Rock and roll has always had its share of idealists, but few bands have ever stuck to their principles as tenaciously as has Pearl Jam.
Because the group believes in the analog aesthetic, it included a paean to vinyl ("Spin the Black Circle") on its new album, "Vitalogy," and the LP version was in stores two weeks before the CD. Likewise, instead of just complaining about the way music video reduces music to the level of advertising, Pearl Jam did something about it by refusing to make promotional clips for "Vitalogy" or its predecessor, "Vs."
But where the band has most clearly shown its mettle has been in its fight against Ticketmaster. Like a number of people in the music community, the members of Pearl Jam have objected to what they see as unfairly high service charges the company tacks onto the price of concert tickets. Instead of merely mouthing off in interviews, however, Pearl Jam announced that it would not play in venues where tickets were handled by Ticketmaster -- effectively putting an end to the band's summer tour plans -- and filed a complaint against the firm with the U.S. Justice Department.
"Back when we were on tour last spring, we asked everybody to take a cut [in profits]," singer Eddie Vedder told Spin recently. "Ticketmaster didn't want to take the cut. We felt the service charge they were asking for was disproportionate to the ticket price we were offering. If you have a $55 Rolling Stones ticket and there's a $3 to $6 service charge, OK. But ours was an $18.50 ticket, and now all of a sudden it's a $24 ticket. That's not right."
Two members of Pearl Jam, guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament, testified before a congressional committee in July, as did several other music industry figures (most notably Aerosmith manager Tim Collins). At the moment, Pearl Jam's complaint remains under investigation by the Justice Department.
In the meantime, the band has been examining ways of playing shows without having to sell tickets through Ticketmaster -- a tricky task, given the number of venues that have exclusivity deals with the firm. One way around that problem has been to look for loopholes. D.A.R. Constitution Hall, for instance, allows charity events to bypass Ticketmaster, and so Pearl Jam is playing a Rock for Choice benefit -- along with Neil Young and L7 -- at the hall this weekend.
Of course, the band's interest isn't strictly business-related; the band fiercely supports women's right to choose on reproductive issues. As Vedder said during a free radio broadcast from the band's home base in Seattle Jan. 8, "We have to ensure the protection of women's reproductive rights and the safety of our mothers and our sister."
"Now more than ever we must fight the conservative tide that has taken over Congress," he added.
What: A concert to benefit Voters for Choice, with Pearl Jam, Neil Young and L7
When: Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 14-15, 7 p.m.
Where: D.A.R. Constitution Hall
Tickets: Sold out
To hear excerpts from Pearl Jam's "Vitalogy," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6118 after you hear the greeting.