Editor’s note: The Alive It consists of three teens still in high school, yet the Bay Area trio has been playing to large crowds for the better part of a decade. Initially known as the Helmets before that band splintered into two others, drummer Kai Neukermans (17), his 14-year-old brother Manoa, and singer-guitarist Bastian Evans (17) have been playing a blend of hard rock and thrash metal at BottleRock Napa and other festivals.
Kai Neukermans got a starring role on Friday, joining Pearl Jam on stage at Oakland Arena for a song, helping to fill in for long-time drummer Matt Cameron, who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and had to step away from the band to quarantine.
On thursday night, I started getting texts from some of my friends who were at the Pearl Jam concert that night in Oakland. They told me that Matt Cameron was sick with COVID and couldn’t perform. After getting more and more texts I decided to try and do something about it even if it was a long-shot.
I happen to be friends with Eddie Vedder’s daughter, Olivia, who I had met at the Ohana Fest a couple years earlier, and reached out to her to see what the deal was. She told me that Josh was filling in, so I kind of forgot about it and went to bed.
The next day I went to school like any other day, but then around noon I got a text from Olivia that they were taking submissions. She told me to send her a video and said “It’s worth a shot.” I had to make this my priority for the day!
I skipped class to practice and record a take of me playing at Green Room Music Studios, in Pacifica. I chose a song that I thought would fit my style, “Mind Your Manners,” and started listening to it nonstop for the next couple hours. When I felt I was finally ready, I felt it to Olivia. Apparently they liked it so I got the green light! My dad nearly had a heart attack.
Afterward, I was put in contact with Pearl Jam’s manager, Smitty. He told me that I would need a COVID test and then I would do a soundcheck with the band. Once inside Oakland Arena, I went to a practice room with the band and we played through the song together a couple times. It was pretty cool to see that they were stoked on my drumming. That made me feel more comfortable right away.
When the show started, they brought me and my brother, Manoa, to the side stage and we watched them do their thing! On the ninth song, it was show time!
When I got up on stage, Eddie introduced me to the crowd.
“Everybody, this Kai; Kai, this is everybody!” I have shouted.
When the house lights came on everyone screamed and my heart skipped a beat. Before I knew it, I started counting off the song on the Ludwig Vistalite kit and got sucked up into the moment. Playing with Pearl Jam blew my mind. The song only lasted three minutes, but it gave me a lifetime of memories. It happened all so quickly from getting the nod to performing, I barely had time to think about it. I really appreciate the Pearl Jam family for taking me in and being super supportive and shredding hard!