What happens when the drummer of a major band tests positive for COVID-19?
For Pearl Jam, the show must go on, and it did so thanks to an 18-year-old musician.
Kai Neukermans is a high school senior who hasn’t even graduated yet, but this weekend he got a huge break.
He performed with Pearl Jam in front of about 20,000 at Oakland Arena when the band’s drummer, Matt Cameron, tested positive for COVID-19.
Neukermans has some experience performing, as he started a band, The Alive, four years ago with his 14-year-old bassist brother and 17-year-old vocalist and guitarist friend, The San Fransisco Gate reported.
The Alive had gigs in surf shops, skate ramps and a few festivals such as Lollapalooza Chile and Shaky Knees in Atlanta.
Neukermans had met Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder’s 17-year-old daughter Olivia at the Ohana Music Festival in 2018, People magazine reported. So he texted her after being encouraged by his friends once news of Cameron’s positive test came out. She responded that former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Klinghoffer was going to sit in for Cameron.
The next day, however, she texted again,n telling him that the band was looking for submissions from prospective drummers, so he skipped class, went to his drum teacher to have a quick practice then recorded himself playing “Mind Your Manners” over and over until he got one that was good enough. Shortly after, the band’s manager Smitty called him and said he got the job.
Neukermans went to the stadium, took his own COVID-19 test, then joined Pearl Jam for a soundcheck.
He was able to sit in with the band for one song, but he said he felt pressure before taking the stage.
“My heart skipped a beat and I was scared for a second,” he said. “But I was confident that I could pull it off because I had practiced a lot.”
Vedder had told the crowd that he knew of The Alive and was impressed by “how hard they can play,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Neukermans called the performance “surreal.”
Since the gig, Neukermans said he’s been fielding nonstop calls from friends, family and the media. He’s also working on an EP with The Alive and has a show coming up.
The teen has one major milestone before that — high school graduation in a couple of weeks, and a test that he skipped while he was auditioning for Pearl Jam, the SFGate reported.
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