Eddie Vedder recently remembered how Pearl Jam contemplated the idea of calling it quits after nine people died and 26 were injured in a crowd crush as the band performed at Denmark's Roskilde Festival in 2000.
The Pearl Jam singer recalls the aftermath of the calamity and retraces his eventual return to music in his new audiobook memoir, I Am Mine. The Audible Original, released as part of Amazon’s "Words + Music" series, emerged last week but was recorded before this month's Astroworld Festival tragedy in Houston.
Listen to an excerpt from the audiobook below.
Ten people died in the Nov. 5 crowd crush at Astroworld, the annual event from hip-hop artist Travis Scott. The outcome served as a grim reminder of what happened at that Pearl Jam show two decades ago.
Following Roskilde, Vedder "disappeared into Europe" to privately mourn. And at least one Pearl Jam member presented the prospect of the group never playing again to the others. After what they had just experienced, it was an idea the singer said couldn't be dismissed.
"[I] had my own way of getting through it," Vedder notes today, "which was taking Spanish guitar lessons from people who didn't speak English. That was just a way to focus and be around people that I couldn't understand for the most part. That way I was able to be around people, but since I didn't really know what they were saying, it felt very peaceful and calm." [via UCR]
He continues, "At least one person in the band … thought that maybe we should never play again, and if that's something the rest of us didn't feel, it still was not something that could be easily dismissed. We all had to process something that we all went through as individuals, but also with the help of each other."
At Roskilde 2000, Pearl Jam played to a rain-soaked crowd as part of a lineup that included fellow arena rockers such as Iron Maiden and Oasis. Overall, it drew more than 100,000 ticket holders to one of Northern Europe's largest and longest-running annual outdoor gatherings. The deadly crowd crush occurred during Pearl Jam's set on June 30, Rolling Stone reported.
Vedder and the band didn't realize the disaster until too late. "It was chaos," he remarked in 2003. "Some people were yelling 'thank you.' Others, who weren't in bad shape, were running up and saying 'hi.' Then someone was pulled over, laid out and they were blue. We knew immediately it had gone on to that other level."
He added, "There were still 40,000 people out there. They were ready for the show to start again. They started singing, 'I'm still alive.' [Ten single] 'Alive' was going to be the next song. That was when my brain clicked a switch. I knew I would never be the same."
I Am Mine shares its title with a Pearl Jam song, the first single from the band's 2002 album, Riot Act. The tune was written by Vedder (as a way to "reassure myself that this is going to be all right," he explained) before the band's first show back after the Roskilde tragedy.
These days, Vedder's been working on new solo album, Earthling, that comes out on Feb. 11, 2022. He's already released the singles "Long Way" and "The Haves." Pearl Jam's latest, Gigaton, came out last year.