A Bay Area teenager fills in for the drummer role for Pearl Jam on the Auckland Show

When 18-year-old drummer Kai Neukermans went to A pearl jam Presented at the Forum in Englewood earlier this month, he watched as attack leader Eddie Vader took a piece of paper from someone in the crowd that had been written down with a list of Song Suggestions, including “Mind Your Manners” from the 2013 “Lightning Bolt” record.

but the Gulf area The high school student never imagined he’d be on stage playing the same song with the legendary Seattle grunge band at the Oakland Arena about a week later, when he was asked to fill a job for Matt Cameron, who tested positive for the COVID virus and had to sit out the party.

“He hasn’t graduated from high school yet. This is the year, isn’t it?” Vader said before waving the New Yorker and introducing it to the audience. “Everyone, that’s Kay. Kai, that’s everyone! “

The teenager, who was on the cusp of graduating from Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, took his place behind the drum set of Ludwig Vestalite and stared out into the sea of ​​about 20,000 people. Four years ago, he formed his own band, Alive, with his brother Manoa Neukermans, 14, who plays bass, and friend Bastian Evans, 17, vocalist and guitarist. Together they have performed at surf shops, ski slopes and a number of festivals, including Lollapalooza Chile and Shaky Knees in Atlanta.

But he never made such an offer.

“The number of people there was surreal,” he said. svgat Sunday afternoon. “The arena lit up and everyone was screaming.”

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Combing his hair from his face, he promised the band and wished for the best.

The Neukermans said text messages from his friends started popping up Thursday night – they were at Pearl Jam’s first two shows in Auckland, and upon hearing the news of Cameron’s illness, encouraged him to try calling the band.

Sure enough, he knew Vader’s 17-year-old daughter, Olivia, whom he had met while playing at the Ohana Music Festival in Dana Point a year earlier. But when he texted her, she said Josh Klingover, the former guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers who is currently on tour with Pearl Jam, was working for Cameron.

“I just went to bed and kind of forgot about it,” Newkermans said.

Around noon the next day, when he was at school, he received another text from Olivia, who said the band had been receiving introductions from potential drummers and asked him to send her a video of him playing a Pearl Jam song.

“It’s worth a try,” she said.

Jumping at the opportunity, he dropped out of school and headed straight to Green Room Music in Pacifica, where he met his own drum teacher to rehearse.

“I had a statistics test the next semester, which I didn’t do well, but I’m sure they’ll let me take it next week,” Newkermans said.

All he could think of was “care about your morals,” which he listened to over and over for a few hours, recording shot after shot until he felt the person was good enough to deliver. Soon, he got a call from Pearl Jam’s manager, Smitty: He was there.

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“I called my dad and he told me he felt like he was having a heart attack,” he said.

When the Neukermans arrived at the stadium, he was asked to take a COVID test and join the Pearl Jam for a sound check.

“There was a little rehearsal room that I and the whole band did before the show,” he said. “They were having a lot of fun. It was a pleasure to see them all.”

Once the show started, the Neukermans waited with his younger brother at the side of the stage. He was told he was going to play one song, and when the time came, he couldn’t help but feel the pressure.

He said, “My heart jumped and I fainted for a second.” “But I was confident I could do it because I trained a lot.”

Three minutes later and a lifetime later, his time in the spotlight ended – but it killed him. Vader raised his hand in triumph and made him bow with the rest of the squad. Later that evening, as he walked out of the plaza, he said people in the crowd approached him to take pictures and congratulate him.

“That was the drummer!” Some cried.

Kai Newkermans, 18, plays for Pearl Jam at the Auckland Arena on Friday, May 13, 2022.

Melissa Lampi

Since then, Neukermans said, there have been constant phone calls from radio stations, news outlets, friends and family. He was also asked to write a guest column for Country Magazine about the experience.

“It all happened very quickly,” Newkermans said. “I am very grateful.”

He is currently working on some new songs with The Alive and said they hope to release an EP soon. Next party will be at Bottle Rock in Napa.

But first, Neukermans said he should be up for his high school graduation in two weeks — and possibly take a statistics test.

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