Before Friday night, the name Kai Neukermans probably didn’t ring a bell for many Pearl Jam fans.
But now a whole arena full of their fans have seen him play after he filled in for the band’s drummer at a show in Oakland, California.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, it all started when Pearl Jam’s drummer, Matt Cameron, tested positive for COVID and had to miss the band’s two-night run in Oakland.
Neukermans, who is a drummer for a teen rock group called The Alive, had seen Pearl Jam play before. And he was even friends with frontman Eddie Vedder’s daughter Olivia after meeting her at Ohana Fest, a festival founded by her father, in 2018.
So when he started getting texts from his friends who were at the Thursday night show that Cameron was out with COVID, Neukermans decided to shoot his shot.
He sent Olivia Vedder a text offering to fill in on the drums for the Friday night show. And Olivia said she’d ask her rock star dad for him.
The next day, while Neukermans was at school, Olivia responded and said that the band wanted to see a video of his skills on the drums. So he did what any teenager would do when given the chance to play with one of the most legendary rock groups of all time, and he ditched his statistics class to go record a video of himself playing along with Pearl Jam’s “Mind Over Manners.”
He sent the video to Olivia, and within an hour one of the band’s managers was on the phone telling him to come to the arena.
Neukermans headed to the arena, took a COVID test, and rehearsed “Mind Over Manners” with the band.
The band had two other drummers also helping to fill in for the show: Josh Klinghoffer, who was formerly the drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Richard Stuverud, who’s played with Pearl Jam before on demos and has played in several rock bands, including a few that were side projects of Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Arment.
Then there was a high school teenager.
Eddie Vedder introduced Neukermans for “Mind Over Manners,” revealing that he had actually seen The Alive play himself:
“I saw this group play, called The Alive. And they just blew my mind. They’re pretty young for how hard they could play, and how much impact they had. And they were playing their own songs, and then they had a Metallica cover that blew doors.
And my daughter reminded me that they’re from here in Mill Valley. We reached him this afternoon, and he hasn’t graduated high school yet – I think this is the year, right?”
Vedder then introduced the crowd to Neukermans:
“Everybody this is Kai, Kai this is everybody.”
Neukermans took his seat behind the drum set, and with that, he was the drummer for Pearl Jam:
“We’re ready when you are. You’re leading the band brother.”
Of course he absolutely killed it on the drums and brought the house down, with Vedder making sure Neukermans was able to take in the well-deserved roar of the crowd after his performance.