18-Year-Old Fan Fills in for Pearl Jam's Drummer

Kai Neukermans contacted band after Matt Cameron tested positive for COVID
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2022 4:19 PM CDT

Days after 18-year-old Kai Neukermans went to a Pearl Jam concert in Inglewood, California, he found himself drumming for the grunge legends at their Oakland concert. The high school student has played at big festivals with his band The Alive, but he tells SFGate that the Friday gig at the 20,000 capacity Oakland Arena was still a "surreal" experience. Neukermans says that after Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron tested positive for COVID, friends encouraged him to get in touch with the band and offer to fill in. Neukermans, who knows lead singer Eddie Vedder's daughter Olivia, contacted the 17-year-old and was told guitarist Josh Klinghoffer was drumming while Cameron was absent.

The next day, however, Neukermans was in school when he got a message from Olivia asking him to submit a video of himself playing a Pearl Jam song, People reports. After skipping a statistics test to record numerous takes, he sent in a video of "Mind Your Manners"—and was soon contacted by the band's manager. "My dad nearly had a heart attack," he says. After taking a COVID test and going to the arena, Neukermans practised the song with the band. He waited at the side stage with his brother until it was time for the song and Vedder introduced him, saying, "Everybody, this is Kai. Kai, this is everybody!"

"When the house lights came on everyone screamed and my heart skipped a beat," Neukermans writes in a guest column at Riff magazine. "Playing with Pearl Jam blew my mind. The song only lasted three minutes, but it gave me a lifetime of memories. It happened all so quickly from getting the nod to performing, I barely had time to think about it." (More Pearl Jam stories.)

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