Pearl Jam rocks Missoula’s vote, the great ‘equalizer’

Pearl Jam encouraged Missoula concert-goers to register and participate in elections through their Rock2Vote initiative, organized by bassist and Montana native Jeff Ament. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

As 24,000 fans packed Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Monday night to listen to some of Pearl Jam’s most iconic songs, the band stressed the value of Montanans coming together to vote in November’s midterm elections.

Clad in T-shirts endorsing U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, the band performed with high energy, pausing throughout to talk about the importance of informed voters.

Frontman Eddie Vedder said voting is the antidote to the nation’s ills, and proposed the idea of designating Election Day as a national holiday so citizens can focus on voting.

“Here’s the other idea about Election Day being a holiday: It is the one day that all us Americans, we are all equal. No matter your wealth, no matter your status in life, no matter your age, accomplishments. It’s one mind, it’s one vote. We are equal. It is the equalizer,” Vedder said. “We should celebrate that and take advantage of it and enjoy it not just because it is a right, it is a responsibility as well.”

The band encouraged concert-goers to register and participate in elections through their Rock2Vote initiative, organized by bassist and Montana native Jeff Ament. Fans can sign up on the website to receive updates about their community and get more information on issues they care about.

“But now is the most important time to keep our equilibrium and not give up, and not be overwhelmed and not think that it’s too much – that we need to surrender,” Vedder said. “The only way to get back into control is to actually get stronger and to make sure you use your voice. You’re in the top five states that the election can be decided by simply just the youth vote alone, so you’ve got to give it all you got.”

Pearl Jam is advocating voter registration and participation throughout this summer’s tour. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Before the concert, the band hosted a Rock2Vote festival, partnering with local organizations like Forward Montana and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana to share information about important issues.

Tester and U.S. House candidate Kathleen Williams also spoke to a crowd at the festival. Tester emphasized the importance of voting and the differences between his campaign and that of his opponent, Republican state auditor Matt Rosendale.

Williams said that voting will decide how Montana is represented in Washington D.C. – whether she is the choice or incumbent Rep. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, is retained.

“The whole concept of the Rock2Vote is about your voice being heard in Washington, whether it’s in the Senate or the House,” Williams said in an interview. “That’s what I’ve been all about too, is having voices heard. I don’t think Montanans’ voices are being heard right now and that’s part of why I’m running.”

Fans could visit booths to learn more about volunteering, the I-186 mine reclamation initiative, women’s health and many more issues that hinge on November’s outcome. Volunteers wearing red Pearl Jam T-shirts asked pan important part of reaching out, he said.

“There’s a lot of passionate people in Missoula and Montana who care about a lot of things, and civic engagement is really important right now,” Losing said. “It’s important that we have opportunities like this to get people together and we get to show what we all have been working on and make sure we get as much support for these issues as possible.”

Martha Stahl, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana, said that Pearl Jam’s support is definitely a driving force when it comes to encouraging people to take part in what they’re passionate about.

“I think it’s always really great when people who have a platform already use that platform to stand up for things that they believe in and stand up for social change,” she said.

Stahl said that having a famous role model helps fans connect and encourage one another to vote.

“It’s a band that is loved and respected and having them amplify that message and to carry that message is super powerful for people,” she said.

However, the band’s visit to Missoula wasn’t the first time Pearl Jam has tackled complex issues.

Pearl Jam fan Kenneth Frost from Indiana said he’s attended 24 shows, many of which expressed support for or awareness of certain issues or events.

During a show in Chicago in 2007, the band endorsed the election of then-Sen. Barack Obama and even played a song partially composed by a veteran who was paralyzed while serving in the Iraq War.

The band also raised money for Seattle’s homeless population while playing shows there last week. Frost is confident the band will have more work to do as they move on to Chicago and Boston for the 2018 tour.

“Anytime someone with a voice can help talk about issues, I think it’s always a good thing. Even issues I don’t necessarily agree with, I think any publicity for an issue is going to help raise awareness and raise activism for it,” Frost said.

Especially for the show in Missoula, Ament created a band poster depicting the White House on fire and Tester on a tractor flying “over the cesspool” of issues that have emerged since President Donald Trump took office.

“Y’all know the deal. We’re at a tipping point and it’s time for action,” Ament wrote on the poster.

From their melodic ballads to their fast-paced rock music, Pearl Jam has also connected to audiences through their songs for the last 20 years.Their song “Light Years” relates to the loss of a loved one while “Better Man” touches on the reality of abusive relationships. No matter the tempo, Frost knows that every song has a story to tell.

“It’s important that people who have been in those seriously terrible situations, they have something to connect to even if it’s awful and horrible,” he said. “They help them feel like someone’s listening.”

Monday night’s concert filled Washington-Grizzly Stadium to capacity. (Mari Hall/Missoula Current)