Seattle turned out to be the best one. The hubs and I started off the day in West Seattle at a little house called C&P Coffee Company. Dogs were flopped all over the floor and the coffee was rich and strong. Everything had to live up to that experience, which was kind of unfair. The only thing that would’ve made it better was if Mr. Vedder himself had walked in and plunked on the couch between us with his ukulele.


Unbelievable rarities at Easy Street Records in West Seattle.

Immediately after, we visited Easy Street Records and picked up a couple CDs before grabbing lunch there. Yes, they sell food, and it is delicious. Namely, the Alejandro quesadilla. What’s up Seattle? How do you make such a tasty quesadilla? Hola. I wanted to be sure to check out the merchandise truck over at the Key Arena since it opened a day early, so we zipped over there next.


Accidentally stalking Pearl Jam. Oops.

Somehow, we ended up right in the middle of a train of tour buses turning into the Key Arena. It seemed we had arrived at the concert venue the same time as the band and their entourage. As the buses slipped behind the iron gates to their private parking lot, we hung back to make sure Mike McCready and Co. wasn’t hopping out to say hello. They weren’t, and that’s okay, because it was about 30 degrees and I was freezing and wasn’t really keen on the idea of standing out in the cold any longer than I had to. That was the weird thing about my trip to Seattle. Apparently, it’s not normally sunny and 30 degrees with snow covering the ground; not even in the winter. It was basically like being in Chicago with mountains and the ocean flanking you on either side.

LOL Great joke, guys. But seriously, where's the Seattle poster? What? Oh.

LOL Nice one, guys. But seriously, where’s the Seattle poster? What? Oh.

The merch truck was parked in Seattle Center, and my jaw kind of dropped when I saw the line draped across the grassy park for a quarter of a mile or so. Thanks to Twitter, I’d gotten a sneak peek at Seattle’s poster, and it was ugly as sin, so I had no intention of purchasing one. All I wanted was a tour t-shirt, which I could buy at the show, so there was no point in hanging around.

This is kind of when my epic grunge tour began. The hubs and I decided to go check out Discovery Park, where Temple of the Dog’s music video for “Hunger Strike” was shot. The thing about the park is, you have to take about a mile hike to get to the beach and the lighthouse. There’s a treatment plant on the other side of the park, and you’re not supposed to park there without a special pass. Since we didn’t have enough daylight to do the whole hike, I bolted out of the idling car and snapped a few shots for the time being.

"I'm goin' hungrryyyyyyy..."

“I’m goin’ hungrryyyyyyy…”


Alice in Chains at Gas Works Park

Then we got lost and I spotted the red steampunk pillars of Gas Works Park, and we made a two wheel turn into the place for a mostly private visit. In case you’re not familiar with it, Gas Works Park is an abandoned gasification plant that used to make gas out of coal. It sits right on the edge of Lake Union, looking out on a spectacular view of the city. Not only did Gas Works Park serve as background for several band photo shoots, it was the original location for Pearl Jam’s free live show, Drop in the Park. The show was cancelled and moved to Magnuson Park out of fear of the overwhelming amount of kids that might show up to a free Pearl Jam show. It’s a shame, because the site is breathtaking.


Still from 10 Things I Hate About You

Gas Works Park was the setting for a couple of movie locations, however. Not only was it featured in Cameron Crowe’s movie Singles, it was in the paintball scene in 10 Things I Hate About You. (For fans of this movie, I visited more filming locations from 10 Things later on my trip.) Can you say bonus? Even if it didn’t have all these connections, it’s just a really cool place to take pictures.


Gas Works Park – front view between the chain links

Friday: December 6, 2013

Show day! The hubs and I grabbed lunch and an apple cinnamon roll at Pike Place Market before heading into Belltown to see a few more sites.

Not only am I musically obsessive, I am a huge fan of classic architecture; especially old theaters. It only made sense to start off our grunge tour by checking out a couple of the clubs and concert venues made famous by the likes of Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Our jumping off point went by neighborhood, picking the venues we knew had good coffee within walking distance. (Because of course.)


The Croc from the street.


Check out these amazing door handles!


Front entrance. Love all the little crocodile accents!

 The first club we went to was the Crocodile, formerly the Crocodile Café. It opened in the spring of 1991, right before the “Seattle scene” exploded into a phenomenon. Its first show featured The Posies and Love Battery. One of its more infamous shows was when an unknown band called Pen Cap Chew opened for Mudhoney on October 4, 1992. Imagine the surprise of the club-sized crowd when Nirvana, who were just about the biggest band in the world at that time, walked out on stage.

Kurt Cobain joins Mudhoney on stage for their encore at the Crocodile Cafe in 1992

Kurt Cobain joins Mudhoney on stage for their encore at the Crocodile Cafe in 1992

Next we headed over to the Moore, Seattle’s oldest continuously-operating theater. The sight of several huge shows from the early 90s, it might be best known to Pearl Jam fans as the theater where the music video for “Even Flow” was shot. I only got to see the exterior of it at this time, but luck would later land me inside in the middle of a private tour.

The Moore Theatre

The Moore Theatre

Pick-up time for Ten Club ticketholders begun at 2:30 at the Key Arena box office, so we headed over a little early to check out the merch line situation. By the time we got there, the line for the merch truck had turned absolutely preposterous. But what was worse was the fan club ticket line. I know what you’re thinking… “if you already paid for your tickets, why would there be a huge line at will call?” This is why the ensuing two hours was utter ridiculousness.

Honestly, there was no reason to show up at the designated time to pick up my will call tickets. I could’ve waited a few more hours and more than likely avoided the line entirely. But anxiety always wins, and I figured it was better to suffer the unnecessary line than find out in a few hours they’d lost my tickets or the box office had burned down or Pearl Jam had issued a restraining order against me. Because you never know, do you?


And here you will see absolutely no one with last names beginning with the letters A-L.

So I stood in the will call line in the freezing cold for an hour to pick up tickets I’d already purchased, all the while marveling at the sheer brainlessness of the line shepherds as they failed to organize people alphabetically at the ticket windows. Each window was designated with a different chunk of the alphabet to avoid the exact state of clusterfuckery in which the line existed, but the line was funneling into the last half of the alphabet because nobody was telling people about the different lines. On top of that, some people from the Ticketmaster line had wandered into the fan club line like lost sheep and were plugging up progress. The whole thing was kind of hilarious in a pathetic, society-is-fucked kind of way.

Once I finally made it to the front and claimed my tickets, I booked it back to the car to revive the feeling in my toes. An hour before doors opened for the show, I made one last trek to the merch truck behind the Key Arena to see if I could avoid long lines inside. Lo and behold, someone had come up with the brilliant idea of forming two lines at the truck, since there were at least two cashiers inside. We met a couple of fans in line who had a good sense of humor about the line situation, which made the twenty minutes move faster. The truck had sold out of stickers, and as it happened, the only size they had left in the shirt I wanted was my exact size. I held onto my tour t-shirt like some sort of battle coup.


On to line at the doors, which were inevitably late to open. The bizarre lines notwithstanding, I really enjoyed the Key Arena, the Seattle Center, and the surrounding area. Especially in the wintertime, when the trees are dressed up in twinkly white lights, it’s a fuzzy, happy place. The Space Needle is just a stone’s throw away and hovers over the Center like a lantern guiding you home. It’s a beautiful place, which eases the memory of the crowd of fans who gathered there in 1994 to remember Kurt Cobain after his death.


Ticket stubs: SO PURDY.

Once doors opened, we found our seats inside. Even though I was higher up than I preferred, it was better than finding my seat was a bucket behind the stage, which I had almost expected given my high Ten Club number. My vantage point was great, looking at the stage from left center, on Mike McCready’s side. A couple of fans showed up in our section carrying an enormous banner that read “LET STONE SING,” but they couldn’t find a place to hang it that wouldn’t be obscured once everybody stood up. I took a picture of it for them and posted it on Twitter so Pearl Jam might still see it. One of the guys said, “I really don’t want to hear him sing. I’m just assisting.” I hear ya, dude. “Mankind” isn’t exactly on my song wish list, either. But I applaud the effort.

The friendly "LET STONE SING" dudes.

The friendly “LET STONE SING” dudes.

Truth be told, I was almost more excited to see Mudhoney than Pearl Jam. Almost. I mean, we were seeing a throwback show. Seattle, the forefathers of grunge—it really didn’t get much better than that. Well, unless there was a Temple of the Dog reunion, which wasn’t destined to happen thanks to Chris Cornell being on tour elsewhere. Nice timing, Chris.

Mudhoney was impossibly rocking. Their energetic, tight set was the perfect kick-off for an epic night. Mark Arm seriously knows how to command a stage, gesticulating around like some kind of punk rock Baptist minister. All those people who skipped Mudhoney should be fitted with a Cone of Shame; I’m sure Eddie kept tabs on you, so you’d better watch yourselves. What a performance you missed. As good as they were, seeing them at the Key Arena only made me want to see them again in a smaller setting. Mudhoney’s sound was made to live in darkly-lit, grimy clubs with electric bodies thrashing in appreciation. I had no clue my wish would be granted several days later.

There was about an hour between Mudhoney and Pearl Jam’s sets, so I used that time to venture to the other side of the arena to meet a couple of Twitter pals, Andee and Kate. We chatted just long enough to get hit on by some gross drunk guy. Way to spoil our brief time together, creepo. Still, it was great to finally meet a couple of gals I’d only talked to online about our shared appreciation in music.

Finally, it was time for Pearl Jam! They began with my favorite song off of their new album, “Pendulum,” which is kind of a weird choice for a show opener, as it’s a somber song about depression and suffering the dark times in life. (It’s also probably a weird song to also call your favorite, but I’m just a special kind sunbeam, OK, peaches?) From there, the show continued to build until it escalated like a volcanic eruption around the extended solo in “Betterman,” when Eddie and Mike leaned back-to-back and shredded guitars until they were nearly lying on the stage. And then, in their first encore, they pulled out a string of nostalgia, beginning with “Chloe Dancer” and sending the crowd into an absolute tailspin of bliss with “Crown of Thorns,” “Breath,” “State of Love and Trust,” and “Porch.” The timewarp sent Eddie into vintage Vedder mode, and he climbed up one of the hanging lanterns some twenty feet up in the air. Maybe it was the enormous bottle of wine he kept chugging, but Eddie seemed in good spirits this night. (Pun not intended, but I’m totally leaving it there anyway.)

Woohoo! Shitty faraway concert picture!

Woohoo! Shitty faraway concert picture!

Pearl Jam brought Mark Arm and Steve Turner from Mudhoney back on stage during their second encore for “Kick Out the Jams” with special guest Kim Thayil from Soundgarden. So close to a Temple of the Dog reunion it hurt. Watching Eddie and Mark take turns frontmanning was one of the highlights of the whole show. It was a sparring match with the microphone, like they were trying to out-rock each other. There was so much awesome going down on that stage, if I’d been in the GA, I probably would’ve spontaneously combusted. Then Eddie tripped and fell on stage for about the fiftieth time that night, and Mark Arm started crawling under everyone’s legs because he’s Mark Fucking Arm. Truly rock ‘n roll madness at its finest. But Mike McCready, y’all—are we sure this guy is human? Somewhere in the middle of his solo cover of Van Halen’s “Eruption,” I swear he levitated out of his body and floated over the crowd like some force of nature. The Key Arena shook. Angels wept. All while this guy sitting behind me lay passed out from a drinking binge.

For their grand finale, the band played “Yellow Ledbetter;” it was their 37th song that night, but I would’ve stayed for plenty more. For Pearl Jam, it marked the end of their first North American tour in several years. For me, the show was a hint of what was to come in an epic Northwest adventure.


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