5 Against 1 – The Inevitable Pearl Jam Blog - The Fans
Pearl Jam Fans are the Best in the World
By late October 2009, Rizzo and I had been dating for over a month (or just about a month depending on which date Rizzo decides we started dating at the time of this posting). Pearl Jam was touring for their album Backspacer with the shows closest to the Washington DC area being in Philadelphia, PA. The band had four shows scheduled on October 27-31 to celebrate(?) the closing of the Spectrum Center. As with every Pearl Jam tour I wanted to make sure to get to at least one concert but was hesitant to go because (1) I didn’t want to go by myself and (2) even through Rizzo and I were really close really fast I wasn’t sure it would be appropriate to invite her out of town for the weekend after only a month of dating.
Luckily for me I found myself a good woman and Rizzo insisted she wanted to go to the show so I better hurry up and find some tickets. Finding tickets in the age of the internet for just about any show, event, or concert is a fairly routine endeavor. Finding tickets that won’t require you to sell a kidney and sacrifice your first born isn’t as easy. I found some nosebleed seats on a third party ticket selling site the only cost my right big toe and 6 pints of blood so I scooped them up. Rizzo and I were heading to Philadelphia to see Pearl Jam on Saturday, October 31, 2009; Halloween.
This was going to be our first weekend away together so both Rizzo and I wanted to splurge a bit so we decided to stay in style at the Aloft in Philadelphia. Rizzo had seen the hotel before and was intrigued by the modern style and cool amenities (including a lobby bar) that the Aloft offered. I wasn’t one to complain about a hotel choice since I had a beautiful woman to go with me to see a Pearl Jam concert so we booked the Aloft for Friday night and Saturday night. We had two nights booked in a cool hotel, tickets to see the greatest band on the planet, and time over the weekend to visit all the nerdy historical sites that a geek like me can consume. Everything was coming together to make for a wonderful adventure.
As both Rizzo and I are working professionals, we didn’t get on the road towards Philadelphia until about 6pm on Friday night. The drive from Northern Virginia to Philly without traffic takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes, give or take. This would of put us in the Aloft bar by about 9pm to have a few drinks. Of course this isn’t what happened because the Washington DC metro area has the worst rush hour traffic in the United States (this isn’t an exaggeration) so our trip become much, much longer. When you hit rush hour in Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia the trip can get excruciatingly long. This wasn’t a big deal because we had reservations secured by a credit card. Our room was secure, or so we thought.
The trip grew from 2 ½ hours to about 6 ½ hours resulting in us arriving at the Aloft at about 1:00am on Saturday morning. It was a long and tiring trip but it was no big deal because when we walked in to the lobby of the Aloft the lobby bar was rocking (with all its club-like blue neon lights) and we were ready to check in. Rizzo and I approached check-in all smiles, presented our reservation, and waited to be given our room. “We’re sorry, but we are over booked and don’t have a room for you.” Wait, what? I just drive 6 ½ hours to have a drink in your lobby bar and you don’t have a room for me. But I have a reservation. You know, those things people make in order to stay at your establishment. Oh, you overbooked? Well shove your overbooked right up your ass and give me my reserved room!
“But don’t worry, we have a lovely room for you at the hotel right next door Sheraton. It is a lovely room and will be wonderful for you.” But I didn’t want a room at the Sheraton! My girlfriend (yes! I had a girlfriend) wanted to stay at the Aloft so she could enjoy the wonderful modern features and have drinks at your douche-tastic bar! Ok, fine, I’m just going to be grumpy and pissy the rest of the night because I didn’t get what I wanted even though the room we get at the Sheraton is vastly superior to your super tiny Aloft rooms with a more comfortable bed. I won’t ever be visiting you again Aloft. Never again! (We stayed at the Aloft in National Harbor for our first anniversary 11 months later. It was wonderful. Damn you, Aloft).
After a good night sleep I was in a much better mood so Rizzo and I took in some of the historical sites before the show. It just so happened that the Phillies were in the World Series in 2009 and a few games were going to be played the same weekend and directly across the street from our concert venue. That added to the fun of the city so we got to see some of the World Series vehicles traveling around. We also did all the touristy things you do in Philly; the Liberty Bell, Constitution Hall, etc. That was lots of fun but we had business to attend to and that business was Pearl Jam.
We were lucky to have not only purchased tickets on the night we did. It was both Halloween and the last show that was ever to be performed at the Spectrum. I knew that Pearl Jam wouldn’t let us down and of course they didn’t. The setlist was incredible! They played big hits. They played fan favorites. They played obscure tunes that only die hard Pearl Jam fans would know like Bugs and Sweet Lew. Then they blew everyone away by celebrating Halloween by dressing up as Devo and playing Whip It. The crowd went crazy. I went crazy. Rizzo went crazy. By the end of the night I had no voice due to singing at the top of my lungs for hours. I was sweaty. I was tipsy. I was happy. It was one of the greatest nights of my life and I got to share it with Rizzo.
As we were leaving the show Rizzo and I wanted to take a picture of the two of us out in front of the Spectrum with the Pearl Jam banner in the background. Unfortunately, the batteries in my camera had died, Rizzo didn’t have a camera, and this was before we both regularly carried around what boils down to a laptop computer in our pocket that would have easily substituted for a camera. No camera, no picture. Oh well, it was still a great night and we would have our memories.
This is where the greatness of Pearl Jam fans come into play (it only took me 1200 words to get to the point of this section). A random guy named Bob was watching us struggle with our camera and seeing us get frustrated. He approached us and kindly offered to take a picture with his camera and then send us the picture. We clearly knew that this would never happen but we thought hey, what the hell, and let this total stranger take our picture. Again, this was before cell phone cameras were as popular as they are now so there was no way for Bob to get us this picture on the spot. I gave Bob my business card and he said he would send us a copy of the picture as soon as he got a chance. Then we went on our way, enjoyed the rest of the weekend in Philadelphia, drove back home, got engaged, bought a house, and got married. We never heard from Bob again.
That is, of course, until December 2013. I had changed jobs and was working in in McLean, VA when I got a random letter in the office from a Pennsylvania address at my office. I opened up and found a brief note and a photo. It was from Bob from the Philadelphia show. As it turns out, Bob’s camera had broken later that same Halloween night back in 2009. The SD card from his camera had been sitting around for four years. In 2013 Bob happened across the SD card and found the picture he had took of Rizzo and me so long ago. Bob also happened to have kept my business card for some reason. He had the picture developed and even took the time to track me down. The business card he had was from my previous accounting firm. He tracked that I had changed jobs, found me at my new job, and sent me a copy of the picture. This fellow Pearl Jam fan went through the trouble to provide me a memory of one of the greatest moments of my life, something he certainly didn’t have to do. It was certainly a teary moment when I opened that envelope to see the note and the picture of Rizzo and me from four years prior.
I emailed back and forth with Bob a few times but we haven’t really spoken since his kind gesture. That isn’t really important. The music of an amazing band, Pearl Jam, brought a few strangers together for a moment on October 31, 2009. A kind gesture that was fulfilled four years later made Bob and I friends. And that, my friends, is why Pearl Jam fans are the greatest fans on earth.