Performer: Pearl Jam
Songwriters: Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Dave Krusen, Mike McCready, Eddie Vedder
Original Release: Ten
Definitive Version: Dissident Vol. 1, 1994
When I learned that Pearl Jam would play Chicago in May 2006, I had to go. I had seen them every chance I could except 2003, when I cut my expenses to the bone. But now was different; now I had a job again after three years of living off savings.
Well, that’s not entirely true, of course. I had the scoring gig and some freelance writing work during that time. The biggest job was the AM News, which is the weekly newspaper of the American Medical Association. A friend of Laurie’s hooked me up with a part-time job at the end of 2005. I went in very sporadically at the start of the year—my role was to cover for when someone from the three-member copy desk went on vacation.
However, in late February, when my savings was on the brink of extinction and I’d have to find a job flipping burgers somewhere, AM News called. The copy desk chief was adopting a child from abroad and would be gone for a few weeks, so my services were needed. That meant more or less full time work at $25 per hour for the next month. Talk about good timing.
What was better timing was just as that gig, which was extended a couple of weeks (bonus), came to an end, I got the job at my magazine. Amazing. Three years before, I jumped out of an airplane without a parachute just to see what happened, and I didn’t hit the ground.
I started April 16, two weeks into the publication cycle, and I didn’t have a learning curve; I had a learning cliff and one choice—sink or swim. I had four projects due in six weeks, and I needed to find authors for two of them. Gulp!
A three-hour meeting with the editor on my first day constituted my training. With a staff of five full-timers, I was on my own. Heck, I even had to teach myself how to work the computer.
The good news there was working at AM News gave me lots of experience with Word, track changes and even a Windows computer. Of course, being a Mac guy, I had enough knowledge to guess where things were and know that trial and error would serve me.
Those first six weeks were a blur. Maybe the fear of running out of money had shaped me up, but I think it was also a sense of obligation. I was happy to finally have a job again after searching since I had moved to Chicago six months earlier, and I was going to show the editor and publisher that hiring me was the right decision. So I busted my ass like I never had before. I’m pretty sure I worked 60 hours each week to get caught up, to get things done.
The Pearl Jam show was the last week in May—deadline week. I was in good enough shape that I could block out enough time that night to go, and I was excited for Laurie to see my favorite active band. (Before we began to date, she knew Pearl Jam only in passing.) Besides, this would be the first show we’d seen together after the somewhat dismal U2 concert the previous year.
My Morning Jacket was the warmup act, and I’ve already written about that. I almost never drink at concerts, because I don’t want to have to get up in the middle to go to the bathroom and miss something, but just before Pearl Jam took the stage, I had to go.
I was in the john when I heard the crowd roar as they cut the lights, and the angelic guitar that opens this dirgy tune started up just as I entered the arena. (It was at the United Center again.) I was in my seat by the time Eddie began his vocal drone … and that’s where I stayed the rest of the show.
It was crazy. I think I got up to applaud at the end, maybe one other time, I don’t know. It was then that all the hours and the pressure of my new job caught up with me. I was so drained from work, I couldn’t move. Can you believe that? Here I was seeing Pearl Jam for the first time in six years, and I couldn’t even rock out like I wanted to.
I got burned that night, but I otherwise survived my professional trial by fire, and my workload got a little bit lighter and my job a little bit easier with each subsequent issue. It had been sink or swim. I swam.