Pearl Jamm, a British Pearl Jam tribute act that has performed together for over five years, has responded to a recent legal request from the namesake band’s management and lawyers requesting a change in moniker.
According to Pearl Jamm’s response to Pearl Jam, the original band’s management expressed gratitude for their many tribute acts around the globe (in April 2020, singer Eddie Vedder and his family even wore merchandise from one of those cover bands, Black Circle.) However, the cover band said Pearl Jam thought their name and merchandise too closely resembled their own trademarks and requested that Pearl Jamm assume a new name entirely.
In response to the band, the members of Pearl Jamm stated their “disappointment” about the request, which Pearl Jamm received last September. “Pearl Jam had not raised any concerns about any aspect of our existence whatsoever, having acknowledged both our name and logo usage for years,” Pearl Jamm wrote in their response to Pearl Jam’s legal team. “Quite the contrary. In fact, Pearl Jam have expressed gratitude and best wishes to our band.”
It wasn’t just the Pearl Jamm name — which, when spoken, necessitated a “Pearl Jam with two Ms” to differentiate the acts — that had Pearl Jam management concerned; the tribute act was also selling merchandise featuring Pearl Jam’s iconic “Stickman” logo, with the Pearl Jamm name in the same red font as the “Alive” single that first featured the Jeff Ament drawing.
As part of Pearl Jam’s request to the cover band, the real band’s management asked the tribute act to transfer them ownership of their domain name (www.pearljamm.co.uk, which had a design that bore a more-than-passing resemblance to Pearl Jam’s official site) as well as remove and destroy all Pearl Jamm merchandise.
However, it’s the timing of Pearl Jam’s letter that had Pearl Jamm up in arms: The cover band had been performing together under their moniker since 2015, with the band’s knowledge and, in one case, approval: Pearl Jamm cite a June 2018 gig at London’s Borderline, a sold-out small venue show booked immediately after Pearl Jam’s own concert at London’s O2 Arena was cancelled.
“We gave an extremely well-received performance, spurred on by an acknowledgement we had received from Matt Cameron earlier that evening, via Pearl Jam’s agent, in response to our invite for Matt Cameron to join us on stage that night,” Pearl Jamm wrote in their letter to Pearl Jam.
Also complicating a possible name change was the Covid-19 lockdown, which had already kneecapped the tribute band’s ability to perform live and earn money.
“On 3 November 2020, a few days after the second national lockdown was formally announced by the government to take place from 5 November 2020 in England (due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic), [Pearl Jam’s trademark lawyers] came back to shorten the period in which Pearl Jam’s demands were to be met to a period that would span the second lock-down and would expire around New Year’s Day. That caused significant additional and unnecessary stress to us… The timing was aggressive and extremely insensitive to a UK band, given what had already been announced by way of pending lockdown and the Christmas period,” Pearl Jamm wrote.
“Pearl Jam have always fought the good fight as a protest band,” they added. “Pearl Jam now appear to be taking on the ‘little man,’ attacking tribute acts that pose no threat to them whatsoever.”
A rep for Pearl Jam declined to comment on the matter.
In recent years, Pearl Jam’s management and legal team have come after tribute acts that they claim infringe too closely to the band’s trademarks. In December, Irish Pearl Jam cover band Pearl Jem rebranded as Light Years — a song on Pearl Jam’s Yield — after they claimed to have received a letter from Pearl Jam’s legal team. (The group did not immediately reply to a request for comment.)
“We have taken the decision to change our name to Light Years, with our best intentions being to keep the identity of the Pearl Jam name pure, and to maintain its strength for years to come,” the band wrote on Facebook. “We have worked with Pearl Jam on choosing our new name and will be continuing to celebrate their wonderful music when we will see you at a show in 2021.”
Despite the potential legal drama, Pearl Jamm realize that the headlines over the past week has propelled an otherwise niche tribute act temporarily into the mainstream. Rather than rebranding themselves after “Dirty Frank” or “Grievance” or any of the hundreds of songs in Pearl Jam catalog, Pearl Jamm’s newly chosen moniker is a tongue-in-cheek reference to their brush with Pearl Jam’s management and lawyers: Legal Jam.
“We appear to have set the internet on fire this week and it’s time to extinguish the flames. A name doesn’t define us. We do what we do out of love and respect for Pearl Jam,” the newly christened Legal Jam said in a statement.
“We have always been clear that we will ‘Yield’ to Pearl Jam’s demands and equally clear that our disappointment was only ever of the timing and manner in which those demands were made,” the group wrote. “We are proud to announce our new name: ‘LEGAL JAM’ which we thought would be fitting and under which we will continue to perform the music of Pearl Jam in the most heartfelt and authentic way. We look forward to reconnecting with our own fans (and other tributes) who have been so supportive through this as well welcoming the new fans who have joined us over the last week, as soon as we are back on the road.”