Pearl Jam Considered Breaking Up After Roskilde Festival Tragedy
Eddie Vedder said Pearl Jam contemplated the idea of calling it quits after nine people died and 26 were injured in a crowd crush as the band performed at Denmark's Roskilde Festival in 2000.
The Pearl Jam singer recalls the aftermath and his slow return to music in his new Audible audiobook I Am Mine, released last week but recorded before this month's Astroworld Festival tragedy.
Ten people died in the Nov. 5 crowd crush at Astroworld, the fest from hip-hop artist Travis Scott. The outcome served as a grim reminder of what happened at that Pearl Jam show two decades ago.
Following Roskilde, Vedder "disappeared into Europe" to privately mourn, and at least one Pearl Jam member presented the prospect of never playing again to his bandmates. After what they had just experienced, it was an idea the singer said couldn't be dismissed.
"[I] had my own way of getting through it," Vedder says, "which was taking Spanish guitar lessons from people who didn't speak English. That was just a way to focus and be around people that I couldn't understand for the most part. That way I was able to be around people, but since I didn't really know what they were saying, it felt very peaceful and calm." [via UCR]
He continues, "There was at least one person in the band, I remember, that thought that maybe we should never play again, and if that's something the rest of us didn't feel, it still was not something that could be easily dismissed. We all had to process something that we all went through as individuals, but also with the help of each other."
At Roskilde 2000, Pearl Jam were playing to a rain-soaked crowd as part of a lineup that included fellow arena rockers such as Iron Maiden and Oasis. It drew more than 100,000 ticket holders to one of Northern Europe's largest and longest-running annual outdoor gatherings. The deadly crowd crush occurred during Pearl Jam's set on June 30.
As Vedder later recalled, the band had no idea what was happening until it was too late. "It was chaos," he said in 2003. "Some people were yelling 'thank you.' Others, who weren't in bad shape, were running up and saying 'hi.' Then someone was pulled over, laid out and they were blue. We knew immediately it had gone on to that other level."
He added, "There were still 40,000 people out there. They were ready for the show to start again. They started singing, 'I'm still alive.' 'Alive' was going to be the next song. That was when my brain clicked a switch. I knew I would never be the same."
Vedder's new solo album Earthling arrives on Feb. 11, 2022; he's so far released the singles "Long Way" and "The Haves" off the set. Pearl Jam's latest, Gigaton, came out last year.