Pearl Jam's McCready Keeps Rocking For Crohn's

Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready and his U.F.O. tribute band Flight To Mars will take the stage Saturday (April 7) at Seattle's Showbox as part of the fifth annual benefit concert for the Northwest c

Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready and his U.F.O. tribute band Flight To Mars will take the stage Saturday (April 7) at Seattle's Showbox as part of the fifth annual benefit concert for the Northwest chapter of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. McCready went public in 2003 about his battle with Crohn's, a debilitating stomach disorder, and has since been heavily active in CCFA activities.

Proceeds from Saturday's concert, which will also feature the Purrs, North Twin and Jeff Fielder, will allow the CCFA to send younger Crohn's and colitis patients to a Paul Newman-sponsored camp in California called the Painted Turtle. It will also fund group events like hockey games and movie nights for patients and their families.

"We try to address the social aspect of the disease, so kids are able to talk and learn from each other," McCready tells Billboard.com. "I think a hugely important part of recovery is being able to talk to somebody else who has this disease."

Researchers are unsure what causes Crohn's and there is no cure. "Every Crohn's and colitis patient is different, and they all respond to different things. That's the craziest thing about it," McCready notes, adding that his last Crohn's relapse happened after he ate a seemingly innocuous plate of oysters at a Tacoma, Wash., restaurant.

"I don't know what happened, but within 15 minutes of eating them, I had extreme gut pain and had to find a bathroom right that second," he recalls. "Lo and behold, it was back."

However, the guitarist has now been in Crohn's remission since the spring of 2005, thanks to a largely carbohydrate-less diet and a new medicine, Humira, which is also used to treat arthritis. That combo allowed McCready to endure the extensive tour Pearl Jam set out on in support of its 2006 self-titled album for J Records.

"I've been out for shorter period of times that were 20 times as miserable, because I just couldn't manage it," he admits. "This was, in effect, a walk in the park. I just put the medication in the freezer or the refrigerator at the gig. It was a long tour, so I was lucky to be able to have this thing work."

At Saturday's gig, Flight To Mars (named after a run-down amusement park ride at the old Seattle Center) will focus its set on U.F.O. favorites from its late '70s/early '80s heyday, although McCready says the band has also rehearsed the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" (in the Van Halen style) and Black Sabbath's "The Mob Rules."

"Last night about two or three songs into rehearsal, I felt that we were a well-oiled machine," McCready says. "I'm usually panicking up until the day of the show."