There is a running joke in American pop culture about how difficult it is to get into a Pearl Jam concert. The Seattle-based 90s grunge rock band has maintained its popularity over the years and, married with their crusade against Ticketmaster, Pearl Jam remains a tough ticket to get. Nobody tell the Israelis that.
A YouTube video of students from Olam Hamuzika music school in Maccabim-Reut is starting to go viral in Israel and is the latest push in the remarkable Bring Pearl Jam To Israel campaign. In the video, a mixed group of teens is crammed into a small studio where they daringly perform the classic Pearl Jam song Alive on guitars and drums, spurred on by a long-haired conductor in Converse-sneakers.
It’s not the first time young Israeli music students impress with their ability to rock. In fact, this video is inspired by a similar one. The Artik Music School Rock Orchestra from Yehud did a rock rendition of Taylor Swift’s I Knew You Were Trouble, which got close to 1.5 million hits on YouTube last year and prompted Swift to tweet about it and post it on her website. Since then, everyone knows that enthusiastic kids covering popular songs are the way to grab the public’s attention. And Israel’s 88FM Radio presenter Ben Red knows it too.
Red initiated the Bring Pearl Jam to Israel campaign last January, and opened a Facebook group devoted to the cause, in hope of fulfilling his dream of seeing his favorite band perform in the Yarkon Park, which has hosted concerts by some of the biggest international stars, from Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney to Madonna and U2. In the first six days, Red’s page gathered 5000 Likes. Today it has more than 23,500 Likes – an extremely impressive number for Israel.
The Bring Pearl Jam to Israel campaign is just one of many similar campaigns, each devoted to importing a different band like Led Zeppelin, Muse, and Foo Fighters. Thus far, no other campaign has been as successful as Pearl Jam’s and one of the reasons why is because of the unusual amount of activity on the group’s Facebook page. The devotees post photoshopped Pearl Jam images with Israeli symbols, sometimes incorporating images of Martin Luther King, Theodor Herzl, John Lennon and other famous dreamers, in order to make their Grunge dream come true. They’ve organized a Pearl Jam party, helping raise money for stickers and posters, and photographed a variety of local celebrities clutching posters demanding the band play in Israel. In perhaps their biggest coup, the group even got a picture with Mike McCready, Pearl Jam’s lead guitarist, holding the poster.
“Our goal is to add as many supporters as possible to our page in order to prove to the decision makers that Israel has an enormous amount of fans, and to get the message through that music is a unifying force that bridges social and political differences,” the campaigners were quoted as saying in Israel’s Mako portal.
Any Pearl Jam fan knows lead singer Eddie Vedder is friendly with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, so the statement about political division may have been addressing Waters’ recent headline-making boycott of Israel. Since Waters claimed last month that he’s willing to rethink his position, there’s room for optimism among Israeli Pearl Jam fans. And, as Ben Red said, if Vedder prefers an alternative location, like Waters, who relocated his Israeli concert in 2006 from the Yarkon Park to a Hummus field near Neve Shalom–a cooperative village founded by Jews and Arabs– then that’s fine too.
In the meantime, the grunge carries on.