Pearl Jam Guitarist Rocks For Crohn's Benefit

Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready will lead a Friday (April 8) benefit concert at Seattle's Showbox for the Northwest chapter of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. Working with the organization encou

Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready will lead a Friday (April 8) benefit concert at Seattle's Showbox for the Northwest chapter of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. Working with the organization encouraged McCready to go public about his ongoing battle with the debilitating stomach disorder Crohn's in 2003, and he's been a vocal supporter of CCFA ever since.

The artist will anchor the U.F.O. tribute band Flight To Mars at the show, which will also feature Lee Rude and the Train Wrecks and Left Hand Smoke, which has played at two prior CCFA benefits in Seattle. Earlier in the day, McCready will serve as the featured speaker at a CCFA luncheon at Seattle's Westin.

"It has opened a whole new world of possibilities, including treatments and a new diet that I'm on," McCready tells Billboard.com of his link with CCFA. "I've met a ton of new people who have colitis or Crohn's. Talking to them has been probably the most healing thing: to hear other people's attitudes on how they deal with their disease and how they stay positive."

Of late, McCready has been able to hold his Crohn's in check largely by adhering to the Specific Carbohydrate diet. "No refined sugars or starches, so no potatoes, rice or pizza," he says. "I can use honey and make my own yogurt. You have to always read labels. You can get your carbs out of vegetables, but other than that, you have to be very careful."

To wit, McCready had been trouble-free for almost a year, but suffered a brief relapse after eating oysters. Researchers are unsure what causes Crohn's and there is no cure, but patients can keep the disease under control with medication and by monitoring their diet. "It very much differentiates between patients," McCready says. "One patient could take something and be fine, but the next one will have an adverse reaction to it."

Pearl Jam has been off the road since last fall, and McCready says not having to move "from place to place to place" has made dealing with his Crohn's all the easier. "I can work out regularly and I go to do yoga, too," he says. "All of this has come out of being a part of this organization."

The guitarist says he's been touched by the outpouring of support from fans, some of whom have even held up signs at Pearl Jam shows emblazoned with the names of prescription drugs used to treat the disease. "One said, 'I'm on Azathioprine!' It has happened a few times," McCready says with a chuckle. "It makes me crack up every time I see it."

For Friday's show, Flight To Mars (named after what McCready calls "a rickety, old crappy ride" at the Seattle Center, now the site of the Experience Music Project) is getting deep into the spirit of U.F.O., a British rock act who rose to fame in the mid-to-late '70s.

"I actually have a Flying V [guitar] and I duct-taped half of it white so I can look like [U.F.O. member] Michael Schenker," McCready admits. "They were a band that I loved growing up. I think part of the crowd knows the songs and some of them don't, but they just come down and rock."