Stories behind one of the most legendary nights in Seattle music history, with Karen Mason-Blair, the photographer who captured it all.
This past Thursday, October 22nd, 2020 – Pearl Jam celebrated the 30th anniversary of their very first show. Under the name Mookie Blaylock, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, Dave Krusen and a new singer from San Diego named Eddie Vedder, took the stage at Seattle’s Off Ramp.
By this time, Karen Mason-Blair had made a name for herself as the acclaimed photographer to work with in Pacific Northwest when you were looking for both live and still images of your band. Having returned to Seattle from a few years of living in Los Angeles, Mason-Blair not only was incredibly well-respected within her community, but she had also become great friends with many of the artists within the tight-knit Seattle music scene.
It was quite a thrill to have Mason-Blair on Artist Waves Live on the anniversary date, to get a behind the lens look at what that special night was like. As she recalls in the interview below, Mason-Blair received a phone call from Ament telling her about the show and asking to swing by to photograph the set just days before the gig. As it turns out, Mason-Blair would be the only photographer at the show and ended up taking some stunning images that not only capture the essence of the night, but like the eight song set, deliver an emotional resonance that only Pearl Jam can emote.
photo by: Karen Mason-Blair
What did you feel after experiencing and photographing Pearl Jam’s first show in 1990? When you went back and looked at the photos you took that night, what was your reaction?
When we walked in everybody was somber. We hadn’t seen anybody since the wake of Andrew Wood. The mood was kind of low, but then, I’m telling you, I could not have been happier. Just like the song said, we were then feeling alive. It lifted the room, it lifted everyone’s spirits. Just to see everyone Jeff and Stone, and then Mike, Dave and Eddie – they were all so happy. I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is fantastic.” We were all headbanging and getting into it, grooving to music we had never heard before. Afterwards, everyone was smiling and hugging. We were all so happy and they were smiling from ear-to-ear, saying, “People liked it?”. And were like, “Hell, yeah!” It was a moment, it still floors me. It was my local music, which is still mind-blowing today.
WATCH – The full interview with Karen Mason-Blair: