Vedder Talks, part 2
Eddie Vedder says that Pearl Jam didn’t appreciate the strain the fight with Ticketmaster would place on the band. “You have to understand, this was just one thing of many that is important to me,” he said in a recent telephone conversation. “The service fees that are added to the ticket is just one small detail when you’re putting on a tour like this. And it turned into a big fucking deal.”
Partly to keep the matter in perspective, partly because of the band’s searching desire to be judged solely by its music, Vedder and company made a crucial decision: they wouldn’t wage their battle in the press. “This is our dream, our naive vision,” he said with a touch of irony. “What we do is play music.”
In retrospect, this may have been a strategic error of some proportion. Most seriously, absent Vedder’s glamour, the press passed on the story. While Chuck Philips at the Los Angeles Times and Eric Boehlert at Billboard aggressively exposed Ticketmaster’s schemes, no one else did. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today barely noticed the story. Most shockingly, the music press slept. Despite the high-profile opponents and the millions of consumer dollars at stake, Rolling Stone virtually ignored the issue. Spin sucked its thumb, as did Musician.
Why didn’t Vedder use his celebrity to publicize his campaign? “I had to protect the music,” he insisted. “I’m just someone who plays music. I’m not someone who comes out of a newspaper waving a flag.” Probe Vedder on the issue and you come up flat against a deep distrust of his own celebrity: “I just thought that if I just ignore it and act like it doesn’t exist, it wouldn’t exist.”
Ticketmaster’s publicity apparatus, by contrast, percolated nicely. The company repeatedly made the (unanswered) charge that Pearl Jam was engaging in a sophisticated publicity stunt. “How can it be a publicity stunt,” Vedder asked, “when [I’m turning down] every newspaper and magazine in America, including Good Housekeeping, wanting to put me on the cover?”
By early 1995 the pressures of mounting a Ticketmaster-less tour had grown. The band had a tough time searching for arenas that did not have Ticketmaster contracts and creating incontrovertibly secure environments in some nontraditional venues. The group nearly despaired when it could find no place to play in all of southern California, but it finally cobbled together a tour of 13 dates. Even then, the gods did not take pity on the band. The second show was rained out. Then came a watershed appearance before 50,000 fans in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. A by-all-accounts ashen Vedder could play only seven songs.
“I get hit with a random case of food poisoning,” Vedder said. “I was out of it. It wasn’t my decision, but when I was told they wanted to cancel the dates, I said ‘Hey, whatever.'”
Quietly insisted that the band had done the right thing. He recalled a damning story told to Billboard by Aerosmith manager Tim Collins. Collins approached Ticketmaster prez Fred Rosen about lowering service charges for an Aerosmith tour. Rosen’s counterproposal: “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. Let’s raise the service charge a dollar, and I’ll split it with you.” Vedder’s point: “For every Aerosmith story there’s a million bands we didn’t hear about it from. What happened with the next band? They cut a deal.”
Thanked Chicago’s Jam Productions for its help over the past year. “And they didn’t have to do it,” he noted.
Wouldn’t divulge details about the band’s recent ten days of recording in Chicago. “We made some music starting the day after the show,” he said.
Report from the Miller-Tweedy nuptials: the bride, Susan Miller, booker and co-owner of Lounge Ax, was resplendent in a floor-length, beige lace dress; the groom, Jeff Tweedy, formerly of Uncle Tupelo and currently of Wilco, was movie-star handsome in a new haircut and a recently purchased $10 suit with a sunflower poking out of his pocket. The couple was introduced by a drum ‘n’ horn corps that collected onstage to tootle the wedding march. Lounge Ax waitress Lana Levins presided over a spare ceremony that borrowed glancingly from Jewish tradition. The couple cheerfully said “I do,” but little else. An affectionate toast was offered by Miller’s father. Friends of the couple slyly noted that the first song played after the ceremony was “Shotgun,” and that the Biograph marquee across the street advertised the film Nine Months. Guests included various members of Wilco, the Jayhawks, Poi Dog Pondering, the New Duncan Imperials, Red Red Meat, Veruca Salt, the Coctails, Goober and the Peas, and Shellac. Syd Straw was there too. Jay Farrar, Tweedy’s estranged partner in Uncle Tupelo, reportedly was invited, but hadn’t shown by the time your correspondent left.