On October 22, 1990, Mookie Blaylock played their first official show at the Off Ramp Cafe in Seattle. Rock historians would come to imbue this event with understandable import: After all, Mookie Blaylock would go on to become Pearl Jam, one of the most important rock outfits of the past two decades. And now, with the 20th anniversary of that debut show on the horizon, the members of Pearl Jam are looking back for the first time in their careers — and they still can't believe they've made it this far.
Luckily, they've got Cameron Crowe to help them remember their journey from Seattle mid-carders to one of the biggest acts on the planet. He's directed a documentary called, appropriately enough, "Pearl Jam Twenty," that culls through more than 1,200 hours of rare footage — plus 24 hours of recently shot interviews — to provide a definitive look at the band's legendary career.
The film is reportedly set to premiere in September — though, on Monday, PBS announced it would broadcast it in October as part of its "American Masters" series — meaning that, at long last, guitarist Mike McCready, one of Pearl Jam's founding members, is being forced to come to terms with his band's own mortality.
"Yeah, it all went very quickly," he said, laughing. "There were many highs and lows throughout our career, and many arcs of creativity [and] tragedies ... that run the whole gamut of human emotions, being in this. From being in a band with guys for 20 years, and having fights and making up, and being brothers in a way, looking out for each other."
And part of what appeals to McCready about Crowe's film is that it somehow manages to tie all of those things together into one cohesive and comprehensive work — one that had even the longtime guitarist getting a bit nostalgic.
"When I saw the early ... edits of it, I thought it was very interesting and kind of exciting and, like I said, it runs the gamut of all those emotions," he explained. "And it actually put in some sort of musical perspective the past 20 years, like, 'Oh yeah, we did do that, we did do this': the Ticketmaster thing, there was Roskilde, there were all these issues, and there were these great highs and interesting beginnings. The story it tells is: Why did it work, and why does it still? It made more sense when I saw the movie."
But "Twenty" isn't the only thing Pearl Jam have in store for fans to commemorate the occasion: They've also announced plans for a Labor Day weekend concert alongside the likes of the Strokes, Queens of the Stone Age and Mudhoney, and, as McCready hinted, there might even be some new music on the way. Or maybe not. After all, all this nostalgia takes up a lot of time.
"Jeff [Ament] and Ed [Vedder] were really wanting to do more music in the terms of, 'It's our 20th anniversary. Let's celebrate that, but let's also do some new music,' and we're all into that," McCready said. "So, you may see some new music, you may not. I know we're going to record some new music this year; it may not be finished by the end of the year."
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