Montana Public Radio

Pearl Jam Rocks Missoula's Grizzly Stadium, Urges Fans To Vote

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Band Pearl Jam played to a sold out Washington-Grizzly stadium in Missoula Monday night, but it was more than just a music show.

The band’s Bassist, Jeff Ament grew up in Big Sandy, Montana, home to U.S. Senator Jon Tester, and every six years the band plays a show here to support his friend’s campaigns. Last week Ament characterized it this way.

"It will be as close to it as we can possibly get without it being a Jon Tester campaign rally."

Pearl Jam plays Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula, MT, August 13, 2018.
Credit Eric Whitney

But on Sunday, Ament appeared at an actual Jon Tester campaign rally at Missoula’s Wilma theater. Fans and supporters filled the venue to hear the musician and the senator reminisce about Big Sandy, talk about their relationship over the years and make some jokes. It was light on politics but big on boosting Jon Tester. The discussion was moderated by Missoula Mayor John Engen, who played a song he composed for the occasion.

"Rides a tractor on a Big Sandy farm, it’s all organic it’ll do no harm. He looks fine on that old John Deere, want him back for another six years." (crowd cheers).

Yesterday, fans started streaming over to Grizzly stadium early. Out front, Jeff Ament had organized a festival featuring several of his favorite causes, including Forward Montana, Montana Native Vote, Montana Conservation Voters and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana.

Pearl Jam Bassist Jeff Ament on stage in Missoula, MT August 13, 2018.
Credit Eric Whitney

MTPR’s Nick Mott and Rosie Costain talked to some attendees.

Nick Mott: What brings you out here so early in the day for this pre-show event?

Bella Bloss: I like how we get to see all this diversity in this community and we get to look at all the political things that are going on in Montana, cause we’re not very used to that because we’re not from here.

Kim Demianiw: I’m a little surprised how cool it turned out. Like we heard there was gonna be a bunch of food trucks and stuff, but there’s a lot of great causes down here too.

Rick Bryce: I see a lot of people who are just enjoying the great weather of today, relaxing and listening to a good band that’s out here. They sound real good. But I’ve also seen a lot of people checking out the ACLU and Planned Parenthood and Montana Conservation. That’s really good to see.

Tim Tackett: We’re all here for the same thing, we’re all here for a good time. And it’s cool that people are getting messages out and people are being pretty receptive to it.

Jake Eckert: I just really wanted to come feel some awesome Missoula and hang out and be with a whole bunch of awesome people.

Savannah Ceccacci: I came just to socialize and see everybody and check out all the little booths and what they have to say.

January Powner: I think no matter what side you’re on I think Pearl Jam can bring you together and have a good time no matter what.

Monday night’s Pearl Jam concert was over two and a half hour’s-worth of fan favorites, politics, and more.

“You’re in the top five of states where the election can be decided by simply just the youth vote alone, so you’ve gotta give it all you’ve got,” the band said.

And there were tender moments, such as when frontman Eddie Vedder singled out a little girl in the audience who was sitting on her dad’s shoulders.

"Every song she’s got perfect timing. It looks like she knows the words and everything. I’m getting so much energy from you, young lady. It’s so exciting!”

Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder on stage in Missoula, MT August 13, 2018.
Credit Eric Whitney

And with that, he handed his tambourine to the audience and asked them to pass it back to the little girl as a gift. It made it back to her in no time.

On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, Vedder at one point instructed security to eject a rowdy spectator.

“Whoever’s causing any issues over there – c’mon up, we’ll let you sit on the side of the stage. Seriously, we ain’t {bleeped} (messing) around with people’s safety here.” 

For the record, Vedder was kidding about the stage-side seating. He called it ‘fake news’ to lure the guy out of the audience.

For fans like Missoulian Doug Jackson the concert had something for everyone.

“Pretty good show. Neat to see a piece of history like that."

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"Those guys have been around forever. To have them come to a small town like this it’s kind of neat that they come back to their roots and see where (Bassist) Jeff (Ament) lives and to be a part of this community.” 

This from a guy who does not necessarily share the band’s politically progressive beliefs.

“Sometimes their political views aren’t what everybody wants to hear" he says. "Obviously, Missoula’s a Democratic town where they feel that, but some of us on the more conservative side really don’t want to follow that.”

Carrie Lamb of Whitefish was impressed that the band turned out to show support for Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Jon Tester.

“You know, I’m not a very political person," Lamb said, "but if a group as powerful as Pearl Jam is going to show up for somebody and cheer them on and root them on, it is an influence. They are influencers and so it was incredible to see."

Lamb says she had a great time at last night’s show:
“It was amazing and beautiful and so much fun.”