A Bay Area teenager takes on the drums role for Pearl Jam on The Auckland Show

When the 18-year-old drummer approached Kai Newkermans pearl jam He was introduced at the Englewood Forum earlier this month and watched as Attack Leader Eddie Vader took a piece of paper from someone in the crowd, which had a list of Lied Suggestions include “Mind Your Manners” from 2013’s “Lightning Bolt” record.

but the Gulf area The high schooler never thought he’d be on stage a week or so later performing the same song with the legendary Seattle grunge band at Oakland Arena 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. That’s the year, isn’t it?” Vader said before waving the New Yorker and introducing him to the audience. “Everyone, this is Kai. Kai, that’s everyone!”

The teenager, who was about to graduate from Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, took his place behind Ludwig Vestalite’s drum kit and stared out at the sea of ​​around 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, a singer 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 was lit and everyone was screaming.”

He combed his hair back from his face, promising the band and wishing the best.

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


In fact, he knew Federer’s 17-year-old daughter Olivia, whom he met at the Ohana Music Festival in Dana Point a year earlier. But when he texted her, she said Josh Klingover, the former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist who is currently touring with Pearl Jam, works for Cameron.

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

The next day around noon, while he was at school, he received another text message from Olivia saying the band had introduced themselves from potential drummers and asking him to send her a video of himself singing a Pearl Jam song played.

“It’s worth a try,” she said.

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

“I had a stats test next semester that 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 “Mind your morals,” which he listened to over and over for a couple of hours, taking shot after shot until he felt the person was good enough to deliver. Shortly thereafter, he received a call from Smitty, Pearl Jam’s manager: He was there.

“I called my dad and he said 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 attend Pearl Jam for a sound check.

“There was a small rehearsal room where the whole band and I rehearsed before the show,” he said. “They had much fun. It was a pleasure to see them all.”

When the show started, the Neukermans were waiting at the edge of the stage with their younger brother. He was told he was going to play a song and when the time came he couldn’t help but feel the pressure.

He said, “My heart jumped and I passed out for a second.” “But I felt confident that I could do it because I’ve been working out 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 left the square, he said people in the crowd came up to take pictures and congratulate him.

“That was the drummer!” Some cried.

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

Melissa Lampi

Since then, according to Neukermans, there have been constant calls from radio stations, news agencies, friends and family. He was also asked to write a guest column for country magazine about the experience.

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

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

But first, Neukermans said he should graduate from high school in two weeks – and possibly take a stats test.

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