Pearl Jam Singer Leads Faux Who In Surprise Show

Eddie Vedder appears in Roger Daltrey wig for set with indie-rock band C Average.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — That guy onstage at a downtown warehouse Wednesday night looked a bit like Roger Daltrey of the Who. He also had a British accent and seemed to know most of the words to "I Can't Explain."

But it was Eddie Vedder under that long blond wig.

The Pearl Jam singer twirled the microphone a la Daltrey and sang Who songs while the Olympia band C Average rocked behind him during a surprise 45-minute set at a club here called 510 Columbia.

They played such Who favorites as "My Generation" (RealAudio excerpt of Who version) and a medley of songs from the rock opera "Tommy." And, in perfect Who style, they ended the set by smashing their instruments.

The show took place during Olympia's six-day Yoyo a Go Go festival, but it wasn't part of it. C Average, who are scheduled to perform a proper Yoyo show Thursday (July 15), were part of a four-band lineup that booked an early-evening gig timed to start and end between Yoyo's matinee and evening shows.

Yoyo a Go Go, begun in 1994 by Pat Maley, founder of indie label Yoyo, celebrates the Pacific Northwest music scene. This year 50 acts, including Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney, Bratmobile and Negativland, are scheduled to perform.

There had been rumors that Vedder, who has performed with C Average at least three times in the past month — including an appearance at the Tibetan Freedom Concert in East Troy, Wis. — would join C Average on Thursday. But few people expected to see him Wednesday, or expected the entire band to be dressed as members of the Who.

Bassist Jon Merithew was coolly stoic in the manner of Who bassist John Entwistle, and was sporting a mustache. Drummer Brad Balsley may not have been totally convincing in the role of wild man Keith Moon, but he did play a double-bass drum kit featuring a Who logo and a picture of the late Who drummer's face on the bass drums.

They were joined by a guitarist in a white jump suit of the sort Who guitarist and primary songwriter Pete Townshend used to wear. He copied Townshend's leaps and windmill-style guitar playing.

The 45-minute set was stuffed with such early-Who crowd pleasers as "I Can't Explain" and "I'm a Boy." Despite occasional sound problems and Vedder's glances at lyric sheets, the group seemed relaxed and obviously was enjoying itself as it played generally faithful versions of the Who's power-pop tunes. Vedder alarmed those directly in front of the stage as he executed some Daltrey-like mic twirls.

"Step aside," Vedder said, in a bad English accent, to the people closest to him before he began twirling.

The Who, part of the original British invasion with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, were known for their aggressive, blues-based power pop. With such albums as Tommy (1969) and Who's Next (1971), they were one of the biggest rock groups of the '60s and '70s and a major influence on both metal and punk bands.

Vedder and band ended their tribute with an extended Tommy medley, including "See Me, Feel Me" and the instrumental "Underture." During the latter, Vedder smashed two tambourines and flung four others into the crowd. Assuring there could be no encore, the quartet proceeded to attack the rest of its instruments.

The four members then gathered at the front of the stage, put their arms around each other and bowed, in another nod to the Who.

The surf-punk-flavored Texas band Enduro had opened the show, followed by Olympia pop-punks the Bangs, whose set ended when a speaker caught fire. The show ran over into the time the evening Yoyo a Gogo show was due to start, due to a visit by police.

The police arrived and threatened to shut down the performance alleging illicit alcohol consumption. After a quick negotiation, it was agreed the show could continue if everyone exited the warehouse and returned sans alcohol.

The show resumed at 9:30 p.m., with an ear-splitting set by Bunny Foot Charm that cleared much of the room. By the time the fake Who took the stage, the 250-capacity space was full again.