SEATTLE — It’d be easy to spend an hour staring at just the show posters in the Pearl Jam exhibit at the Museum of Pop Culture.
Then there’d be a couple hundred more mementos left to peruse. That’s what happens when a band thrives for three decades and has all the gear and memorabilia to prove it.
Hard to believe, but there are generations that can’t recall a time without Pearl Jam on the airwaves or, rather, streaming. The band’s entirety from 1990 to today is on display through “Pearl Jam: Home and Away.” The exhibition was created to coincide with the band’s Home Shows concert held this year in Seattle. See it through the beginning of 2019.
The exhibit calls to mind the band’s do-it-yourself, minimalist style. Unfinished particle board is the backdrop for many of the enclosed shrines. Housed throughout the special exhibit are more than 200 instruments, props, original art and more mementos from the band members, as well as the Instagram-worthy towering letters from Pearl Jam’s debut, “Ten.”
“Pearl Jam always brings me back to my childhood,” said Taylor Johnston of Everett, who took it all in on a recent Saturday afternoon. “My parents blasted them on our stereo system regularly. I always felt a certain amount of pride growing up in an area with such an amazing music scene, and Pearl Jam was always, for me, at the forefront of it.”
Her husband, Derek, had a similar nostalgic experience. His mother is a longtime member of the band’s official fan group, the Ten Club, and he grew up hearing Eddie Vedder’s vocals.
“I’d say what stood out to me was the sheer volume of clothing that was actually worn by the band,” he said. “Cool shirts and boots, Stone (Gossard)’s hats from the ’90s, gig posters and early footage … hearing them always takes me back to being in (my mom’s) Chrysler LeBaron and listening to (Pearl Jam).”
Perhaps the ubiquity of hearing Pearl Jam on the radio and watching them on MTV gave me a warped sense of the band members as an eternal force. But seeing the photos of them in their earliest incarnation and watching more recent video played in the gallery was a stark reminder at how long they have been rock ‘n’ roll lords.
While museums can be places for things that have had their time and are now meant to be reflected upon as a fixed point that has come and gone, Pearl Jam’s shining inclusion at MoPOP is far from a signal that the band’s relevance is over. It would be hard to argue that their influence has waned when you see their stadium shows packed, or a stretch of performances at Safeco Field, which holds 47,000 people, sell out.
Examine the band’s legacy, where it stands now and how it could continue. When you do, one thing becomes certain — Seattle is proud to call Pearl Jam its hometown rockers.
If you go
What: “Pearl Jam: Home and Away”
Where: Museum of Pop Culture, 325 Fifth Ave. N., Seattle
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with holiday closures Nov. 22 and Dec. 25, through early 2019
More: 206-770-2700 or www.mopop.org