Musings of a Moving Image Enthusiast
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There’s a scene in Pearl Jam Twenty where the camera is following Stone Gossard around Jeff Ament’s house exploring the band memorabilia Ament has collected over the years. When they get down to the basement to see if there’s any discarded collectible that can be featured in the film, Gossard points to a dark dusty corner and says, “Oh look, there’s a Grammy.” That scene perfectly encapsulates the attitude with which Pearl Jam has gone about its more than two decade long career. Giving importance to music over everything else and being a non-conformist while creating popular art throughout their career.
An ode to one of the great American bands, Pearl Jam Twenty is Cameron Crowe’s homage to the Seattle band. Of all the documentaries that focus on a band’s career, I think this is one of the most effective. I guess we can credit that to Crowe’s early career of writing for the Rolling Stone magazine, a glimpse of which we got to see in the seminal Almost Famous. The fact that Crowe hails from Seattle and had friends in the local music scene, including members of Pearl Jam, before it blew up played a major part in ensuring that the film covered the turning points in the bands life rather than focusing on how the band composed ‘Alive’.
Shuffling between early footage and present-day interviews, the documentary does a more than a fair job of covering the moments in the band’s life that made them who they are today. It offers an insight into how the band could have gone the way of several other 90’s bands that released a couple of albums and faded into obscurity, but instead chose to focus on making music and maintaining their artistic credibility. Crowe also takes the viewer through the band’s grudge with Ticketmaster, an event that pushed the band’s popularity among several music aficionados.
The documentary is filled with several instances that help you understand how the once chaos inducing band turned into the mature musical outfit it is known as today. Though some people may not find the documentary quite engaging, viewers who were around in the 90s and loved the band as much as I do should watch it as a solid tribute to one of the greatest alt-rock bands that has ever existed.