By Chrissie Ferguson
There is something magical in the air on the day of a Pearl Jam show. Old friends are reunited and new acquaintances are made. And when it’s finally time to walk together to the concert venue, you feel like a kid on Christmas morning — “It’s finally here! It’s finally here!”
You find your reserved seating or take your spot in G.A., and then you breathe in your surroundings. You are in a magical place, among the people who “get” you.
Karrie Keyes does a sound check on the mic, and before you know it, Kille Knobel has dimmed the lights. Suddenly, with the strum of a guitar and the sound of the first hypnotic notes sung by Vedder, you can feel your heart pounding outside of your chest. The long-awaited Pearl Jam concert has finally arrived, and everything on stage is perfect.
We all know that each member of Pearl Jam is incredibly talented and would sound amazing, even if he simply played a solo “bathroom session” like Mike McCready. But when we’re in a live setting, it’s the crew — working hard behind the scenes — who sprinkles the fairy dust on the instruments, the stage, the lighting, and the sound. They are the ones who we really need to thank after each phenomenal show. And they — and all techs in the live music industry — are the ones who need our support, today and in the days to come during this pandemic.
It was a sad day for fans when we heard the Pearl Jam tour had been canceled, but the news of the cancellation was an even bigger blow to the band’s crew.
“Pearl Jam canceled, and then there were three other acts that canceled within 24 hours of each other,” says Pearl Jam monitor engineer Karrie Keyes. “Within 5 days, LiveNation shut everything down.”
“It’s even worse because there is a typical slow season in the industry from December to March, so everybody budgets so they can survive those months of not having work,” continues Keyes. “Everyone was on the last straw of their savings and were ready to get on a plane — like I was — in 24 hours, and to be back at work and have an income. Once Live Nation shut down, everyone was out of work with no notice.”
One Pearl Jam fan, Gary Sourifman, took notice of the plight of those in the live music industry and began to recruit others to help him raise money for those in need by supporting SoundGirls — a non-profit organization that supports women in the sound industry.
SoundGirls.Org was formed in 2013 by live sound engineers Keyes and Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato and operates under the Fiscal Sponsorship of The California Women’s Music Festival, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
“I had seen SoundGirls online, and I thought that those people must be out of work and not making any money, and they need some help,” says Sourifman. “They are the people that bring us joy in the concerts and the recordings, and music is one of my main go-tos to chill out.”
Sourifman, the cofounder of the Facebook group — PJ PhilanthroPRINTS — a group that collects donations of Pearl Jam concert posters in order to donate them to a Pearl Jam fan who might be going through a tough time, reached out to his friend and founder of the group, Scott Jones, to ask him if he wanted to help support SoundGirls during this time.
“I agreed to help,” says Jones. “We then needed to round out our team with several great people, so we grabbed Anna Porter. She did all the work, and the rest was history.”
“The community — even during a pandemic where a lot of us are unemployed or not gaining a paycheck — continues to support things that the band supports,” Jones explains. “We support good causes, support good people and really… we support each other — that’s what it comes down to.”
While Pearl Jam fan and dedicated volunteer, Anna Porter, worked hard writing to people, asking for donations to help support those in need in the live music industry, she refused to take any credit for her hard work.
“The guys were really the brains and muscle behind the fundraiser,” Porter humbly explains. “Yes, I am a worker bee; I help with soliciting donations and promotion. But it’s the PJ poster community that has been continually generous. They are the reason fundraising efforts are successful.”
A grateful Porter says, “It’s no surprise that the PJ community are very compassionate people. Time and time again, individuals rise to support someone going through difficult times. True friendships have been forged through a mutual love of music and a mutual concern about important social issues.”
It wasn’t just PJ PhilanthroPrints who got behind the fundraiser for SoundGirls. The Pearl Jam tribute band, Black Circle, also jumped in on the team’s good work.
Through live-streamed concerts, Black Circle had previously supported Autism, EBRP and mothers in need in Brazil. Each benefit raised a tremendous amount of money and made a difference in various communities.
“As time went on, that became one of the themes of what Black Circle is, which is a band that pays tribute to the way that Pearl Jam operates, which is ‘Do good when you can do good,’” says Black Circle manager Christopher Palumbo.
Palumbo reached out to Jill Vedder to ask if she thought that Black Circle should live stream a performance to support SoundGirls. Jill told Palumbo that the band should most definitely support SoundGirls. “In fact, her exact quote was ‘How Pearl Jam of you,’” says Palumbo.
In case you missed the Black Circle July 10th SoundGirls benefit, you can click here to view the concert which featured Pearl Jam cover songs and new music by Black Circle.
Black Circle guitarist, Sergio Filho, says, “The show was great. But it’s very fun to see our work being capable of raising funds for people who are in need during this time.”
Through the efforts of those involved with PJ PhilanthroPRINTS and Black Circle, approximately $17,000 has been raised to support SoundGirls. The money raised will help those in the live music industry who are in need by providing them with $100 gift cards for items like groceries and gas.
“The whole industry shut down so there is no way you can find other work, and people are at the end of their savings,” explains Keyes. “We are going to have lost promoters, we are going to have lost venues, we are going to have lost artists, and I’m just guessing that we are going to lose 25% to 40% of production crews.”
“It’s not just our crew, but there are probably 4 million people worldwide in this industry that have worked their whole lives in this career, and they can’t just transition into something else,” Keyes concludes. “We can’t just pick up and move to film and TV; it doesn’t work that way. Unfortunately, our skills don’t really translate onto paper. These next 10 months are going to be really hard. I don’t know what the industry is going to look like, if and when we come back.”
If you would like to contribute to SoundGirls so that you can help purchase gift cards for those in need, please visit: https://soundgirls.org/soundgirls-coronavirus-relief/. Also, if you are in the live music industry and are in need of help, you can apply for assistance by visiting the same link mentioned above.
Interested in finding out more about the SoundGirls fundraiser through PJ PhilanthroPrints? Visit their Facebook group for details.
Finally, some exciting news from Black Circle — the band will play a live new record release show for all fans, with original music by the band, on August 14th. Check the band’s Facebook page for details.