Brian Farias knows that there are people who have seen Pearl Jam more than the 108 times he has. However, on June 27th, the 46-year-old Rhode Island native did something that diehard fans of the band can only dream of: he created the setlist for an entire Pearl Jam show.
"I thought I was hearing things when [frontman] Eddie [Vedder] offered it to me," Farias recalls. He was selected by Ten Club, Pearl Jam's longtime fan group, to be flown to Amsterdam to attend a pair of shows and meet the band. He is one of what the Ten Club calls its "charter members" – because, as Farias puts it, he's "been there since the very, very beginning." He was a fan club member for Mother Love Bone, the grunge outfit fronted by the late Andy Wood that gave rise to Pearl Jam. "I kinda got rolled over into Ten Club," he explains.
Farias’ first Pearl Jam experience occurred before the band had even released Ten, their landmark 1991 debut. "It wasn't even on their itinerary," he recalls of the Providence, Rhode Island show at Club Baby Head. "The paid admission was only 12 people or something. It's one of those small venues where the stage is only knee-high. Even at that, Eddie was swinging from the ceiling."
Last week, while on his flight to Amsterdam, Farias had no idea that he'd soon be making what some fans are now calling the "greatest Pearl Jam setlist of all time." But once Vedder gave him the opportunity, Farias’ real work began. As he explains, the challenge became how best to balance his own "selfish" desires with songs that audience members would enjoy, while also taking into consideration what the band was capable of playing. "It was really stressful," he admits of the setlist-building process, "because it's something you know is never gonna happen again. You’re only getting one shot at it."
Farias estimates he went through 40 or 50 drafts before deciding upon a final setlist. The band, he says, came through: they played 90 to 95 percent of his requests. He does admit there were a few songs the band opted out of playing; however, Vedder promised him that at the next show he attended, if he gave the band a week's notice, he would hear the tracks.
In the end, Farias concocted a setlist for the ages. The second of the two Amsterdam shows – or as he calls it, "my show" – included deep cuts ("Alone," a b-side from the Vs. single "Go"), vintage rarities ("Crown of Thorns," a rarely-played Mother Love Bone number) and crowd favorites ("Alive," Daughter"). In fact, there was only one song, Farias says, that he absolutely needed to hear: "Bugs." The obscure Vitalogy cut, on which Vedder plays accordion and rambles about insects, had only been played once in concert, and it was the only album cut that Farias had never heard. Vedder was initially hesitant. "Brian, we didn't bring the accordion. I don't have it with me," the singer told Farias. But, as Farias explains, "Ed being Ed, always going above and beyond, he went back to his hotel and learned a way to do it on guitar. He turned it into a totally beautiful, different song."
To top off the experience, Farias was brought out for a bow with the entire band at the end of the show. "The bow meant more to me than everything," he says. "For the Pearl Jam audience to give me that much love, I can't imagine what Eddie feels."
Now, even a week after the fact, the reality of the experience still hasn't sunk in for Farias. "It still doesn't seem real," he says. "As more time goes on, it gets even more emotional. It's better than winning the lottery. All the money in the world, I couldn't bribe Eddie Vedder to let me make his setlist. It was like programming your iPod and then Pearl Jam show up in your yard and play it for you."
- Pearl Jam
- Eddie Vedder