Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder at Seattle Center's KeyArena.
Pearl Jam is spending the summer celebrating its 20th anniversary, a milestone that marks not only the genesis of the band but their debut record, Ten, which helped define our city's sound on an international level. One milepost the band's missed in its two decades is Seattle's biggest music and arts festival: Bumbershoot, held annually over Labor Day. It's not for lack of trying.
"PJ has never played Bumbershoot (some members have played in side-projects though)," Bumbershoot booker Chris Porter said in an e-mail. "The festival has had many discussions over the years with management and their agency about Pearl Jam playing, but it has never panned out."
The fest's fallen on hard times in recent years. Attendance is down, then the fest's nonprofit parent, One Reel, was forced to lay off most of its full-time festival staff last year. There's more competition from the likes of Wallingford resident Dave Matthews, whose band is doubling down on their annual Labor Day weekend stand at the Gorge by hosting a three-day fest of their own at the venue.
Pearl Jam will be playing a festival over the long weekend this year, but it won't be Bumbershoot. Like Matthews, West Seattle's Eddie Vedder & co. are throwing their own festival. Pearl Jam is taking up residence at Wisconsin's Alpine Valley, not far from Milwaukee and close enough to Chicago, and bringing with them their friends in the Strokes, Queens of the Stone Age, and Seattle's the Young Evils, among others, for a two-night stand, Sept. 3 and 4.
Longtime Pearl Jam rep Nicole Vandenberg says the efforts to twin Pearl Jam and Bumbershoot have been mutual. "Bumbershoot is an amazing music festival," she said in an e-mail. "There have been many lovely, creative conversations over the years about how to make the scheduling and charity elements work (Pearl Jam traditionally gives away all its hometown proceeds to charity), but the timing hasn't worked out for one reason or another. Someday . . . "
For those willing to make the trip, tickets are $334 for the weekend, and go on sale June 4.