Lifting the curse: Pearl Jam’s "Alive" and "Bushleaguer" and the marketplace of meanings

Kristine Weglarz

Abstract


In tracing how Pearl Jam consciously and unconsciously create their fans by their actions, I argue that work and fandom of the band are synonymous for fans who wish to become producers in a metaphorical marketplace of fandom. I use theories of fandom to examine and explain two important (and related) phenomena: first, the relationship between fans and musicians and the creation, adoption, and promotion of a sphere in which fans themselves can becomes producers as well as consumers; and second, the backlash of fans against musicians endorsing a particular political orientation through their compositions and performances. In particular, I focus on that group of Pearl Jam fans who took issue with the band's public disapproval of George W. Bush during their 2003 tour, but whose opposition to the band's position cannot be explained by ideological differences or a belief that music and politics are spheres that should not overlap. Instead, these fans oppose a shift they perceive in the band's attitude toward a democratic exchange of meanings, an important way for Pearl Jam fans to become producers rather than just consumers. As a result, the backlash from these fans, while sparked by Pearl Jam's anti-Bush live performance of "Bushleaguer," is due more to a disjunction between the band's long-term endorsement of democratic and participatory politics and what the fans saw a shift toward counterdemocratic prescriptive politics.

Keywords


Audience; Cultural studies; Fan community; Performance; Politics; Popular music

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