NEW YORK (Billboard) - Pearl Jam fans, save the date: guitarist Stone Gossard says the closest thing to a 20th birthday gig for the band will be a slot on the bill of Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Benefit in northern California on October 23 and 24.
“The only thing we’ve got going on in October is Bridge School, which is really special,” Gossard told Billboard while in New York to support the new album by his side-band, Brad. “So that’s our 20th anniversary, which is fitting. It’s perfect: not too blown up. It’s not about us, it about all those kids that are on stage with you and about Neil Young and his commitment, his influence.”
It will be Pearl Jam’s eighth Bridge appearance. The group first played the benefit, which supports Young’s school for children with severe physical disabilities, back in 1992.
The Bridge School dates, which will likely be held at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, begin the day after Pearl Jam’s exact anniversary. The band, then called Mookie Blaylock, played its first show in Seattle’s tiny Off Ramp club on October 22.
“It’s so great that it’s still going on, isn’t it? ‘Just stick together,’ that’s the advice we got from (U2’s manager) Paul McGuinness,” back in the early 90s, Gossard says, laughing. “I think we’ve just stayed on course in a way that’s maybe encouraged people and surprised people, and I think there’s more that we can do.”
No other acts, aside from Neil Young, have yet been announced for the 2010 Bridge concerts.
Though Pearl Jam has been plenty busy this year — it has done both a U.S. and European tour and released digital bootlegs of every show — Gossard divulged that the band is mulling a South American trek for 2011.
Plans for a follow-up to the Seattle rock veterans’ chart-topping 2009 album “Backspacer,” are just in the early stages, with the band likely to convene later in the year —initially without frontman Eddie Vedder — to work on demos.
Pearl Jam’s various members, however, have spent their summer vacations moonlighting with other musical projects. Gossard’s Brad released its fourth studio album “Best Friends?” this month; it’s available at PearlJam.com.
Brad will hit the road in October opening for Band of Horses, which in turn opened for Pearl Jam this spring.
“I’m hoping that Brad can do for show what they did for Pearl Jam,” Gossard says. “(Singer) Shawn (Smith) hasn’t played in arenas really and his voice through a big PA is going to really fill it up in a way that’s going to surprise people.”