Without Live Music to Play, Pearl Jam Reimagines Rock Activism in 2020

Without Live Music to Play, Pearl Jam Reimagines Rock Activism in 2020


“It’s a sophisticated operation, it’s informed by the best techniques in our business,” said Howard Wolfson, a Democratic strategist. “If you’re an artist with millions of followers on Instagram and you say I should vote for Joe Biden, that will have an impact, and that’s great. But that’s not a campaign. That’s a moment. And I think what they have done is really put together a campaign that is potentially very powerful, given the depth and breadth of their audience.”

Like many bands with its longevity, Pearl Jam has a fan base that is both wide and loyal. And it counts some unexpected supporters, which was attractive to Ben Jealous, president of People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group that partnered with PJ Votes.

“I mentioned Pearl Jam to Dolores Huerta and her eyes lit up,” Mr. Jealous said, referring to the 90-year-old labor activist. “And that’s one of the reasons why they were attractive to us when they reached out. When they speak, their people listen.”

Pearl Jam’s political activism dates back to its earliest years, when the band hosted a free concert in 1992 called Drop in the Park to register voters in Seattle. But it is also rooted in its music, and the rebellious soul that has animated so much of rock and punk music.

“When I was young, even the greatest historian of our time, Howard Zinn, he couldn’t get me as jacked up on politics as Joe Strummer,” Mr. Vedder said, referring to the British musician.

“We were inspired by Neil Young singing ‘Ohio,’ hearing ‘Gimme Some Truth’ and the Clash and the Sex Pistols talking about the Tory system in England and more talking about a whole host of world history that didn’t get taught to me in high school,” Mr. Ament added. “There’s something extra powerful about being in the presence of music that has that extra bit of gravity.”

Pearl Jam released a new song last week, “Get It Back,” part of a second compilation volume titled “Good Music to Avert the Collapse of American Democracy.” And on Oct. 22, the 30th anniversary of its first live performance, the band will stream online its famed April 29, 2016, Philadelphia concert, which kicked off with its debut album, “Ten,” performed from beginning to end.



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