In a new instalment of the Audible Original series Words + Music, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder touched on the tragedy that marred the band’s set at 2000’s Roskilde festival, and how it almost spelt the end of their performing career.
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Echoing the recent Astroworld tragedy (though it should be noted that Vedder’s audiobook, I Am Mine, predates the incident by several months), nine people were killed in a stampede that occurred during Pearl Jam’s performance at the Danish festival. Though the band made their live return just two months later, they opted not to play another festival until Reading and Leeds in 2006.
Addressing the band’s response to the 2000 tragedy, Vedder said in I Am Mine (as transcribed by Louder): “There was at least one person in the band, I remember, that thought maybe we should never play again.”
Vedder also touched on how the members of Pearl Jam were affected by the deaths, saying: “We all had to process something that we all went through as individuals, but also with the help of each other.”
“I kind of disappeared into Europe. [I] had my own way of getting through it, which was taking Spanish guitar lessons from people who didn’t speak English. That was just a way to focus and be around people that I couldn’t understand for the most part. That way I was able to be around people, but since I didn’t really know what they were saying, it felt very peaceful and calm.”
On the band’s return to the stage – a headline show that took place on August 3, 2000 in Virginia – Vedder said the band had trouble acclimating to the pressure that loomed ahead of it. “Our nerves were pretty heightened the night before,” he said. “We had a brief soundcheck and it felt a little strange, looking out at empty seats… it had a different meaning.
“It started feeling very tenuous. There was so much emotion going on, I thought, ‘I can harness this, I gotta do something.’ I had a small tape recorder, and that’s when I recorded and figured out the song ‘I Am Mine’. It was all about getting ready for that first show, and hoping we’d all be safe the next night.”
Listen to a clip of Vedder’s audiobook, I Am Mine, below:
Vedder is currently gearing up to release his first solo album in 11 years, ‘Earthling’, on February 11 via Seattle Surf / Republic. Last week he shared its second single, ‘The Haves’, following the release of ‘Long Way’ in September.
His most recent album with Pearl Jam was last year’s ‘Gigaton’. In a three-star review, NME’s Anita Bhagwandas said: “Pearl Jam have, undoubtedly, as pioneers and figures that have shaped rock history, earned the right to make whatever the fuck they like. But the question is whether anyone is still listening any more? With this multi-faceted record, the answer is likely yes. It just won’t change your life.”
Earlier this year, Vedder contributed to the soundtrack for the Sean Penn-directed Flag Day. One of the songs, ‘My Father’s Daughter’, features vocals by the singer’s daughter Olivia.
The frontman also appears on Elton John‘s star-studded latest album, ‘The Lockdown Sessions’, alongside the likes of Stevie Nicks, Miley Cyrus and Dua Lipa. Vedder collaborated with John on the track ‘E-Ticket’.
Back in September, Pearl Jam added Josh Klinghoffer to their touring line-up. The former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist later said that his new role was “enormously gratifying”, adding: “I feel like I’ve known these guys for 30 years already.”