"Bands come and go. Bands go on a little run and then they fade. And then they come back as a heritage act, so to speak. But Pearl Jam continue to rock as hard as anyone. They continue to make great music...they embody for me what all bands probably strive to do, which is stay relevant, to create a space for yourself where you can do what you want to do, how you want to do it, without any other outside influences. They're as pure as they can be. And they've created a community where people care." – Danny Clinch
For Cubs fans, Wrigley Field is a happy place, which, historically speaking, doesn't make much sense. Up until the wee hours of the morning of Nov. 3rd, 2016, Wrigley Field was associated with a special Cubbie brand of torture and futility. Billy goats, Leon Durham, Steve Bartman, 108 years; prior to the 2016 season, Cubs fans endured all the hocus pocus they could handle. But all of that changed when third baseman Kris Bryant laughed in the face of all that weird history
, tossing the ball to Anthony Rizzo for the final out of the 2016 season, downing the Cleveland Indians in an epic, Game 7 for the ages. It was the magical punctuation mark on a season fans of the North Side team still can't stop talking about.
In addition to the 81 reasons the Cubs gave their fans to go to the ballpark in 2016 (well more, counting the playoffs), Pearl Jam
offered a couple of their own when they settled into center field at the old ballpark on Addison and Clark for a memorable, 2-night run of shows in August of that season. In their wake, devoted Pearl Jam fans scoured the bootleg section of the band's website waiting for the recordings to drop. When they never did, fans took to the message boards speculating on why the band hadn't released them...surely Eddie and the boys were up to something, right? Then, almost a year to the date of those shows, the band released this.
Turns out Pearl Jam had enlisted renowned photographer/filmmaker Danny Clinch
to capture the whole thing, packaging two nights worth of shows into a new concert film called Let's Play Two
. Released this past Friday (just in time for the start of what is hopefully
another magical October run for the North Siders), the film tells the story of two parallel obsessions: Pearl Jam fan's obsession with the band, and Eddie Vedder's longtime, hometown obsession with the Cubs. Clinch, who's spent a lifetime with his lens pointed at the likes of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Tom Petty, and countless other luminaries of rock, has known Pearl Jam for years, making him the perfect filmmaker to examine the relationship between the band, their fans, and the venue.
We recently reached Clinch by phone to discuss the film. The NJ-based photographer/filmmaker said that he signed on to the project after talking things through with Kelly Curtis, Pearl Jam's manager. "He said, 'look, we need to go in there with an open mind and leave it to the universe because it's going to deliver us something...we know it will. That's why you're doing this gig, because I know that you're that kind of a person that can trust your instincts and trust that the band would deliver something really cool.'"
What Danny couldn't count on was The Cubs...anyone who had made that mistake the previous 108 years (myself included, on many, many
occasions), had been burned. Yet last year was different. The Cubs finally overcame their demons. The universe delivered Danny and his team the opportunity to be a part of one of the biggest American sports stories of our time.
"Whether the Cubs went to the World Series or not, it still would have been an awesome film", Clinch half joked. And he's right, of course. There are many things to love about Let's Play Two
that have nothing to do with the Cubs. It's an impeccably crafted concert film, captured from almost every angle imaginable; the front row, the last row, the rooftops, behind the scenes, all framed in interesting, eye-catching ways. "I'm always a big fan of the combination of document and art," Clinch explained. "Artful camera angles and operating and editing, plus the pure document of things".
Let's Play Two
is also a very personal look at Pearl Jam and the unique relationship they share with their fans. "I've been photographing and filming music for a long time. And there is a certain type of person that, the highlights of their lives...the things they really appreciate and go out of their way to do, is to see live music. Their idea of a good time is to go to Wrigley to see Pearl Jam. Doesn't matter if they live in Kentucky. They'll go anywhere to see their band".
Over the course of the film Clinch introduces viewers to several of these die-hards, including one man who hopped in line four days before the first show to be in the front row. He had recently lost his father, and in Danny's words, had "come to be healed by Pearl Jam"...in particular, their song "Release", from the band's 1991 debut album, Ten
. The band caught word of this (Mr. Clinch's doing?) dedicating the song to him during the show. It's an emotional moment; one the band is well aware they deliver every single night. "[The Band] get it," Clinch explains. "They realize they are making an impact on people's lives and what a blessing it is to be able to do that. It's a family. Pearl Jam gives everybody a magical show every single time. There's a connection there. The fact that Ed or [guitarist] Mike [McCready] come down off the stage and go down into the fans. They're telling everybody, 'we're here with you'".
Let's Play Two
is not just about music though. Wrigley Field and the Cubs play huge characters in the film. Most Cubs/Pearl Jam fans know Eddie grew up in Suburban Chicago, they know he's friends with Cubs President of Baseball Opps Theo Epstein, they've seen him front and center with the team the last three seasons. When asked if the Cubs needed to win The World Series for there to be a good story for his film, Clinch admitted they did not, but..."It's hard to remove the Cubs and Eddie's history there. Even if we didn't put any baseball into [the film], everyone knows it's about the venue. It was a destination that meant something to everyone collectively".
That history with Chicago and the team of Vedder's youth flickers by throughout the film. Pearl Jam fans will love the vintage footage of the band's first gig at The Metro Clinch dug up. And there is also charming footage of a young, overly-excited Vedder showing his band around Chicago, picking up sod left outside of Wrigley field, smelling it, taking it all in. "When I was going out there, I knew I was going to make a film about Ed and Chicago," Clinch said. "I know it's an Ed film, to a certain extent. But it's about the band too. It's about the band's journey, and it's about the band's support of Ed's journey."
It's also a pretty amazing document of what Cubs fans experienced last year. "What a gift they gave us... the Cubs," said Clinch. Throughout the film, viewers get a firsthand look at Eddie's rollercoaster journey to Game 7, all set to a mighty crescendo of songs and performances from the concert. "I was following the whole journey," Clinch told us. "[The Cubs] are down 3-1, I'm like, 'are you kidding me?' And it goes to 6 games. And then it goes to Game 7, so I fly out to Cleveland." He ends up spending a good deal of the game sitting with Vedder and former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman, Chris Chelios right behind home plate. "It's mind-blowing".
Not wanting to cramp Vedder's experience too much, Clinch spent some of the latter innings wandering the stadium getting footage. But with the Cubs up 6-3 in the 8th it occurred to Clinch that the game could end at any moment. "So I go back down behind home plate to capture the celebration and within 3 minutes, it's a tie game...and I'm thinking, 'holy shit, did I jinx it? Am I the next Bartman'"?
Of course, all hope was not lost. The Cubs pushed the game into extra innings, the heavens opened, and a 17-minute rain delay helped wash away the longest Championship drought in American professional Sports. Cubs came out in the 10th, scored 2 runs, and went on to win the game 8-7, ending 108 years of championship futility. Chicago lost its mind, Eddie lost his mind, and Clinch was there to scoop it all up into an incredibly unique film about music, baseball, fandom, loyalty and keeping the faith. If you're a Pearl Jam fan, you'll love this film. If you're a Cubs fan, you'll love this film. And if your both (like me)? It's magic. "For you to be a Peal Jam fan and a Cubs fan and feel like we did you right by the film? That's what's important to me", concluded Clinch. Mission accomplished.
Let's Play Two
is in theaters now. Check for showtimes HERE
. It will also be broadcast on FX1 following Game One of the ALCS. The soundtrack is also available now.