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Oh, no! I've got Pearl Jam fever again!

[PJ fever warning]
If you are a Pearl Jam afficionado, you've had Pearl Jam fever at some point in your life. It strikes incredibly hard, making it impossible to function normally. It spins around in your mind uncontrollably, and you begin entertaining thoughts of abandoning your job, your home and your "normal" life.

From what I can recall, my first real "bout" with PJ fever occurred when I first heard "Ten." It was a borrowed CD, and we didn't return it to its owner for 3 weeks, when we finally broke down and bought our own copy. We played it constantly. We were hooked.

Next came the first live tape ... the famous Atlanta radio broadcast on Easter 1994. "Wow!" I thought. "This is incredible. They do amazing cover songs and improvs! This live stuff is waaaay better than studio recording." So the collecting began.

Then I learned there are video tapes of PJ performances. Gee, I need to see those! My first video was PJ's free show in Seattle in 1992 (a.k.a., "A Drop in the Park"). This was the next best thing to being at a show. Now I need a bigger house to accommodate all of the audio and video tapes.

Then the t-shirts, posters, stickers and, of course, the vinyl.

But I didn't know how bad it was until I had my first real chance to go to a show. The 95 tour schedule was announced and none of the venues were particularly close to Missouri. Decision time. Milwaukee was the shortest driving time and there were two shows there. Sounds like a plan. Tony and I completed our ticket forms from the Ten Club and mailed them back. Could it be we would really see them live?

Then the roller coaster began ...

Marcus Amphitheater in Milwaukee is a Ticketmaster venue. Perhaps the Ten Club would not be able to honor ticket requests for that venue. Argh! We made a bad selection. Bummer. However, two weeks before the shows, beautiful orange tickets with the blue beetle scarab appeared in the mailbox! We had great tickets to both shows ... the first night, right in the very front! Thank you Pearl Jam. Thank you Ten Club!

Then the roller coaster plunged downward ...

Linda traveled through Missouri on her moving trip to Seattle. She had sent in her order forms for one of the Red Rocks shows, but hadn't received the tickets yet. I could ride with her to Denver and go to the show on her second ticket. PJ fever struck ... no tickets in hand, no ride back home. Would the tickets be there? This was a whole new ticketing system and no one knew what to expect. I decided against going and so did she (although she did get to go to the wonderful Sacramento show).

Then disaster struck ...

Eddie got very ill at the San Francisco show and left the stage for the hospital. (No, he didn't have PJ fever.) The crowd acted badly, despite Neil and the boys giving the crowd a rare Mirrorball treat. The following day, the balance of the tour was canceled. Shit!!! I knew it was too good to be true :(
Then, miraculously, PJ announced that three more dates would be honored ... the two Milwaukee shows and Chicago. YES!!!

Meanwhile, since Chicago is on the way back from Milwaukee, we encouraged Tony's brother, who was in the proper phoning range, to phone for tickets. He easily obtained his limit of two tix, but we would need a third one for all three of us to go. Then the ordeal of searching for the third ticket began. As it turned out, Tony's brother couldn't go, so I could use his ticket. However, they didn't get mailed to us in time. (In fact, we received them all beat up in December!).

So the Milwaukee shows were great, despite our vehicle being broken into during the first show. We drove to Chicago with a broken window and no tunes and no ticket in hand for Soldier Field. However, after a bit of an uncomfortable and confusing wait at the will call window at the stadium, ETM came through with the tickets when we gave them the confirmation number, printing them on the spot. Chicago was an incredible show with an amazing setlist, including Eddie smashing his black telecaster that he had owned forever. I was worried. Was this the last show they would ever play? It really was quite overwhelming and it took several days to come back to earth again.

"Normal" life returned ... collecting tapes and exchanging stories.

Then shows got rescheduled ... the whole southern leg, beginning in Phoenix, heading into the southern midwest and back to southern CA. FTT was now handling tickets and there was a number to call. People holding tix previously were issued new tix if they wanted them. However, now it was September and people's plans had changed (school, etc.) and there seemed to be a lot of tickets available. The fever crept back ...

I jotted down the phone number ("I'll just call and see.."). I quietly phoned ...
"Um, are you selling Pearl Jam tickets?"
"Yes! What city?"
"How about New Orleans?"
"Yes, how many would you like."
"Umm, two please." (I'm thinking "what in the world are you doing?")
I give him the credit card number and mailing address and ask, "Do you have Phoenix tickets, too?"
"Yes. Do you want some?"
"No." (I just had to ask.)
So during this, Tony sees me talking on the phone ....
"Who were you calling?"
"Umm, I was phoning about Pearl Jam tickets."
"What?!? Where?"
"Umm, New Orleans."
"You're crazy."
But now, he has Pearl Jam fever, too. So the beautiful yellow Pointman tickets arrive. I have already made airline reservations and several hotel reservations (always have a backup!). We manage to make it to a fourth PJ show in 95, along with many friends as tickets were plentiful and amazingly easy to get. (Never mind that we nearly missed our connecting flight, that Tony was on crutches in the pit, and that there was a torrential thunderstorm just before the show started that unpleasantly reminded us of the canceled Wolf Mountain show a few months before.)

Life went back to "normal" ... collecting, sharing stories, etc.

Summer 1996 ...

The release of No Code was imminent and another tour was announced. The Ten Club sent out ticket order forms. The closest venue was Toledo. (Toledo!!!?!? I'm glad I didn't pick Toledo, although you all that did may end up getting VERY lucky.) What to do, what to do? They have always played great shows at home, so how about the opening show--Seattle.

The lovely blue tickets arrived and we made hotel and plane reservations. The rumours were flying that there would be an advance "surprise" show, so we flew out two days early, "just in case." And true to form, one of the very worst cases of Pearl Jam fever struck. We waited outside the Showbox for eleven hours in the rain, hopeful that they would sell a few more tickets or someone would take pity on us and let us in. No chance. We had wasted a whole day in Seattle standing outside this sucky venue.

And we would spend yet another whole day standing outside Key Arena two days later. We were holding GA seats and were now waffling over whether to go "down front" or get good seats. Tony and I went down front and managed to keep our spot, despite getting the shit beat out of us during the whole show. My internal organs were arranged for a couple of months from getting squished.

Since then, the "fever" has subsided. It has been on low level, like at about 100° rather than 104° -- limited to living vicariously through the rest of the U.S. tour with tales like Caryn's Randall's Island story, Josh's Augusta brush with Eddie and Andrew's exciting European adventures (wow!). Keeping up with the 5h concert chronology had become a real task! The collecting continued.

Early Fall 1997 ...

A new album is likely around the corner. What will it sound like? What will it look like? (etc etc etc) When will they tour? Are they opening for the Stones in Oakland, or is it a rumour? Tony proposed to me in San Francisco. Wouldn't that be a nice place to go again? Wouldn't it be nice to meet up with some PJ pals and see a super show? Will there ever be another opportunity like this one? Wouldn't it cost a lot of money to do this? The pluses and minuses are weighed.

And so, Pearl Jam fever has struck again.

© 1997 Jean Bruns