“This Pearl Jam T-Shirt represents getting out of your comfort zone and opening yourself up to new things...not accepting what you see on the surface, but digging down to find deeper meaning.”
I can’t remember the first time I heard a Pearl Jam song on the radio, but I remember disliking their music. I had graduated high school in June of 1992 and had been infatuated with mostly reggae music up until then. Bob Marley, of course, his son Ziggy and the lesser known Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer all shared equal time on my boombox.
I went to college at the University at Buffalo in August and, by the end of the year, Pearl Jam’s first album Ten was almost inescapable. I can’t say for sure if it was the grunge sound in general or if it was Eddie Vedder’s voice that grated on me, but I was not a fan. That year I added bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers to my previously “all reggae” playlist, but Pearl Jam stayed off. Their second album Vs. was released in October of my freshman year and it was ridiculous how much playtime it immediately got all across campus, except this time it was starting to grow on me.
Right around that time, I remember searching through a CD bin at one of the campus music vendors and finding a Pearl Jam CD called Covers, a bootleg of live covers they had performed during their first tour. “Redemption Song” and “Three Little Birds,” two classic Bob Marley tunes were both on there. My curiosity was officially piqued. I decided to sit down with both of their albums and the CD booklets complete with messily scribbled/incomplete lyrics (Ed, I know you did this on purpose – genius) and try to figure out why their sound was so revolutionary for so many people. I think I ended up diving deeper than most of their fan base had bothered to go, because long after the bandwagon came to a stop, I am still a fan. What I found were amazingly well-written lyrics with profoundly deep meaning, yet ambiguous enough to be easily applied to your own life experiences, good and bad. Superficially, Pearl Jam sure looked and sounded like a grunge band or, for people that hate that word, maybe an angry hard rock band from Seattle. Much of their music was dark (not that this was necessarily a bad thing), but with a little searching, you could also find messages of hope, love and peace. I was hooked. These three albums (Ten, Vs., and Covers) were soon to be in serious danger of meltdown from overplay.
In April 7, 1994, near the end of the second semester of my sophomore year, Pearl Jam was playing the War Memorial in Rochester, NY. This is just a one-hour drive from Buffalo. Being a broke-ass, carless college student without a ride, aside from having multiple assignments and tests to study for, I was unable to attend. My roommate at the time was from Long Island, and his sister who still lived there, was even making the drive up. The concert was on a Thursday, and she had decided to continue driving to Buffalo after the show to party with us for the weekend. When she walked into our dorm room on Friday, she handed me a concert tee from the show. I was honestly floored. Not just because it was a T-shirt of my soon-to-be favorite band, but because of the amazing generosity this person was showing me. I couldn’t believe that someone who I barely knew, who was armed only with a fleeting knowledge from her brother that I really wanted to see this show, would think of me and buy me a concert T-shirt. Concert merch ain’t cheap, and for a college kid working as a telemarketer, it was downright gold.
My first Pearl Jam show ended up being in Buffalo, NY, on October 1, 1996. It was during the No Code tour for their fourth album. My cousin and I slept on the ground outside of a college radio station to get tickets. Now, 22 years after receiving my first Pearl Jam T-shirt and more than 19 years after my first show, they’re still rocking and they’re still my favorite band. I guess you can add both perseverance and loyalty to what this shirt stands for.
This T-shirt isn’t just about Pearl Jam. I had just begun my life’s adventure with the band when I received it and had yet to attend a single concert. It represents so much more and so many more things. It stands for kindness and generosity. This Pearl Jam T-Shirt represents getting out of your comfort zone and opening yourself up to new things. It means not accepting what you see on the surface, but digging down to find deeper meaning.
Thank you Hugo for telling your story and giving to the elovate.us community. At elovate.us we believe everyone has a story to share, and that by sharing we can all connect with each other. We take the amazing donations that we receive and incorporate them into new clothing as "Story Tags" like you see below.
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