The Battle of the Band
Pearl Jam joins two-week all-rockstar tour of swing states.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
The sellout crowd at the Sovereign Center erupted Friday night when Pearl Jam ripped into “Animal,” the second song of their concert to kick off the Vote for Change tour in Reading, Pennsylvania. After rocking through the first few songs, front man Eddie Vedder told the enthusiastic crowd, “If you’re gonna participate in the vote as well as you participate in the singing, then we don’t have to talk about politics at all.”
But politics were hard to avoid. Sponsored by MoveOn Pac, the tour features 20 artists rallying to play 37 shows in 12 battleground states during the next two weeks. Proceeds will go to America Coming Together, a growing grassroots organization that has been registering voters and garnering support for progressive candidates.
“This election and any election is not about hate and opposition, but finding a better way for all of us, and by all of us, I mean the whole earth!” Vedder declared after the band covered John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth,” in which Vedder substituted “Georgie Porgie” for “Tricky Dicky.”
Bi-partisanship was the perfect message to deliver to the crowd, which was also there to see Death Cab for Cutie. Fans from West Chester University agreed, “It’s nice to see bands that are together on the same issue get out and play together.” There were also some local concertgoers like Debbie Moyer, who stood out.
Moyer, a Nurse Administrator from Auburn, was forced to stop working to care for her mother-in-law and her daughter, who suffers from a muscular disorder. Brought up in a Republican household, Moyer voted for Bush in 2000. But she disagreed with the President about the Iraq War, and has been horrified by the exorbitant cost of medications for her family and the paltry Social Security check she will soon receive. “I try to keep an open mind.” Moyer said. “I’m a fan of Pearl Jam, and I’m really interested in what they have to say.”
Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard says his personal goal is “to help John Kerry get elected.”
“We felt that by going out, and raising money for America Coming Together, that we were going to get people registered to vote,” Gossard says. “We’d seen what we’d gotten with George Bush, and maybe it’s time for something new.
“Ralph [Nader] was proven wrong, in terms of ‘There’s no difference between the candidates.’ I don’t think we’d be in Iraq if Al Gore was president. I think we would have signed on to the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty, we would have done a lot of things differently in terms of being engaged in the world community in a proactive, positive way.
“I just think that the world community would be much more likely to want to partner with us if they felt like we were respecting them.”
Gossard says his band, which has always been active in politics and philanthropy, gets a kick out of that part of its gig.
“It just has been nothing but a benefit because it makes people happy, it makes the band happy,” he says. “It actually has been leading to more success and more connection with our fans, and people in our families and our communities. So, it’s upside only.
“We’re hoping that people are just involved right up to the day it goes down. I’m thinking about the people, the 50 percent of the people who don’t vote. I just want people to get registered to vote. It’s every couple of years, sort of like the one thing you do collectively, you know? And you can do all this stuff for yourself and your small community, but every four years…you just have to make one trip to participate. You got to participate.”