It was a thanksgiving of grunge, a homecoming of sweat, a raging, irreverent laugh at the powers that be. It was local boy comes home, it was 29,000 dripping, screaming, moshing fans, and it all boiled down to two words:
They came home yesterday.
Pearl Jam has gotten big. Really big. They were just another Seattle grunge band with the little guy with the big voice. Now they're one of the hottest rock bands in the nation. They're darlings of MTV, music-magazine pinups, movie stars even.
Some were wondering: Did they get a little too big for Seattle?
The answer was a resounding "No" yesterday, as Pearl Jam performed a free concert in Seattle's Magnuson Park. Billed as a "Drop in the Park," the show was a loud, gritty, throbbing thanks to the city that spawned them.
"I can't believe we did it," shouted Pearl Jam's singer Eddie Vedder. "You did it! We're like a f------ rash on Seattle they thought they'd never catch!"
Maybe Vedder was saying it's possible to hold a free concert of that size in the city. Pearl Jam originally wanted to perform Memorial Day weekend in Gas Works Park. But city officials canceled the show when crowd estimates swelled from 5,000 to 26,000.
Fans probably weren't searching for too much meaning in Vedder's words, as Pearl Jam blistered their ears with an hour and 15 minutes of grunge under skies that threatened rain.
They squeezed into buses that shuttled them to the park. They moshed in the center pit. They hurled shoes, shirts, hats, garbage bags blown up with air. (For those who've never heard of moshing, it involves the flailing about of heads and limbs - unless packed in a crowd, and then just bobbing the head will do.)
Then there were the bodies - spit up, dirty and drenched, from the teeming mass, passed along like bags of soil and swallowed back into a joyous, bobbing sea.
And they registered to vote. The show's goal was also to spur registration among 18- to 24-year-olds. According to the nonprofit group "Rock the Vote," almost 3,000 young people registered at yesterday's show.
"If you don't vote, you can't complain about the outcome," said Vedder.
Overall, the crowd behaved. Seattle police arrested two men - one for allegedly assaulting a security guard and another for allegedly hitting a police horse.
"It's nice to see 20,000-some kids get together and get along," said Seattle police Officer Felix Solis.
There were a few mishaps. During the set by opening band Cypress Hill, a front barricade collapsed and was quickly fixed. A few people suffered from dehydration. One woman broke her leg. Another hurt her neck. A pregnant woman was pulled from the pit.
The 100 shuttles leaving the park posed the biggest problem. As buses pulled up after the show, about 3,500 anxious concertgoers clambered for them, climbing on the windows and piling inside. It took nearly two hours to load everyone.
Overall, the show capped a weekend highlighting Seattle music with the recent opening of "Singles," a film set in Seattle with music by Pearl Jam and other local bands.
Fans basked in the sensuous glory of it all.
"It was a total thanks to all of us," said 28-year-old Seattleite Michael Wiese of the show. After the performance, Wiese waited next to hordes of teenage girls screaming, "Eddie!" Wiese got Vedder's autograph on a $20 bill. "The show was excellent."
After the show, Scott Lopez, 22, of Tacoma searched for a hiking boot he lost while dancing in the pit. Lopez's white T-shirt was soaked and dirtied, and his friend lost his backpack.
But was it worth it? "Yeah," smiled Lopez. "Pearl Jam was great."