Where the Wild Things Are

Don’t blame Eddie Vedder for his unruly fans.

Former Sleater-Kinney guitarist and current NPR blogger Carrie Brownstein recently wrote a post entitled "Save Me From Your Followers." The much-commented-upon entry mused about the unfortunate effect that an artist's badly behaved audience could have experiencing a live show. "The fans might not change your love for the bands themselves, but the way fandom of certain artists manifests itself can seem less like an innocuous gathering of like-minded people and more like an elitist, annoying tribe," she wrote. While elitism wasn't precisely what colored the air at Hollywood's Wiltern Theater last Sunday, the feverish energy of Eddie Vedder's devoted followers did occasionally mar what was otherwise a sweetly somber and often touchingly impassioned performance. Just one song into his two-hour-plus set (the second of two weekend shows on his first-ever solo tour), the Pearl Jam leader cautioned the wily crowd, "Don't get overly rambunctious like people last night. I'm a father now—when people start yelling things out I feel like saying 'Use the magic word'! I'll use the magic word—let's just shut the fuck up, please." His tone was humorous and light, but his irritation was apparent—and rightfully so. When you're trying to create intimate ambience while performing a generously lengthy set in a relatively naked fashion (his signature rich, resonant baritone was accompanied only by sparse instrumentation, primarily guitar and occasional ukulele), having some yokel bellowing out "Eeeevennnnfloooowww!" in the background is just a drag. Why super-fandom translates into reprehensible manners is a mystery to me. Disrespectful peanut-gallery antics notwithstanding, Saint Vedder really delivered to his fans, surveying a wide selection of his film sound track work (Into the Wild, Dead Man Walking, Body of War, I Am Sam), and a cache of classic and quirky covers (Tom Waits' "Picture in A Frame," Daniel Johnston's "Walking the Cow"). The expected special guests surfaced towards the end, with former Pearl Jam drummer Jack Irons and groove-carving folk popster Ben Harper joining him on a rousing version of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower." Frankly, even if Vedder or Pearl Jam's recorded output isn't your jam, the guy is an undeniably powerful performer, and his heart and politics are clearly in the right place. Because my time in L.A. is extending until next Monday, I'm hoping to have the opportunity to catch metal superstars-in-training the Sword at El Rey on Friday, but regardless, I still plan on seeing them again at Neumo's when they roll into town next Tuesday, April 22. I pretty much can't get enough of their sophomore splash Gods of the Earth (Kemado Records), and I've gained a new appreciation for why both the metal and indie camps fell hard for their smart, muscular debut two years ago. Apparently some band called Metallica has been similarly smitten, because they not only asked the Sword to come along for the ride during their forthcoming Eastern European tour, but Lars Ulrich himself showed up at a recent San Francisco gig to personally extend the invite. "It's an interesting story," said bassist Bryan Richie when I reached him via cell in Austin last week. "We were playing in Toronto and this guy comes up to us and says he's Sebastian Bach's brother, and that he and Ulrich had been hanging out and [Ulrich] was nuts about our record. So we jokingly started putting him on the list every night while we were on tour. When we played Slim's in San Francisco, he showed up and kicked it with us all night." When headlining band Trivium selfishly and foolishly refused to share the backstage area with the supporting Sword, they were forced into the back alley behind the club, and Ulrich joined them, drinking beers and, in a most bizarre and impressive move, helping them load their van. "When was the last time Lars Ulrich loaded anything?" laughs Richie. The world's most notoriously ill-tempered drummer made good on his promise to take them on tour, and now they're looking at a juggernaut of dates that will take them as far as St. Petersburg and Istanbul. I'd say that's a damn good reason to make sure to catch them at Neumo's, because I doubt that venue is going to be big enough to hold them the next time around. rocketqueen@seattleweekly.com

 
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