Eddie Vedder Says He Had 2 Reasons for Climbing the Rafters During Early Pearl Jam Shows

Eddie Vedder has mellowed out since the early days of Pearl Jam. Now he sits on stage with a guitar and sings his music. When the landmark grunge band started touring in the ’90s, Vedder would often climb the rafters of the stage and jump into the audience. The behavior, which Vedder now admits was reckless, had two inspirations.

Eddie Vedder | Gie naeps/Getty Images

Vedder appeared on The Howard Stern Show on Nov. 2, where even Stern expressed his worry for Vedder’s rambunctious behavior. Vedder explained his two reasons for his acrobatic risks in the early days of Pearl Jam. 

Eddie Vedder dreamed of climbing theaters long before Pearl Jam

First, Vedder explained that he spent a lot of time in music halls as an audience member. In between shows, he would look up. 

“I’d be at the Metro in Chicago or you’d be in one of those theaters that had kind of an ornate [decor] and king and queen booths on either side and curtains and all that stuff,” Vedder said. “While I’m waiting for the band, in between, waiting and waiting I used to look at that stuff and go, ‘It would be fun to climb that curtain and then jump into that red velvet king and queen booth. Then you could get to the middle and you could hang off that light thing, do a little monkey bars and then flip into the crowd right near where the soundboard is.’”

When Vedder found himself on the stage with Pearl Jam, he couldn’t resist living out the fantasy.

Eddie Vedder on rafters
Eddie Vedder | Paul Bergen/Redferns

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“That just came from me being bored in between shows giving myself a mental exercise,” Vedder said. “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do it, but when the opportunity came I was like I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”

This Pearl Jam song was another inspiration for climbing the rafters

Vedder also clarified that he limited his rafter climbing to one song per show. It was a Pearl Jam song that embodied the spirit.

“I don’t think I ever did any of that crazy Evel Kneivel shenanigans except for during one song which was called ‘Porch,’” Vedder said. “The whole thing about that song was celebrating we are alive for one time. Anything could happen at any moment. The ice cream truck could hit you tomorrow. That was the whole idea of it. I think so much of our music or our songs is like let’s live in the moment.”

So, Vedder lived in that moment during each Pearl Jam show

Eddie Vedder in audience
Eddie Vedder | Anna Krajec/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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“That was my extracurricular expressing the meaning of a song and getting everybody to live in the moment with me,” Vedder said. “I didn’t mean to be risking their health and safety at the same time. Most of the times, it’s amazing that it really did work out pretty much every time. There was no lawsuit for broken fingers or anything.”

Eddie Vedder no longer needs to climb the rafters

As a mature singer, and father of children, Vedder would no longer take such physical risks. He also says he’s performing in a different environment now that wouldn’t warrant such antics.

It was also our first tour. You’ve been pent up. This is the job you’ve wanted your whole life and you get a shot to make an impact for better or worse. Maybe it was just bordering on silly. Also, I had to say, this also came at a time when you were going to punk rock shows and Fishbone and Angelo [Moore]’s jumping in the crowd with his saxophone and getting passed around. You’re seeing the Clash, you’re seeing Ramones. Everyone’s climbing on stage, jump off the stage, get thrown back up, get kicked in the head, get slammed on the ground. Someone’s stepping on your hair, someone’s pulling you up, they’re ripping your hair out, then you go back and do it again. I think it was part of the art form. It wasn’t the most unusual thing to throw yourself off a balcony into a crowd.

Eddie Vedder, The Howard Stern Show, 1/2/2020