The feet that have walked the boards of London's Borderline club reads like the who's who of pop and rock music. Even the daubings and signatures scribbled on the walls backstage betray its past. To say The Borderline is stooped in musical history is to say Darwin had some good ideas on evolution. Popular music is woven into the fabric of the seats, its flavour sits at the bottom of every finished drink and its echos can be heard as you walk the long corridors backstage. It has played host to R.E.M, Oasis, Sheryl Crow, Mumford and Sons, Muse, Jeff Buckley, Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam; that's why I'm here tonight.
Wednesday 21st August 2019 is the penultimate night a live band will ever grace The Borderline's stage and I'm very fortunate to play a small part of it. Pearl Jamm, a London based Pearl Jam tribute band, was formed in late 2015 by myself, Richard, Matt, Andy and Santi and has been gigging steadily since March 2016. The Borderline has a very special place in our hearts since our impromptu gig in June 2018, standing in for Pearl Jam when they cancelled one of their London dates due to illness. So when we heard that The Borderline was due to close in August we immediately set to work to ensure we could play this iconic venue one last time. The show sold out in a little under 2 weeks and it seemed every gig we did throughout the summer was in some way a precursor to The Borderline. New songs were added sporadically. New stage wear was bought, modeled and tested. We bought tambourines for audience participation, a limited run of T shirts and posters and we arranged a late bar so we were able to stay on and chat to whomever wanted to stay.
We had written a 3 hour set, the first third being the same set that Pearl Jam played back in '92. We had no support and were onstage 61 minutes after the doors opened and we walked on to applause and cheers, smiles and anticipation; and from the opener 'Wash' to the finale, a cover of Neil Young's 'Rockin in the free world' they didn't stop. There were stage dives, emotional tributes to lost friends and much joviality. From the stage I spotted all ages, races and creeds. One young lad of about 15 left with enough free handouts from us to form a band and I sincerely hope he does.
People had traveled far and wide to come to the show. One couple had flown from Germany, people had taken trains from Newcastle, Birmingham and Liverpool. And there were plenty of familiar faces who travel across the country to see us. It can be overwhelming to know that people travel such great distances to see you play. But when you see them from the stage screaming, dancing and living right in the moment it actually becomes clear. The coming together of like minded people for a common purpose can be a beautiful thing to witness, but to be a part of is nothing short of magic.
I feel overwhelmingly privileged to have been a part of such a special night. A night I got to share with my friends. My wife. And a community of fans who connect to Pearl Jam the same way I do. Although it wasn't the final hurrah, I hope we have done enough to earn even a tiny echo in that main room. And as the final curtain comes down on The Borderline it will join a host of other iconic venues who's doors will remain closed forever more.