Love of my life

A lifelong fan’s date with Pearl Jam at Outside Lands

GRASS-DWELLER <br> With no photo credentials, we were left to enjoy the concert from the grass.

With no photo credentials, we were left to enjoy the concert from the grass.


When I was 13 years old, I fell in love for the first time. He was a musician, and older; I was a shy seventh-grader with braces. But he had the most beautiful voice, and wrote all his own lyrics. Don’t even get me started on the blue eyes.

I had always enjoyed music, from my Beach Boys and other oldies’ cassette tapes to my very first CD—Bon Jovi’s Keep the Faith. But this was 1993, and I didn’t know it yet, but I was so ready for grunge.

I lay on my floor for hours listening to Eddie Vedder’s passionate voice. I patiently listened over and over as I tried to decipher the lyrics. I started buying every magazine that had the band on the cover, and I discovered bootlegs at my local record store. Yup, I was in love. I wore flannel shirts and Doc Martins, worshipped the movie Singles and, sometime around 1996, joined the Pearl Jam fan club. I’ve been a member ever since.

Most of the shows I’ve been to—I’ve seen the band 10 times—have been amazing. Because of my fan-club status, I get first pick at tickets, so my very first show—in 1998, in St. Louis—I sat smack in the middle of the second row.

My luck at festivals hasn’t been quite as good. One summer in St. Louis a couple girlfriends and I got tickets to the Tibetan Freedom Concert in Wisconsin. We drove up through Chicago, and after miles of traffic finally made it to the show at about noon. Eddie Vedder was performing a solo show, and as we walked into the amphitheater, I heard his voice over the loudspeaker. After the song, he said goodbye. I had missed his set. After finding a place on the grass, I sat and bawled.

Falling ultra-hard during a trip to Seattle in 1994.

photo courtesy of MOM

This past weekend came in a close second to that.

My boyfriend Josh and I drove to San Francisco Friday morning for the Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park. I was beyond excited, as I hadn’t seen the guys since 2006. Plus I wanted to introduce my boyfriend to my favorite band live.

The day was hot, and as I moved my camera, tripod and sunblock into my backpack, I realized I had left my cell phone in Chico. Then Josh got the first pangs of a stomach ache. He chewed some Tums, I stopped worrying about my phone and we were on our way.

Looking at the map for Outside Lands, I couldn’t fathom how big the festival grounds really were. I’d never actually been to Golden Gate Park, and when we had to walk about half a mile to the box office, I wasn’t fazed. But when, once inside, we had to walk another mile to get from the second stage to the main stage, I was a bit winded.

We made it in time for the bulk of Incubus’ set. We wandered, looking at the various booths, eventually finding our way to the press tent. That’s where I got the biggest (almost) piece of bad news for the evening: Pearl Jam had approved only 15 photographers to shoot them. I was not one of those 15. I would not be going into the pit area. I would not likely get a good photo at all—there were easily thousands of people at the show, and the sun was very quickly making itself scarce.

Thoroughly bummed, Josh tried to cheer me up. I got a poster, signed by the Ames Bros.—they do all of PJ’s posters. Then that stomach ache turned into a full-fledged illness and Josh was ready to leave, like, immediately. Pearl Jam was set to start in 15 minutes.

A few tears ran down my face as he told me this. I wasn’t mad—this was just my all-time favorite band. I didn’t want to leave before they even started. Ideally, we’d be smushed up front and I wouldn’t leave until my voice was hoarse and Eddie sang his very last note.

Josh toughed out his tummy troubles for almost an hour. We got to hear “Why Go,” “Animal,” “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” and even two brand-new tunes (an awesome preview of their upcoming album, Backspacer, due out later this month). We kept our distance from the stage, preferring instead to rest in the grass. We left the concert early—I ditched my fantasy love to be with Josh, the love of my real life—and while I didn’t quite get the experience I had hoped for, it was all still worth it.