In an epic kickoff to the band's two-day festival celebrating its 20th anniversary, Pearl Jam's nearly three-hour rarities-studded set at Wisconsin's Alpine Valley Music Theater Saturday (Sept. 3) tapped a rich vein of Seattle rock history when Soundgarden's Chris Cornell joined the band for a four-song Temple of the Dog run before Mudhoney appeared with PJ to cover MC5's "Kick Out The Jams."
The Cornell-infused second encore included 1991 Temple gems "Hunger Strike," "Say Hello 2 Heaven," and "Reach Down," and reached back to pre-PJ band Mother Love Bone for "Stardog Champion." Continuing the night's theme of multiple guest jams, PJ20 fest side-stagers Liam Finn and Swell Season's Glen Hansard joined the Temple of the Dog Pearl Jam/Soundgarden mashup on backing vocals for "Reach Down."
Whlle fans got a taste of Cornell's appearance the previous night as the sounds of soundcheck carried into the fanclub ticket pickup area, the full-breadth of rare Pearl Jam tunes well-paired with guest spots by other artists playing the fest wasn't revealed until Mudhoney's Dan Peters, Finn, and Hansard appeared for 1996's "Who You Are," and then two songs later the Strokes' Julian Casablancas traded verses with Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder on 1994's "Not For You." By the time Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme jumped in for rarity "In The Moonlight," all bets were off.
But fans who'd braved the steady rain all day had probably caught on that collaborations were the order of the day at this fest marking not only Pearl Jam's 20th anniversary but also the birth of its blockbuster debut album, "Ten." During the mid-afternoon on the second stage, Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament, drummer Matt Cameron and guitarist Mike McCready did a pair of tunes during Joseph Arthur's set, giving a nod to a forthcoming album the four of them have made. No title or date has yet been announced.
Later, during the Strokes' hit-studded 45-minute main stage set (which included goodies from "Last Night" to tunes from throughout their 12-year career), Vedder hopped onstage to duet with Casablancas on 2005's "Juicebox."
The main event, of course, was Pearl Jam itself. And a clearly emotional Vedder took time out onstage, in between overwhelming singalongs on tunes like "Release" and "Better Man" to talk about how the band has made it for 20 years. "It's hard to imagine," he said. "When you're a kid, you think that music is the most powerful thing in the universe [but] adults around you being practical say that [success in a band] ain't gonna happen. Get a nice construction job. We didn't listen. I want to thank the kid I was for hanging onto his passion."
The rarely played 2003 PJ rarity "Education" was augmented by Finn, meanwhile "State Of Love And Trust" from 1992's "Singles" soundtrack featured Dhani Harrison, frontman of TheNewNo2 and son of Beatle George Harrison.
The Mudhoney collab nodded back to Ament and Gossard's '80s days as half of Green River with MH's Mark Arm and Steve Turner. And Cornell's trip down memory lane, which took fans back 20 years to when Pearl Jam's Vedder, McCready, Ament, and guitarist Stone Gossard made an album with Soundgarden's Cornell and drummer (now also PJ drummer) Cameron. But the festival's the lineup also strongly nodded forward to the groups Pearl Jam helped or inspired along the way, with the Stokes' Julian Casablancas ad-libbing that he was "jamming with his favorite band" as he duetted with Vedder, Finn and Hansard opening acts on Vedder solo tours, and Queens of the Stone Age nodding to the fact that Gossard signed them to his Loosegroove label for their first album in 1998.
And this was all just night one. The PJ20 festival action continues tomorrow (Sept. 4) in East Troy, Wis., as the band continues a birthday blitz that also includes a "Pearl Jam Twenty" documentary by director Cameron Crowe which debuts at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 10, it's soundtrack, and an accompanying retrospective book due Sept. 13, as well as a Canadian and South American Tour this fall.