Saturday, May 19, 2012
After watching Cameron Crowe's Pearl Jam Twenty, I began acquiring many of the PJ albums I don't own. The more I listened the more I liked it, and wandered over to the Pearl Jam website. They're unique in that they bootleg a lot of their own tours and then make the concerts available to fans. Not cheap. Most of the digital downloads are $14.95 or more, and they can also be had on cd for an additional charge.
Money, money, money. Though Pearl Jam is definitely fan friendly in terms of making music available to their listeners, they've also really figured out how to market themselves and scrape the dollars out of the system. Enter Gremmie.net. This site was started by a couple of New Yorkers called Goof and Gremmie who were also Pearl Jam fans. They've scavenged the net for legal recordings of Pearl Jam and other artists (more about that later) they can share with fans. They make them available as a compressed digital download. All you need is the software to extract the songs.
The site is user friendly. I'm an old guy, and while I feel pretty comfortable using my computer for lots of different things, the things I don't know how to do--yikes. Gremmie.net is great at walking you through the downloading and extracting process.
But that's not really the point of the site. It's really about the music. There is a certain amount of starstruck fandom here, but the websites (there are two) is about keeping you abreast of the news for "their" bands and connecting you with the tunes. Currently the site is linked to several performers. I've already mentioned Pearl Jam, but they also have material for songwriter/performer Ben Harper, Seattle based rocker Star Anna, defunct New York alternative band, Soul Coughing, and folk duo Swell Season. But that's not all; they are opening a vault for a Soundgarden archive and have launched a Facebook campaign to generate fan support.
You won't find links to any authorized Pearl Jam or Ben Harper albums here. Rather you'll find links to mostly live recordings, demos and b-sides. Hard to find stuff. For example, I downloaded the Pearl Jam appearance on MTV's "Unplugged." They also have many of band's appearances at the Bridge School in Mountain View, California hosted annually by Neil Young. I downloaded Star Anna's appearance at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard in 2007. The quality of the recordings is generally quite good, and they are all free.
I most appreciate that Pearl Jam live performances never sound the same. The playlists are different from night to night and they simply don't play to a formula. It's great to hear the slowed down version of Lukin, or an accoustic version of Better Man. So whether they're playing Madison Square Garden in 2010, or Honolulu in 2006, or the MSG show in 2008, you can depend on three different entertaining shows.
In addition to the Gremmie.net page there is also Gremmie's Basement. This houses most of the Pearl Jam archives. The downloads at both sites are easy to use, and they usually tell you exactly what you're getting. Once you've downloaded the songs to a folder and extracted them, it's easy to just move them to your iTunes libarary.
The website is available free of charge, but they do ask for donations. It's possible to donate directly through PayPal or to by slightly overpriced stuff like t-shirts, coasters and tote bags, but the profit goes for hosting the site, so not worth complaining about cost. I've got my eye on a baseball shirt.
If you like music, this is a wonderful resource. If you like Pearl Jam, this is like heaven (I was going to say nirvana, but maybe they have their own benefactor somewhere.)