The recent Astroworld tragedy, in which eight fans were killed and more injured amidst a crowd surge, is a stark reminder of how vital safety measures are at concerts. Few figures in rock will be more aware of this than Eddie Vedder, the Pearl Jam frontman having encountered his own tragedy when the band played the Danish Roskilde festival in 2000 where nine fans were crushed in the crowd.
Excerpts from Vedder's Audible Original I Am Mine offer an insight into how the incident affected the band and threw their future into doubt. “There was at least one person in the band, I remember, that thought maybe we should never play again,” Vedder says.
Though Pearl Jam would indeed play again, they did stop playing festivals entirely following the incident, only resuming when they headlined Reading and Leeds in 2006. The incident also lead to a period of soul-searching in the band as they looked to process what had happened. As Vedder recalls, "we all had to process something that we all went through as individuals, but also with the help of each other."
"I kind of disappeared into Europe," he continues. "[I] had my own way of getting through it, 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.”
Vedder also explains how tensions were running high before the band's next show, at Virginia Beach on August 3, 2000. “Our nerves were pretty heightened the night before,” he says. “We had a brief soundcheck and it felt a little strange, looking out at empty seats… it had a different meaning.
“Then it started storming and I’m in this normal room, looking out, and hearing thunder crack, lightning... windows were shaking, hail started coming down – this is in the summer – and then you’re gonna play outdoors the next day. It started feeling very tenuous. There was so much emotion going on, I thought, ‘I can harness this, I gotta do something.’ I had a small tape recorder, and that’s when I recorded and figured out the song I Am Mine. It was all about getting ready for that first show, and hoping we’d all be safe the next night.”
Featured on 2002's Riot Act record, I Am Mine was the album's first single and ultimately peaking at No. 2 in the Canadian charts, No. 2 in the US's Adult Alternative Charts and achieving Gold status in Australia.
Pearl Jam are due to return to the UK in July 2022. I Am Mine is available now via Audible, and you can listen to a clip below.