A teenager from Oakland who hasn’t even graduated high school yet took the stage in front of 20,000 adoring fans on Friday night as he stepped in and played the drums for grunge band Pearl Jam.
Kai Neukermans, 18, from nearby Mill Valley, got in contact with the daughter of Pearl Jam’s lead singer Eddie Vedder, Olivia, after hearing how the group’s regular drummer, Matt Cameron, had come down with COVID and was unable to play.
Kai and Olivia met in 2018 and, after hearing of the groups predicament, he sent her a text offering to play for her father’s group.
Kai Neukermans, 18, appeared on stage with Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder, left, as he was invited to play the drums for the band
The teenager, pictured playing for Pearl Jam, got in touch with Vedder’s daughter and suggested he could help out after their regular drummer caught COVID
The group were performing at a 20,000-strong crowd at the Oakland Arena on Friday night
‘It was a last-minute thing, and I didn’t think it was going to work out,’ Neukermans said to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Kai was in class at Tamalpais High School when he got the message that the band wanted to see a video of him playing – with a plan that he would step in for one of the songs on Friday night at the Oakland Arena.
He recorded a video of himself playing along to the track ‘Mind Your Manners’ from the group’s 2013 Lightning Bolt album and sent it to the band.
Within an hour, their tour manager told him to come down to the stadium.
Although the group had secured Josh Klinghoffer, formerly o fthe Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Oakland musician Richard Stuverud to sit in for Cameron, they agreed to let Kai play one song, partway through the first set.
Drummer Matt Cameron of Pearl Jam was unable to perform because of COVID
Members of the band hi-five Kai after a remarkable performance as he backed the group
Kai, 18, who graduates high school this summer, is a drummer in his own band, Alive
Kai is already an ‘experienced’ drummer and plays in a teen rock group called Alive, a band ‘launched between surf and skate sessions in 2018,’ according to their bio.
The group have played BottleRock Napa Valley, the main stage to Lollapalooza Chile and Boardmasters in England.
Kai’s 14-year-old brother, Manoa Neukermans, plays bass in the band, while friend Bastian Evans, 17, of Laguna Beach plays guitar and vocals.
Despite his experience, Friday night’s stage was unlike any he had played before.
After arriving at the stadium at 6 p.m., Kai had just enough time to rehearse with the band.
‘There was a little rehearsal room that me and the whole band practiced in before the show,’ he told the Chronicle. ‘They were having so much fun. It was trippy to see them all.’
Lead singer Vedder then introduced him live on stage, saying that he had actually seen Kai’s band, Alive, perform.
Kai, seen far left, is pictured playing along side the band in full swing performing Mind Your Manners
Kai’s performance went down a treat with members of the band
The teen is seen in a picture on his Instagram account playing the drums
‘He hasn’t graduated high school yet. This is the year, right?’ Vedder asked as he beckoned Kai onstage. ‘Everybody, this is Kai. Kai, this is everybody!’ to cheers.
The teen, wearing a black Rage Against the Machine T-shirt, sat down behind an orange Ludwig Vistalite drum kit.
‘You’re leading the band, brother!’ Vedder said, as Kai kicked off the high-energy track.
The crowd went wild as Kai set the pace as other band members performed with smiles on their faces.
‘My heart skipped a beat and I was scared for a second. But I was confident that I could pull it off because I had practiced a lot.
‘It was surreal, the amount of people that were there,’ he told SFGate. ‘The arena lit up and everyone was screaming.’
After just over three minutes, his time in the spotlight was over. Vedder held up Kai’s hand as he took a bow with the rest of the band.
‘It all happened so quickly,’ said Kai. ‘I’m super grateful.’
Kai Neukermans, left, with his band Alive, consisting of his 14-year-old brother, Manoa, who plays bass, and their friend Bastian Evans, 17, who helms the group’s guitar and vocals