How Pearl Jam Saved Me From My Own Generation (X)


A couple of weeks ago I bought concert tickets to a show and it made some things in my life come full circle. I’ve seen a lot of live music shows. It’s something Bob and I enjoyed separately before we got married and have always done together since we started dating, in fact, our first date was to LIVE. Many, many have followed.

Every year we start very early in the season watching for shows to come to KC and within driving or riding distance. This year I heard that Pearl Jam was touring and that they would be hitting up Chicago. Not only is Chicago one of my very favorite cities, it’s a short, cheap plane ride and the concert will be at Wrigley field. No way would Bob not want to see this show. I was right. We sat together at Ground House Coffee in Gardner and over crepes and lattes we got online and luckily got tickets to the, what would be, sold out show.

I am generation X. Every generation before mine had some historically defining event. We had none. We are children born from the largest generation in American history, the Baby Boomers (born from the WWII era). They had war, protests, experimental drugs and sex, political unrest, and societal change. We had…frozen yogurt?

A lot of sub-cultural place markers of today got their start by generation Xers. Emo is one that started in the 90s, and made being depressed cool, which in turn brought awareness to those suffering in silence. The stigma, though still very much alive, is becoming less and less. People were starting to realize what was happening to this generation and some, including us, knew it wasn’t good. We had songs like “Jeremy” which gave the story behind that quiet but unpredictable kid in class. We knew how bullying and someone’s home life could cause them to blow the fuck up. The song was based on what, as you now, is the first, of many school shootings.  We felt the pressure cooker everyday. We knew the storm was on the horizon.

Portlandia was a way of life, not a TV show. The hipster trend grew it’s roots while I was in high school. Going against the “mainstream” was invented during my adolescence. We had an entire genre of music named after the movement- alternative rock. Whatever our parents did or were doing we rejected.  We were angry. We lashed out and didn’t give a fuck about what other people thought of us. We were scrambling to find what defined Us. Stuck in the middle between the Baby Boomers and what we now call ,The Millennials. We were being squeezed out of history and believe me, we knew it- could feel it.

We had a lot to live up to but we were labeled the generation of nothing, of X. We were looking for something worth fighting for.  Some of us felt we didn’t have anything to give, we served no purpose and that was reflected in the music of the time. We were sad, and lonely. We had nothing to cling to, nothing to bring us together. We were guilt stricken, sobbing with our heads on the floor. The music was our solace. It was where we connected.

This is how it was in the 90s in the sub-culture known as “Grunge” or sometimes just referred to as “alternative”. I have good memories, it wasn’t all terrible. I mean my Doc Martens held up and my flannel was warm, my hair did get washed (sometimes) and I do remember eating a meal or two. We’ve grown up and those that made it (our generation has a very high suicide rate) feel a sense of comaraderie knowing what we all went through together. We still hold inside of us these ideas of rebellion, unrest, and independence but we live our lives, go to our 9-5s and we are a bit more of a part of society than we ever thought we would be.

A flash of my youth came up and bit me that morning in the coffee shop as we ordered those tickets. Pearl Jam defined life for me in the 90s. Nobody could give words, voice, and sound to the way I felt better than Eddie Vedder. I would listen and feel as though my soul was understood. This band saved me from certain self destruction. When my friends and I listened to them play, WE felt heard. From all of that bullshit of nothingness that I grew up in and with, I have it good, not everyone was so lucky from the 90s.


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