Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pearl Jam Twenty

I have to admit I'm not what you will call a fanatical worshipper of Pearl Jam's music enough to compel me to watch what would be THE documentary this season with a single session, simultaneous screening around the world where PJ fans will likely already have made a beeline for. Instead, I'm a bigger fan of writer-director Cameron Crowe than the subject matter of his documentary (ok, so this sounds a little bit blasphemous), given that it's been years since we last saw a Cameron Crowe film hit the theatres, although that wait will soon be over by the end of this year with the release of We Bought a Zoo.

Pearl Jam 20 chronicles the beginnings of the band back in the year 1989 where Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard came together after the demise of their band Mother Love Bone, and like all successful bands that came before it, was subjected to recruiting and changing of members until the perfect chemistry was achieved, culminating with frontman Eddie Vedder, with his distinct growling voice, joining the band, and together put alternative grunge music on the radar of music everywhere. Sure there were many others in the same vein since the 90s was the era where this sound had taken the world by storm, with what would possibly be the largest rivals to Nirvana before Kurt Cobain's passing.

You can probably read a lot more details on the band from its Wikipage, and Cameron Crowe's film digs through large treasure troves of archival footage from television newsreels to more independent, off the cuff capture of the band's early years, that we get to witness the second earliest band performance ever and plenty of other home made videos that expectedly get pixelated for the big screen. Crowe's background as a music journalist being a tremendous factor in the crafting of this film, where in lesser hands would have been relegated to the standard talking heads interviews, and to stuff the film with chock full of music videos and live performances from the band's tours around the world.

Instead, Crowe provides the narration, and shares interesting nuggets of information through what would be a largely chronological format without overwhelmingly bombarding the audience with too much information. Being on close terms with all the band members and collaborators also allowed for unfettered access to more intimate and honest interview answers, with the utilizing of milestones in the band's career to timestamp the feature, including their courtroom lawsuit with Ticketmaster. But with everything crammed into two hours, expect some areas of focus to be skimmed through as Crowe paced his documentary at breakneck speed to cover as much ground as possible, mixing it up quite a bit with comedy, pathos, and allowing the many visuals both moving and static to breathe and tell a story since they are after all, worth more than thousands of words.

It's about the capture of a phase of growing up, where looking around I see folks around my age group (or older) who had grown with the band in the 90s when we were in our teens where music played a large part in our lives, as we shift through the sands of time with the identification of many songs from the band's discography, where I didn't even realize that Daughter was supposed to be called Brother intially, and listening to Vedder actually sing it that way during a practice on the tour bus, is reason enough amongst others why fans just have to watch this, and perhaps reminisce the times where they had seen their idols perform on stage during one of the many concert tours done worldwide at the peak of their popularity.

And that is if a theatrical release gets secured soon, which I suspect would be the case given the sold out, one off screening. Watch for it!

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