Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron recently tested positive for COVID-19, the timing of which wasn’t great (not that it ever is) since the band is currently on tour. For the first show he missed, an Oakland Arena concert on May 12, he was replaced by a combination of Richard Stuverud and former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. That same duo filled in at the next day’s show at the same venue. That time, though, they were also joined by Kai Neukermans, an 18-year-old high school drummer who got to perform “Mind Your Manners” with the band.
Now, in a new SFGate feature, Neukermans describes the wild experience. It’s worth noting Neukermans isn’t some random high school kid, but an accomplished drummer: He’s in a band called The Alive and they’ve performed at some major festivals, like Lollapalooza Chile and Shaky Knees.
As for how Neukermans came to join Pearl Jam on stage, the story goes that after he heard Cameron had COVID, he reached out to Vedder’s 17-year-old daughter Olivia, who he knew from performing at Vedder’s Ohana Music Festival last year. She told him that Klinghoffer was filling in, but the next day, she said the band was taking submissions from drummers, telling him to film himself playing one of their songs.
He was in school when he got the text, so he bolted, headed to a studio, recorded himself playing “Mind Your Manners,” and not long after that, Pearl Jam’s manager called him and gave him the good news.
When it came time to take the stage for his big moment, Vedder introduced him by saying, “He hasn’t graduated high school yet. This is the year, right? Everybody, this is Kai. Kai, this is everybody!” Then, in front of about 20,000 people, Neukermans got behind the drum kit and didn’t miss a (literal) beat.
Neukermans told SFGate, “It was surreal, the amount of people that were there. The arena lit up and everyone was screaming.”
Watch Neukermans’ performance above and read the full SFGate feature here.