11/12/1997 :: The Honking Seals play the Catalyst
November is a good month for all my uberdork Pearl Jam anniversary celebrating. Ten years ago tonight, I was in my own personal upper echelon of sublime, unbelievable, kept-pinching-myself heaven:
Pearl Jam was in the Bay Area to open for the Rolling Stones and decided to play a secret show at the garden-lovely Catalyst Club (capacity 600) in Santa Cruz, billing themselves as The Honking Seals. In the Fall of 1997, I had just started my freshman year of college. In those early days of the internet, I was on a PJ listserv called Long Road and first heard about the show upon returning back to my Graham Hall dorm room after my 11:45am Wednesday class. I clearly remember feeling my heart splash up into my throat as I read the posting about the rumored show taking place that night. I immediately grabbed my keys, cleared $200 from my meager savings account, and drove over Highway 17 to the club. There was already a day-old line outside when I got there in early afternoon, and it was sheer mayhem with media (I'm so mentioned here) and everyone drawn like moths to the flame of excitement in this fairly laid-back beach town.
I don't think I have to specify that it was a fantastic show. Seriously - 600 people? How could it not be. I remember feeling shock and disbelief when I actually convinced some apathetic girl that she wanted to part with her ticket. Until that point, I had always felt with certainty that since I was pretty young when the band first formed that I would never get a chance to see them in a small club setting. I really did have to keep pinching myself all night.
The performance was crackling with energy from the band, radiating up from the audience. It was the first PJ show in almost a year, and three tunes from the yet-unreleased Yield were played for the first time that night. "Do The Evolution" peeled the crud off my soul with those blistering guitar riffs while Ed danced this little modster dance. I remember "Wishlist" as being so plaintive and wistful (with different lyrics in that early incarnation), but simple almost like a lullaby, and unlike any other song in their catalog. "Given To Fly" was nothing short of a religious experience when that line "a wave came crashing like a fist to the jaw . . ." broke for the first time, soaring over that tiny hot club.
Plus, November 12 is Neil Young's birthday, so Ed called "Uncle Neil" on a big cell phone that he had up on stage, and we all sang happy birthday to him. At the end of the night, as I leaned forward from the front of the balcony, Ed wandered over to the side of the stage. He looked up directly at me, and in a moment of what can only be described as sheer suavity, I waved at him. He smiled at me, and waved back.
That was a good night.
Given To Fly (11/12/97 premiere)
Wishlist (11/12/97 premiere)
Do The Evolution (11/12/97 premiere)
Happy Birthday to Neil Young (11/12/97)
[this audio is okay, minus the a-hole talking about 5th grade over Wishlist, etc]
So by the way, tonight I am pretty much the antithesis of my devil-may-care "get me to the show" rockergirl personality from ten years ago; instead of heading up to the Hold Steady in Denver, I am trying to stop a nascent sore throat in its tracks by drowning it in Airborne, orange juice, tea, and those little mini probiotic yogurt shakes. Yeah. Rock on.