Memory Lane: 1991, the Grunge Era

I met Pearl Jam.

Live, in person!

I actually hung out with Jeff Ament and Mike McCready for part of a day when they were in Pittsburgh. I have the clip from my college newspaper to prove it.

Of course, this all took place 20 years ago — 20 YEARS AGO — and I’m sure none of the Pearl Jam boys recall spending time with a college newspaper writer chickie from Pittsburgh when they were first starting out.

But I remember it.


In 1991 I was bored with college music. I had eschewed Top 40 radio for years already, and I was never a huge “classic rock” fan — I mean, I like me some Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd, but in Pittsburgh? You hear — still, to this day — the same classic rock songs over and over and over again.


I was continually looking for something new to listen to (a trait I clearly still have), and I hadn’t heard anything that had turned me on in a couple of years. I was faithful to the B-52s and Depeche Mode and The Cure (gosh remember when those bands were college alternative bands? No? Get off my lawn!), but I was bored.

Then a friend of mine, Ro, became the Sony record label college rep, and started receiving all kinds of swag. I was writing for The Duquesne Duke, eventually becoming Features editor, and, in 1991, editor in chief.

One day Ro handed me a cassette tape (remember cassette tapes?). “Check this out,” she said. “You might like these guys.”

So began my love affair with grunge music in general, and Pearl Jam (and not too much later, Nirvana) specifically.

Ten, Pearl Jam’s debut album, lit me on fire. I couldn’t stop listening to it. Something about the driving guitars combined with Eddie Vedder’s vocal growl immediately and viscerally captivated me. See also: the bass line on “Why Go”.

And just like that, I was excited by music again.


Ament, McCready, and I kind of wandered around downtown Pittsburgh and Duquesne’s campus talking about Pearl Jam (original name, anyone? Without looking it up?), Seattle, Pittsburgh, music in general, and basketball (the Pearl Jam guys were basketball FREAKS). I told them how much I was really liking Ten, and they told me some about making the album, meeting Vedder, and how much they were enjoying being out on the road playing live.

Later that night, I saw Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, and Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert.

God, remember Smashing Pumpkins?

Pearl Jam opened the concert, and, as Ro and Sony’s guest, and as a writer for the college paper, I got to go backstage afterward and meet the rest of the band (Stone Gossard — HAWT — and Dave Abbruzzese). I got their autographs — er, on the jean shorts I was wearing at the time — but I didn’t get to meet Eddie Vedder. He was busy harassing Billy Corgan by dancing on stage during the Pumpkins’ set. I believe either Flea or Anthony Kiedis was out there with him. They were wearing tutus if memory serves. (And, no, Corgan was not a good sport.)


And here we are — here they are — 20 years later, with a Cameron Crowe documentary about to screen, re-releases and live albums dropping, and the same line up of guys (except for the revolving door drummer thing).

I have been listening for 20 years, but it’s been awhile since I got to see them live. Gonna have to fix that soon. Lollapalooza at Starlake (circa 1993?) is still one of my favorite concerts of all time. Each of their albums (with the exception of Binaural; I never really got into that one) was better than the last.

They are, and their music is, still exciting me.


What have you been listening to for 20 years? What do you think you’ll be listening to the next 20?