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Why are Pearl Jam trying to shut down this tiny UK tribute band?

A picture of Pearl Jamm on stage
(Image credit: Pearl Jamm)

“They’ve always been the band who stick up for the little guy, and now they're taking on the little guy.”

The last year has been an uncertain time for many. Following restrictions from various global governments which saw gigs cancelled and venues shut down to prevent further spread of the Covid-19 virus, musicians have found themselves marred by instability. 

For Pearl Jamm, a UK Pearl Jam tribute group, things have recently become all the more difficult, as they've found themselves slapped with a threatening letter from their favourite band's solicitors, accusing them of “damaging the Pearl Jam brand”.

Bassist Richard Gaya tells Louder that as far as their relationship with the real Pearl Jam is concerned, the tribute act have only ever wanted approval, so a name change at the request of their idols would never have been an issue. Instead, they say, it was the timing and heavy-handed manner in which the band issued their request that broke their hearts.

“Pearl Jam has known about us for years. They’ve been in touch with us specifically about the 2018 Borderline gig and never before voiced any concerns, but they wait for a global pandemic to get in touch with us, and they do so through aggressive solicitor letters, rather than reaching out to us personally.”

“They have recently changed their manager, we don’t know if that’s relevant, but we have been told on several occasions – we have it in writing – that the band members are aware and have approved this action.”

For many fans, Pearl Jam represent a voice of liberation, with a back catalogue that touches on an array of social and political issues. For Richard, this is a factor that really hit home.

“Pearl Jam battled against Ticketmaster, they battled against Trump, if you look at the lyrics of their songs, they’re anti-suicide, they’ve spoken about domestic violence, they’ve spoken about police brutality, all these social issues and now suddenly it’s all – oh by the way, here’s a legal letter. 

"It’s so out of keeping with Pearl Jam, and I think that’s where the outrage comes from”.

As for the name change, the solicitors have suggested Pearl Jamm reference either a song or album title. The band have since issued the following statement:

“We are proud to announce our new name: ‘LEGAL JAM’ which we thought would be fitting and under which we will continue to perform the music of Pearl Jam in the most heartfelt and authentic way.”

As for the future of Pearl Jamm, Richard explains that what they’d really like is a direct reply from the band – public or private. The issue of whether they even stay together or not, as stated within their own letter of retaliation to the band, is something that has been discussed. However, the band have since decided to pull through, and to continue on doing what they do best – honouring the music of Pearl Jam and keeping fans of both bands happy.