Pearl Jam Say Thanks but Probably Not to Crowdfunded Show in Queens

Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam at Denver's Pepsi Center, October 2014
Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam at Denver's Pepsi Center, October 2014
Eric Gruneisen for Westword

Update: A grassroots effort to bring legendary rockers Pearl Jam to Forest Hills, Queens, has raised over $139,000 via Tilt since November 2014. Inspired by the earlier communal effort in Virginia to book the Foo Fighters, the Pearl Jam Forest Hills crowdfund has been working hard to bring the band out to the same stadium that's hosted the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Queens' own Ramones.

Kelly Curtis, Pearl Jam's manager, is aware of these crowdfunded efforts, but is urging caution to their investors. In a statement provided to the Voice, Curtis offers the following:

"We love the passion and enthusiasm of the fans who have spearheaded Pearl Jam Crowdfund efforts," he says. "However, with more and more of these crowdfunded show proposals cropping up, we want to be clear before fans invest their hard-earned money into these efforts that they are unlikely to happen.

"The band's shows are booked through their management and touring agents. A lot goes into scheduling, routing, producing, and promoting safe and successful shows for our fans. We will continue to rely on our experts in the field to ensure this remains the case for the band's future tours."

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Meanwhile, Daniel Sheffer, the organizer behind the Forest Hills effort, responds with hope and persistence.

"We will continue to crowdfund until we receive a hard no from the Pearl Jam management. Dreams do come true and we are doing this for the thousands of fans that have supported us, visited our website, and have done charity work all for this movement," he says. "Pearl Jam are our heroes and we hope they can hear our proposal and give us more detailed feedback. We want this concert in Pearl Jam's hands and by no means would want otherwise. We know they put on a show like no other. We are simply a grassroots movement that knows Pearl Jam Forest Hills would be amazing for the fans, the band, and the community. We remain faithful, as the song goes. We are the Forest Hills Faithful!"

Original Story: Last September, the Foo Fighters took the stage at the National in Richmond, Virginia, to play their first concert in the Old Dominion capital since 1998. Beyond the obvious excitement for their overdue return, there was another factor generating buzz: Each person in the audience had individually invested in this show; the entire experience had been crowdfunded.

The success of the Foo Fighters in Virginia was an inspiration, and now, potentially, a trendsetter, as devoted fans are turning to crowdfunding to bring Pearl Jam to Forest Hills.

"I thought — obviously being such a huge Pearl Jam fan — 'Why hasn't someone in our fan base done this?' " says Daniel Sheffer. "And so I waited a bit, thinking someone is going to do it, and then one day I was thinking about the Forest Hills venue, and it just kind of clicked."

Sheffer, along with his sister, Angelica, and friend Albert Lee, organized the Pearl Jam Forest Hills fan crowdfund via the site Tilt last November, sometime between Election Day and Veterans Day, which aligns with the band's notorious political commentary almost all too well. So far the fund has been a success, raising over $139,000 through 574 backers in five months — but it's still quite a ways shy of its goal of raising $1 million.

"Aim the bar high," reasons Sheffer, a systems engineer who has been learning the ropes of concert booking as he goes. "From our research, we got conflicting numbers for what it costs to book them. From a logistical standpoint, some of the crowdfunding sites require an amount where the project gets funded, and that's when people would get charged. We put it at a million dollars so that we wouldn't have to worry about it. It's also kind of attention-grabbing, and hopefully it'll all work out."

Albert Lee and Daniel Sheffer, the orchestrators of the Pearl Jam crowdfunding campaign that hopes to bring the band to Queens
Albert Lee and Daniel Sheffer, the orchestrators of the Pearl Jam crowdfunding campaign that hopes to bring the band to Queens
Courtesy of Daniel Sheffer

Sheffer was eleven years old and living in Forest Hills when he first heard Pearl Jam playing Saturday Night Live, and has since seen them live almost twenty times all over the country. But one place he's yet to see Vedder lose his mind to "Even Flow" live is in one of New York City's more renowned medium-sized stadiums, and on his home turf to boot.

"With the concert, [we could] put Queens on the map. I grew up there, and there's so much history. I think Pearl Jam will be the one to really bring it home and show that this place is a musical landmark," says Sheffer of the Forest Hills Stadium. The venue, which recently returned with a summer concert series, has hosted Bob Dylan at the crux of his electric renaissance, Queens' own Ramones, and the Beatles on their first American tour.

For Sheffer and Lee, the end goal is to raise enough money and awareness to fund not just a concert but also charities — including EB Research Partnership, the research organization hoping to find a cure for rare skin disease epidermolysis bullosa — that Eddie Vedder supports, among others. Ideally, a successful campaign will lead to the band jumping in and orchestrating the Forest Hills concert however they please. "We want to be able to give up the crowdfund to Pearl Jam, and we really want them to have complete control," says Lee. "So we definitely don't want to dictate any terms or anything like that."

One term and condition currently plaguing their planning is the strict 10 p.m. curfew set by the Forest Hills community, which restricts the level of noise — a circumstance that might prove problematic for a group known for performing well into the night.

"[I saw] an article the other day on how they [Stadium representatives] had a community board meeting and are addressing the noise complaint, but now it sounds like they are putting a real major investment into soundproofing," says Sheffer.

Sheffer has been in communication with Pearl Jam's management as well as their official fan club, Ten, and says both are in support of his movement. [Ed: We've reached out to the Ten Club for comment and will update this post accordingly.]

"It's been pretty positive," Sheffer says. He then pauses and sighs, acknowledging the most salient snag. "This year, there's one thing that's working against us: I think Pearl Jam is taking a break and there's not a lot of activity. So I really don't think the management can say anything, and it's really up to the guys in the band. I think we've got an amazing head start, and if there's a category for this, we're probably number one in funds raised by fans for a concert."

Even with an unfortunate gap in the band's touring (so far, their only scheduled 2015 dates are scattered throughout South and Central America), Sheffer refuses to cede any momentum. He's not giving up.

"Even if we don't hear anything this year, I think next year will the big push, because it's their 25th anniversary," he says. "We know they love to play venues like this, and especially with the history the venue has, it makes so much sense."

And to some degree, it makes even more sense to have Pearl Jam play the Forest Hills Stadium under these crowdfunded conditions due to their infamous mid-Nineties court battle with Ticketmaster over the selling and releasing of concert tickets. Maybe crowdfunded concerts are the remedy they were fighting for all along.

"They should really — and I'm not telling them what to do — but they should really say, 'Hey, this is the way to go.' It could kind of be vindication and redemption for them, and I know they fought the good fight," says Sheffer. "Obviously it's a lot of years later and everyone has grown and changed, but I'd hope they'd appreciate the movement."

See also: The Replacements - Forest Hills Stadium - 9/19 Pearl Jam - Barclays Center - Oct. 18–19, 2013 NYC Offers Classes on How to Kickstart Your Kickstarter

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