Connect With Your Community!

Column: What if we get to meet Jeff?

The other day, I was excited to read that the band Pearl Jam would be releasing a new album soon.

From the moment my friend Paul loaned me the Pearl Jam debut album "Ten" in the early 1990s, I fell in love with the band. I would spend hours in my room in the basement listening to Pearl Jam, and it was such a phenomenal experience to see them, at the height of their popularity, open a tour in Casper, Wyoming, just a few hours from my hometown.

While I certainly don't listen to them as much as I used to in my basement, I still jam out to them often and a new record is always an excellent opportunity to reconnect with their catalog.

It shows me just how much the band meant to me. Being a teenager can be rough, and their music really helped me get through whatever drama was going on in my life. I've always been amazed at the power of music; Pearl Jam was always the band there for me when I needed them.

With Pearl Jam playing at times in the house, the kids have also been introduced to the band. Whether they liked it or not, they knew plenty of Pearl Jam songs. Shayla, who is now 17, took to Pearl Jam at an early age and fell in love with the band. She would not only listen to them all the time but also read up on their history and learned quite a bit.

As she started to fall in love with music and many of the same bands I grew up with, we started taking her to concerts. It didn't matter if it was a huge show with 20,000 plus people or a more intimate venue; she loved going to see live music.

A few years back, Shayla and I had decided to go to Missoula to see a smaller show. We were both excited as we listened to music the entire trip. Also, during the road trip, Shayla started to talk about how awesome it would be if we would run into Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament, who is from the Treasure State and has a home in Missoula.

I can still her saying, "Jack, what if we get to meet Jeff?"

While I told her it would be great to see him, not to get her hopes up, the chances were not very significant. I laughed as she continued talking about running into Jeff and possibly seeing him hanging out with other members of Pearl Jam. After she talked about Jeff and the rest of the band, we went back to listening to music.

Once we arrived in Missoula, we stayed at the hotel for a few hours and then decided it would probably be easier to walk to "The Wilma," which was only about ten-minutes away.

As we approached a crosswalk near the venue, I looked over to see somebody else waiting to cross the street. Upon closer inspection, I nearly passed out when I realized it was "Jeff from Pearl Jam." I could not believe this was happening. Shayla had spent so much time talking about meeting him and there he was, standing about two feet from me.

At this point, she had not recognized him, and it seemed like it took an eternity for me to figure out what to say.

I just said hello, thanked him for his music, and told him how much it meant to me growing up. I then said, "Shay, look who it is". Shayla froze. She had seen many pictures of Jeff and had been talking about him all day, and then said, "Is it Chad Smith from the Chili Peppers?". I started laughing, and Jeff got a kick out of it, too. A few seconds later, she figured out it was Jeff, and we all had a nice conversation as we walked to the concert.

We got a picture that is still displayed in our house. I don't think I've ever seen Shayla so happy in a photo.

I was shocked the first few minutes after we arrived at the venue. Not only did we get to meet a phenomenal musician who could not have been nicer, but Shayla seemed to will it into existence.

About a year later we went to see Pearl Jam in Missoula. I kept waiting for Shayla to talk about how great it would be to meet the band, but she never did.

I think she probably realized just how special that walk to the concert in Missoula was.