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“The Opening Slot: By Far the Most Interesting Aspect of This Upcoming Pearl Jam Tour”

Although, I gotta say, I like the Wrigley Field dates… it’ll be interesting to see what tickets face for there, where the unstoppable force of Wrigleyville opulence meets the immovable object of Pearl Jam’s punk obstinacy. The storylines abound — they are actually NOT the first punk band to ever play Wrigley, [1] as the Foo Fighters laid claim to that title in August ’15 with Chicagoans Cheap Trick and Urge Overkill, and Vedder is a huge Cubs fan, which brings me to another force/object dichotomy — meandering level of stage banter when such a seemingly meaningful occasion is graced by not only the hopeless anticlimax of the band not even having released an album, EP, live album or anything, since its last tour, but also the fact that these “lovable losers” the Cubs usually so laden with “character” essentially attempted to buy a championship after canning their one-year-old manager, and almost did.

So, who’s on first? Pearl Jam to my knowledge have never been an opening band themselves, although they did back Neil Young sans-Vedder for the Mirror Ball recording and tour, though Daltrey, Townshend and company would obviously be a worthy candidate. [2] [3] If the Foo gig was any rubric these Wrigley stops will involve up to perhaps three bands, but we know that would get a little unwieldy for tour purposes. I would say look for them to select from this New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival lineup, which they’re sharing in April with old friends like the Chili Peppers and Neil Young in addition to fellow ’90’s rockers Better than Ezra and many more, but the lineup looks more prone to Birkenstock donning/hookah smoking than tofu burritos and bodily mutilation, so scratch that.
As far as mutilation goes, the Pixies would seem to be a divine choice, but the last thing I heard of them doing was their albeit rip-roaring installment at Lollapalooza Brazil 2014 (which seemed to blow away the American Lollapalooza). Anyway, here are what I see as a couple worthy candidates, to be added to the genus of ingenious Pearl Jam openers, which thus far has included The Dismemberment Plan, Supergrass, Sonic Youth and so many more:
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The Stone Roses
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The Stone Roses’ initial album literally spawned two b-side songs, that is, songs that didn’t make the album but would surface later everywhere from definitive collections to youtube demos — “Going Down” and “Elephant Stone” — that would have easily vied for greatest songs in most other bands’ entire catalogues, let alone within given albums. They would of course be a bit poppy as compared to the sneering, mohawk-wielding median PJ opener like the Buzzcocks, but the grunge demigods would definitely like that they’re old grizzled vets of rock, they’ve never advertised, done movies or sold themselves as something they’re not, and they have of course produced the album that both NME and Noel Gallagher have gone on record as calling “The best album of all time.” The Stone Roses ranks #19 all time on Dolby Disaster. For all you Trivial Pursuit buffs out there. The Roses will inundate this year’s Marlay festival in Dublin.
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Menace Beach
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Keeping it in the UK with this one: Menace Beach just continue to keep rocking it out, with their Jan. ’15 full-length Ratworld which made my year-end honorable mention list, and this even more deliberate and crafted EP from October, Super Transporterreum. They’re just now getting to the point probably where they have enough songs for a show, but they’ve long since had a definitive sound, very Breeders-influenced but also somehow darker and more patient, with lead guitar frills filling the empty spaces almost a la Led Zeppelin or, you guessed it, Pearl Jam. Also, they don’t strike me as a Breeders RIPOFF to the extent of Speedy Ortiz — the songs themselves are sovereign crafts, no mimicking. It would be great beer-hoisting background noise for Wrigleyville, and you know what, I bet it would get some positive press in the Tribune, too. It would though obviously be a big leap up in spotlight for the young band. At least they’d be too far from the crowd to get bottles thrown at them.
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Throwing Muses
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The Muses, an occult mainstream act (a phenomenon unique to the early ’90’s, somewhat like Soul Coughing), represented earnest alternative rock with a great, climactic face similar to the headliner here, and have rebanded as recently as ’13 for the comeback album Purgatory / Paradise, which I dissed upon its release but now find to have a pretty compelling variety of face-melting rock and gentle melody, an amalgamation which has always been the band’s m.o. Female lead singer Kristin Hersh is a modern musical do-it-all, the progenitor of two solo albums and the author of two books, one a memoir titled Rat Girl and the other a biographical snapshot of the late singer/songwriter and friend Vic Chesnutt. The air would be thick with early ’90’s psychedelia (for those who care, like me). Essential tracks: “Dizzy,” “Golden Thing,” “No Way in Hell,” “Ruthie’s Knocking.”
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[1] I call ‘em bratty punks, whatever, half the time I wish they’d turn down that racket with songs like “Go” and “Spin the Black Circle”; my favorites are “Faithfull” and “Immortality.” Eddie Vedder is always scrawling “Pro-Choice” across his arm, choosing the Buzzcocks, Ramones, Sleater-Kinney et. al. to open.
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[2] In one of the Pearl Jam rehearsal studios there lay an amateurish water color-looking portrait, though about quadruple life size, of Pete Townshend on the wall, and they open many shows with a broadcasting of the “Baba O’Riley” intro over the PA.
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[3] I just looked on Pearl Jam’s site in pursuit of the start time of these Wrigley gigs (two nights, August 20th and 22nd), and for details it said to go to ticketmaster.com. Gee, I’m jumping out of my damned seat with inspiration.

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