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Let the records play: Pearl Jam’s staying power

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By Eric Ladd Explore Big Sky Publisher

Only the most legendary bands can span generations of fans, fill arenas year after year, address social issues, inspire youth and handle fame with humble dignity. Founded in 1990, Pearl Jam is one of few American groups to accomplish all of this, remaining relevant and true to its roots.

When Pearl Jam released its 10th studio album on October 15, 2013, it went straight to the top of the charts. Tickets for the fall/winter tour sold like the quick fingers of a face-melting Mike McCready guitar solo. Cuts from the new album, Lighting Bolt, were played during the 2013 World Series commercial breaks, and late night television talk shows hosted the six-man rock band.

The album opens with hard driving, punk-inspired songs like “Mind your Manners” and “My Father’s Son” and closes with a pair of heartfelt, tear-jerking ballads including “Future Days.” Listen start to finish, and you’ll find it hard not to imagine you’re at a Pearl Jam concert, walking away tired and inspired, with ringing ears and arms full of swag. Lead singer and guitarist Eddie Vedder takes listeners on a possessed journey through dark moments, broken hearts and stirring daydreams.

The songs “Let the Record’s Play,” a rock-a-billy style tune, and “Lighting Bolt” are crowd pleasers, inviting listeners to dance in family living rooms and college dorm rooms alike. Drum fans, get ready – Matt Cameron (formerly of Soundgarden) is at his best, pounding out complex rhythms that insure this 50-year-old stays in wicked shape.

True to form, Pearl Jam has not granted many interviews since releasing the album, instead letting the music speak for itself. A simple twist of fate became marketing genius when the band debuted some of the tracks from Lightning Bolt on the sacred grounds of Chicago’s Wrigley Field on July 19, 2013, and a massive lightning storm delayed the show for three hours.

Pearl Jam has a 20-plus year history, 8.7 million Facebook followers and psychic powers. Lightning Bolt is a must–have for all fans.

And continuing its philanthropic efforts, the band is giving a steady portion of ticket and album revenue to community health, the environment, arts, education and social change, via its Vitalogy Foundation.

What’s not to love.

Download Lightning Bolt from for $11.99.em>


Montana roots

Pearl Jam was co-founded by bass player Jeff Ament, a native of Big Sandy, Montana. Ament has stayed connected to his home state over the years, helping fund skate parks in Missoula and supporting the campaign of Montana Senator Jon Tester with private fundraising concerts.

Q&A with Tester

Mountain Outlaw: How well do you and Jeff know each other?

Jon Tester: Jeff and I are five years apart. [He] was a senior in high school when I was the music teacher at Big Sandy Elementary School. As with most people who come from a small town, my folks and I followed the lives and careers of most of the kids who grew up in Big Sandy, and Jeff was no exception. We watched him play basketball and football in high school, watched him go off to college and then to Seattle, and then make it big with Pearl Jam.

M.O.: What do you think of someone from Big Sandy being such a rock and roller?

J.T.: More power to him for doing something he loves and for building such a worldwide fan base, [which] clearly speaks to the quality of Pearl Jam’s music.

M.O.: Do you like their music? Favorite song?

J.T.: Absolutely. My favorite song of theirs is ”Just Breathe.”

This story was first published in the winter 2013/2014 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.

For coverage of Pearl Jam’s Nov. 30 show in Spokane, Wash., click here.

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