Tuesday, August 30, 2011

PJ20: Montreal 2005

09.15.05 - Bell Centre - Montreal, QC

When I first started this countdown, I wanted the opportunity to relive some great live Pearl Jam. My hope was that I'd find some gems that have escaped my memory over the years. Boy, does this show fit that description! For one reason or the other, I never found a copy of this show until now. I remember all the details of the incredible trip: The beautiful drive fall drive to Canada, bar hopping around the city, and one of the best nights of sleep I ever had in an open aired hostel.

This date marked the anniversary of Johnny Ramones' death. Besides his part in punk music history, he was also a close friend of the band. Eddie dedicated the show to him and the band kicked into I Believe In Miracles. The show was already off to a great start, but this was the turning point to something special.

Donned in his Johnny Ramone shirt, Eddie delivered a performance nothing short of legendary. You can hear his intensity in every line of Light Years. The heartfelt show continued with "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" tagged to the end of Betterman. This is one of those nights where everything clicked.

The crazy Canadian crowd only heightened the experience. I've never seen a more intense Alive than this version. You can feel the fist pumping "YEAHS!" that accompanied the last half of the song on this recording. The high energy second encore only made things more rowdy.

Anything I say won't do this one justice. It was a night that Pearl Jam paid homage to not only a legend, but a friend. Their playing demonstrates how much Johnny really meant to them. This one deserves to be played from start to finish... and turned up LOUD!


Pearl Jam 09.15.05 mp3 Download Part 1

Pearl Jam 09.15.05 mp3 Download Part 2

Monday, August 29, 2011

PJ20: Camden II 1998

08.29.98 - E Centre - Camden NJ

Hey there! So, obviously it's been a while since I continued my tribute to Pearl Jam. The fact is my computer blows! It's definitely time to get a new one... Now that the excuses are out of the way, it's less than a week till PJ20! I hope to post a couple more of my personal favorite moments to get you psyched for the big weekend.

Camden 1998 was the first time I saw Pearl Jam rock the east coast. It was surprising to me how different the energy was at this show compared to the first time I saw them in Maui. For me, it unlocked the key to how truly special the bond is between this band and their fans. Sitting in the front row of the lawn gave me a perfect vantage point to experience it first hand. I can still see the crowd's reaction to the "1, 2, 3, 4, 5 against 1" part of Animal.

This second night in Camden holds it's own against some of the other great 1998 summer/fall shows. To this day it's still the only show I've seen Long Road performed. By the first notes of State of Love and Trust, I was a Pearl Jam believer for life. If that wasn't enough they followed it up with Present Tense. Witnessing the "Hallelujah!!!!!" reaction in Do The Evolution was another uppercut to my jaw. Up to this point in my life, I've never seen 30 thousand so connected in the moment.

Then came the blissfulness that followed Better Man. Eddie wasted no time going into an extended version of Save It For Later. Just when you thought it was ending he kicked it back into gear and brought the place to a frenzy. Both encore closers, Rearviewmirror and Rockin' In The Free World, left me covered in sweat, fist pumping and hoarse for about a week.

It's funny how at the time I had to visit my local record store for month until an overpriced copy of this show was available. Now it can be found for free with a quick google search. ENJOY!

Pearl Jam 08.29.98 Download Part 1

Pearl Jam 08.29.98 Download Part 2

Monday, August 8, 2011

PJ20: fifteen

Madison Square Garden - June 2008

I'm embarrassed to admit it took me over a quarter century before I made it to Madison Square Garden. The experience was monumental for obvious reasons, but the trip was an adventure in and of itself. I had two 10C tickets for both shows at MSG in 2008 and made the trek from Ardmore, PA each night. While sitting in traffic through the Lincoln Tunnel I noticed my car's battery light go on. I thought, "Just make it to the show and deal with it later."

The first time walking into MSG is a chaotic whirlwind. People flood the streets and corridors leading to the hallowed halls. Once in, it's an uphill hike to any level of seats. When you reach your seats you can really feel the history of the building. I've heard you can actually feel the building shake when the room's on fire. It wasn't till Corduroy on night one that I actually believed it.

Both nights offered some great moments and special surprises. For the first act, Pearl Jam invited a group of backup singers for a few songs including All Night and Who You Are. The trio included Fonzi Thorton who's worked with Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin and David Bowie to name a few. C.J. Ramone was also there to help out on bass for I Believe In Miracles. Other high points of MSG night one were incredible versions of Present Tense and W.M.A.

On the way home that pesky battery light was back. We barely made it to the first rest stop on the turnpike before the car was dead. The extremely helpful Sunoco night shifter helped us diagnose the problem. The alternator was shot so the battery wasn't holding a charge. We slept the night at the rest stop while the battery charged and at dawn we made a break for it before rush hour. We conserved every ounce of power to ensure the battery would last the long ride home. Fortunately for us the car made it back to the mainline where it eventually died on Lancaster Ave forcing us to push it the last quarter mile to the mechanic.

I had my doubts I'd be able to make the second show, but this was MSG night two! The car was repaired and less than ten hours after arriving home I was back on the road headed through the Lincoln Tunnel. I'm so happy I persevered.

From the word go Pearl Jam meant business opening with Release. The night got really serious when we were treated to the first Garden since 2006. You can tell how special MSG is for the band by the way they construct setlists for this building. It's their east coast home. In addition to the backup trio, Pearl Jam also welcomed Ace Frehley from KISS to perform Black Diamond with Mike and Matt exchanging lead vocal responsibility.

My first two shows at MSG were quite the introduction to how Pearl Jam owns MSG. It's hard to say where they rank compared to other great Pearl Jam shows there. Some are better, but is there really such a thing as a bad Pearl Jam show at the Garden? For your listening pleasure there's links to the audience recordings and a couple videos of the highlights. ENJOY!

Pearl Jam 06.24.08 Download Part 1

Pearl Jam 06.24.08 Download Part 2

Pearl Jam 06.25.08 Download Part 2

Pearl Jam 06.25.08 Download Part 2

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

PJ20: sixteen

05.18.10 - Prudential Center - Newark, NJ

The 2010 North American tour started on the heals of a high energy performance at Jazz Fest in New Orleans and roared to the finale, a two night stand at Madison Square Garden. There was one date that mysteriously remained unannounced until right before the tour started. Since the date was wedged between gigs in Boston and New York City a lot of fans speculated a bonus show for one of the two major markets. Instead, Pearl Jam pulled a 180 and made a stop in Newark, NJ to perform in front of a modest Tuesday night crowd.

With many fans attending either Boston or NYC, it was no surprise there was a light turnout for the show. People traveling for the shows already had their plans and reservations set. It's was so light of a turnout that the Backspacer curtain was out and no seats sold behind the stage. I feel that nights like this can be a recipe for an unforgettable show.

Anyone who skipped this one missed a perfect appetizer for MSG. This show was an example of the sum of the parts being greater than the whole. The setlist is scattered with rarities like Alone, Brother, a WMA tag in Daughter, Jersey Girl and All Along The Watchtower with Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses. Beyond that the show featured standout performances of Insignificance, Amongst The Waves, Inside Job and Got Some. I especially remember being blown away by You Are too.

The mp3 download is my audience recording. I'll always contest the auds capture the to essence of live Pearl Jam better than any soundboard :) I also found some great videos too. ENJOY!

Pearl Jam 05.18.10 mp3 Download

Friday, July 22, 2011

moe. - Musikfest Cafe - 07.17.11

There are certain nights where everything clicks perfectly. The great thing about moe. is these nights can occur at any random time. Last Sunday in Bethlehem PA was one of those sleeper shows. It was the first sellout for the Musikfest Cafe. The venue offers a layout similar to Rams Head Live in Baltimore, but smaller and reserved seating in the balcony. It's character comes from a panoramic view of the steel towers behind the stage. It's a beautiful venue with some great amenities.

moe. established themselves in their new surroundings with a perfectly structured set that tore the place apart. The energy was high as the sun set with Runaway Overlude and a Cathedral > 32 Things to start things off. This trio of songs alone could have been the highlight of any show, but moe. was just getting started. The newly revived reggae version of Letter Home was next and fit nicely into this portion of the night. Both Happy Hour Hero and Crab Eyes were the only choices that were fairly standard, but Al particularly was definitely digging it.

The second set was where things really took off. A stretched out Spine of A Dog led right into Jazz Wank and would set the tone for the rest of the evening. The crowd was loving The Ghost of Ralph's Mom that followed. It was really the last segment and encore that brought this show to a different level. Puebla > Queen of Everything > CIA > Time Ed showcased some of the best moe. I've seen in a while. If that wasn't enough, the crowd's Meat chant was answered and a twenty minute encore ensued. There was even some mention of playing Brain Tuba by Al during his announcements. PLEASE let it happen at moe.down!

The quality of the recording doesn't match the greatness of this show. We were put in the worst spot and the recording suffers because of it. Word to anyone planning to record here: Get balcony seats and clamp! This show is well worth the couple bucks from Livedownloads.com for the soundboard when it's available. Until then enjoy the best my MK41's can offer from a poor location!

Friday, July 15, 2011

PJ20: seventeen

07.05.03 - Tweeter Center - Camden, NJ

In the Pearl Jam catalog, it's hard to contest any album is more political than Riot Act. Although the album may not always be discussed as one of the band's best albums, the subsequent tours are right up there with 1996 and 1998 in my book. In 2003 and 2004 they were on a mission to influence change. What better night to do so than the day after 4th of July in Philly... err I mean Camden.

I remember it was HOT! There was an "end of the world" storm that blew through and almost dumped Camden into the Delaware River. The show was heat from top to bottom, but there's one reason it stands out from others and that's the perfect mix of covers. It's very uncommon to see a setlist without at least a couple borrowed tunes in the mix. A cover can define a show depending on where it's at in the setlist and how well it's performed.

This show has a selection of the bands Pearl Jam loves to cover: Neil Young, The Who, Lennon, The Ramones and a little Last Kiss (Wayne Cochran) too. Hell, Eddie even throws some Snoop Dog in the breakdown of Blood. The placement of all is perfect, especially the early first set Rockin' in the Free World. Fortunately for us there's some quality video on YouTube of many of the covers. I included another staple of 2003 tours, Love Boat Captain. The link for the mp3 are here too. ENJOY!

Pearl Jam 07.05.03 mp3 Download

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Smoke if you got em...

I've been on a serious smoked beer kick this year. It really started when I was introduced to Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock and Märzen. How could beer taste this smokey?!? There are various degrees of smokey beers with something like Stone's Smoked Porter being lower on the scale, but equally enjoyable. I've even met homebrewers who used actual bacon in their recipes.

Grains being smoked over wood chips is typically what gives this style of beer it's flavor. Incorporating this into homebrewing is easy because major brands offer different smoked malts commercially, but they can be expensive and hard to find. Just like almost every aspect of brewing, DIY can be more rewarding and save money too. In his book Radical Brewing, Randy Mosher put the thought in my head that smoking your own grains is very attainable. I also found a great thread on HBT that outlines the process. Some online research helped me find an inexpensive, but reliable, smoker for $38 at Home Depot. Time to smoke!

The main reason for doing this now is because I entered another "Iron Homebrewer" contest. This one is being held by the Farmers' Cabinet, a new favorite of mine. The center city restaurant gave out the secret ingredient during Philly Beer Week: 2 lbs. of cherry wood smoked rye. The only rule is you need to use the rye so the flavor is incorporated in your recipe. To me, it seems hard to impart a strong smoke presence with only 2 lbs. Plus, I have a couple different directions I want to go with the recipe. Bottom line is I needed more smoked malt.

After assembling and curing the smoker I was ready to go. Below are some pictures of my process:

Getting my coals ready in the chimney. (No, that's not Bud Light)

While the smoker is being cured, I assembled the basket that will hold the grains. For the frame, I used what I had laying around the shed: 2x4's and shims (nothing pressure treated).

I bought some screen material from the Depot for $7 that will be used for the actual basket. This was close enough to keep the grains from falling through.

Staples and a utility knife were used to complete the basket. My hands only bled once :)

Soaking the cherry wood chips for an hour. I used about four handfuls for five pounds of malt.

Weighing the grains to be smoked: 2.5 lbs of rye and maris otter.

Loading in the cherry wood.

We're smokin!

I kept the grains moist by spraying them with water. I've read this helps the smokiness "stick."

Rye being smoked. The temperature wasn't as high as it should be for smoking meat, but for grains this isn't something to worry about.

Enjoying one of the last smoked porters I brewed in February.

Here's a shot of the basket after smoking. I was mildly concerned about the frame getting burnt, but it was far enough from the heat.

The finished product! I let both sit out for a bit before bagging to ensure there wouldn't be any condensation trapped that could cause mold. The aroma and taste are almost identical compared to the secret ingredient. It was a fun process I recommend to any homebrewer. I have a feeling next brew day may include a tasty meal too.