Tarago Diaries #34 – The Blue Lead

Mark reflects on playing live with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.

Author:  Mark Seymour.

Date: 3 July 2020.

Original URL: https://www.facebook.com/MarkSeymourOfficial/

 

Article Text

I once found myself side stage at a Pearl Jam concert. About to walk on.

There’s a story. ‘Four minutes with Eddy Vedder’. Started seventeen years earlier and ended shortly after the last chord.

You can google the set list. The Perth Dome. 2003. 2nd encore. Song no.24.

Questions were asked. Triple M, The Herald Sun. A punter outside Coles.

“But how was it up there man? With HIM? What’s he like? Is he nice?”

“Aaah..”

Thing is, I’m not even sure how it happened. Invisible people spoke to each other. Which happens in ROCK. ROCK is like any other business. There’s a chain of command. Suddenly there I was. Poised. On. Off. Over in a flash. It was raining in the car park afterwards.

As to the retelling, which bits matter?

When in doubt, explain. But how far back do you go? There’s the San Diego story. The ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me” story. The phone call in the urinal, post sound check on the banks of the Swan.

I’ve always been interested in how things happen. Cause and effect. The back story. I like having things explained to me. I’ll even pay for it. Like how to train a puppy. Or plant a tree. You’ve got to figure a verbal demonstration of the relationship between.. well.. things, can’t do any harm. Surely?

Unfortunately, not everybody shares my enthusiasm for detail. They glaze over. Some even take offence. Too clever by half. Patronizing.

So when confronted by these larger questions, “Yeah, but what was it like though man?” …Go the gush. It’s effective, theatrical and covers a multitude of sins. So how was it? Really?

‘Amazing’.

End of story.

But see, if an incident becomes notorious through the sheer weight of ‘likes’, it’s meaning changes. Whether you ‘like’ it or not. It stops being about singing a song with Eddy Vedder for a smidge over four minutes. It becomes a life-changing experience. You’ll never get it right. Or get over it!

“No. I mean, how was it up there.. with.. HIM?”

“Do you want the long answer, the short answer.. or would you like me to just make some shit up because we’re pressed for time?”

“There I was taking a piss right? And my phone went off in my pocket.. You’ll never guess who it was?”
“Nooo! You’re kidding me.”
“Michael Roberts..”
“Who’s he?”
“My manager.”
“Oh. Really? Then what?”

People don’t like to be rude right? They’re never going to tell you directly, that your agent, or what Stan said, or the cab ride across town is all actually.. a bit dull.

It’s all nothing compared to the bigger picture.

The wonder. The magic of flashing of lights. The GLORY.

‘Cos all you’re doing is making your life sound, well, like everybody else’s. And in the business of ROCK.. that is not an option.

Know what I mean? Even getting on stage with Eddy Vedder. Even THAT is a JOB mate. But you don’t actually SAY that.

Go the gush.

Even though really, the earth didn’t in fact..

MOVE.

For those about to ROCK.. Complexity is boring.

Detail? Meh.

To gush. Therein lies the way to hearts and minds. Amazing. Incredible.

But see, the whole Pearl Jam thing was hanging on a thread that night. As it should. Like any great gig, the bits only came together because all these people were focussed on the DETAIL!

And just because it was the Jam, doesn’t mean things couldn’t go wrong. Right? You’ve heard of Murphy’s law surely? If something can go wrong it will. And has. Many time over.

which is worse than dull. ‘cos when things go wrong in front of thousands of people, they suddenly become not glorious at all.

They become shit-house.

Attention to detail. Therein lies success. You need to know that, if ever you’re in this situation. Musically bonding with some bloke who is literally adored by millions. How often is that likely to happen? Do NOT fuck it up I say.

Soundcheck: The Jam at the end of theirs. Lots of Americans smoking cigarettes. Crew included. Isn’t that not ok? Nah. It’s the Jam. They’re immortal. So don’t worry about it.

They don’t move around much. They sort of stand there, like wounded men who walked out of a war. Heads bent with the load of their work. They’re really loud too. Great waves of electric guitar rolling out across the aisles, squalling like heavy weather up and over the walls of the DOME. It’s like an air raid. Very American. And he wants to play ‘Throw your Arms around Me’?

How’s that going to work?

Eddy has the voice of the apocalypse. Deep. Woe betide us all.

“I will come for you at night time”

Shit! Look the fuck OUT!

He’s also a lovely bloke. For contrast. Just so you know.

We ran it once I think. Maybe twice. Smiles. Nods.

Exit stage left..

Band starts up again.

A tall man in leather, denim and a moustache stops me from leaving. Looks like a bikie. Holds the end of the guitar lead up in front of my face. Wiggles it. Big eyes looming. Yells over the noise..

“Hey Man. Listen here. Yours is the BLUE LEAD.”

It’s definitely blue.

“Sure.”

Wiggles it again.. places it on the lip of the stage.

“Did you get that?”

“Yeah. Got it.”

“It will be here..”

Points at it, lying there, on the lip of the stage. Amongst several. In various colours. Red. Orange. Why so many?

“When you are CALLED.. You step up here,”

Points at the floor,

“Then you wait. I will say GO! Then you take the end of the BLUE LEAD! There it is..”

Points again..

“And INSERT the fucker into your GUITAR.”

“Yep. Got it.”

He stares at me a bit more then looks away. I’m done.

Hotel, shower, pizza and two stubbies later… there’s a posse back stage. Lots of black boxes on concrete. The air full of smoke. Massive stacks, crowd roaring. Everything is huge.

The Burswood thunderdome.

A printed song list at the bottom of the stair case. Where are we now? This is ridiculous. I need a piss. What song are they playing? I only know one. ‘Better man.’

Go up now and ask your man.

“What song are we up to?”

“Forget it. They’ve CHANGED THE ORDER!”

Shit. I loiter. I am dwarfed. The little guy waiting for kum ba ya.

“GO!”

“What? Now?”

“Yes. NOW.”

“Which lead?”

 

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