Hersheypark – Hershey, PA
Opening Band: Sleater-Kinney
Preset: You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (Ed solo)
Main Set: Love Boat Captain, Last Exit, Animal, Do The Evolution, Help Help, Grievance, Get Right, Elderly Woman, Immortality, Even Flow, Deep, Lukin/Corduroy, Thumbing My Way, Thin Air, Once, Insignificance, Rearviewmirror
Encore 1: Driven To Tears, Whipping, Glorified G, Daughter/(ABITW), Crazy Mary, Alive
Encore 2: State Of Love And Trust, Rockin’ in the Free World
My goal being to attend as many PJ shows as possible on this tour, I purchased tickets to their Hershey show, when it had been listed as the final show on the 2003 tour. Of course, about 3 days after I got the tickets, shows were added in New Jersey and Mexico City. Woe is me. But that didn’t really matter, as seeing Pearl Jam at any time is good enough.
I ended up heading down to Pennsylvania flying solo, as I couldn’t get anyone to go with me, but would meet up with some friends from college while down there. I sold the 2nd ticket on eBay, to who I’d hope would turn out to be a hot chick. More on that later.
Traveling to Hershey itself is akin to heading into the mountainous version of the Ozarks. About an hour after crossing the state line into PA, the concentration of hillbillies skyrocketed. I feared for my life while filling up at a Sunoco station meant for big rigs (the fuel pumps were about 3 feet off the ground, thus requiring one to have a step ladder just to reach the buttons). I caught a glimpse of the gas station attendant giving me the stinkeye from behind his crappy plexiglass window, and got outta there as soon as was possible.
After successfully navigating the circuitous route through the mountains, I arrived at my destination in record time, eager to meet up with some PJ fans and eat copious amounts of chocolate. Hersheypark is pretty much like any other theme park; you’ve got your rollercoaster, you’ve got your tilt-a-whirl, you’ve got your concession stands selling nothing but chocolate. Wait, that’s right, nothing but candy. And these weren’t your standardly-packaged candy bars either. There were giant, humongoid bars of Hershey chocolate on sale at these stands, about as big as my forearm. Vedder would comment upon this later that night, identifying Hersheyites as having bad skin. Chuckle.
Anyway, I met up with the chick I sold the ticket to, with her group (she was a MILF) and made my way through the hippie-infested parking lot and into the arena. It’s actually not so much an “arena” as an open-air ampitheater-like structure. Basically two grandstands bisected by a swath of sheet metal on the ground in the middle. I felt more ready to watch a high school football game than a rock concert.
I eventually spotted a buddy from college and talked for a bit before we were interrupted by Mr. Vedder coming onstage for his preset. He played a haunting rendition of Dead Man; which felt very strange in the Hershey environment. It was clear, at this point, that the arena wasn’t necessarily suited to the tone one would like at a concert. Nevertheless, the song sounded great and Ed gave way to the opening band for the night, Sleater-Kinney.
I’m not a big fan of theirs, but a highlight of the set was PJ drummer Matt Cameron accompanying SK on an inspiring tambourine. His style in playing said tambourine was notable in that he looked more like a tambourine-playing robot having a seizure than a musician. High comedy.
Finally, as twilight started to descend on Hershey, Ed and the boys came out onstage and launched right into a somber Love Boat Captain highlighted by keyboardist Boom Gaspar’s expertly-played intro. The low-key intro then gave way to the high-energy Last Exit, Animal and Do the Evolution, working most of the crowd into a frenzy. “Let’s go! Fuck this fuckin’ chocolate factory!” as Ed so aptly put it before Last Exit.
It was already apparent at this point that much of the crowd was more interested in smoking doobies and drinking than rocking out to Pearl Jam. It was relatively disappointing throughout the night. It’s difficult to be pogoing up and down, yelling out lyrics, when you’re the only one in your section doing so. The band clearly sensed this as well, displaying a sort of “fuck-you” attitude throughout the night to those who weren’t really there for the music. Nowhere was this more apparent than when Ed referred to a girl that had been flashing her tatas throughout the night. I can’t really do it justice just by describing it, so here is Ed’s quote:
“You know there’s some little coquette up here who thinks she’s getting us excited by pulling her top up and showing me absolutely nothing. Hey look guys … look at my mosquito bites from this summer. It’s all fucking girls gone wild bullshit. If every girl who pulled her top up educated herself and voted! And by the way, little lady, I’m just not turned on by that little thing. I’m into much harder core stuff. I actually like to shit on little girls heads just like you; that’s what turns me on.”
I think that more than made up for the crappy crowd.
The tension and attitude due to all that transferred itself into what turned out to be a hard-rocking Whipping. You could feel Ed’s anger and the crowd finally seemed to respond to it. As much as I liked Driven to Tears when I first heard Pearl Jam’s cover in Buffalo, it didn’t play as well in Hershey for me. That dissatisfaction was quickly tempered by the rest of the setlist, featuring Crazy Mary, Alive and State of Love and Trust.
Unfortunately, the encores didn’t last very long, and it seemed apparent that the band was pretty tired. This show came after the unbelievable shows at MSG in NYC, and the historic marathon show in Boston, during which the band played 44 songs over two sets. I couldn’t fault them for being a little tired, but what I found more disappointing was the mellow crowd. I’d been used to getting seats in fan club areas, so crowd mood and reaction wasn’t really an issue then. I still enjoyed the show a whole heck of a lot, but not as much as the shows I’d seen earlier in the summer. All in all, it was a nice capper to the tour for me, and I can’t wait until they’re out on the road again.
Two Feet Thick notes:
Matt helps out on tambourine during a Sleater-Kinney song. After the ‘LBC’ opener, Ed yells, “Let’s go! Fuck this fuckin’ chocolate factory!” Ed’s voice is a bit hoarse from the previous night’s marathon and makes up for it by having quite a bit to drink. Ed says everyone has fairly good complexions so they can’t be from around there. He jokes about a guy with a sign that reads “8 1/2 months pregnant” and suggests various band members’ names as names for the baby and wishes him good luck. ‘Elderly Woman’ is for people from small towns. The ‘Immortality’ solo is very bluesy, and Matt has a great solo. ‘Even Flow’ culminates with Mike and Stone squaring off from their respective sides of the stage, initiating a call and answer between guitars. Matt and Jeff own the middle jam in ‘RVM,’ with Jeff spending the second half leaning against his amp, eyes closed. The whole band brings it home at the end with Stone in particular rocking out (looking really cool in the strobes). Throughout much of the show, a female fan up front is flashing the band. Ed comments, “You know there’s some little coquette up here who thinks she’s getting us excited by pulling her top up and showing me absolutely nothing. Hey look guys … look at my mosquito bites from this summer. It’s all fucking girls gone wild bullshit. If every girl who pulled her top up educated herself and voted! And by the way, little lady, I’m just not turned on by that little thing. I’m into much harder core stuff. I actually like to shit on little girls heads just like you; that’s what turns me on,” leading to ‘Whipping.’ ‘Thumbing My Way’ and ‘Thin Air’ are gorgeous. The lyrics in the ‘Another Brick In The Wall II’ tag on ‘Daughter’ are modified: “Let’s pay teachers more and more; let’s not waste money on fucking war.” Mike tosses in a ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ riff at the end of a rocking ‘SOL&T” and Ed motions for someone in the crowd to toss him their harmonica, playing it a bit and tosses it back. The band brings out a friend of Stone’s who got married the day before (Mike Tyler … Stone calls him “Mr. Philadelphia”) to play on ‘RITFW,’ which Ed says is called “I do!” Ed dons the Bush mask for a while and dances around carelessly. A super tight set, but a very short second encore.