An Oakland teenager who hasn’t even graduated from high school yet took the stage in front of 20,000 adoring fans on Friday night as he stepped in and played drums for grunge band Pearl Jam.
Kai Neukermans, 18, from nearby Mill Valley, got in touch with Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder’s daughter, Olivia, after hearing how the band’s regular drummer Matt Cameron had come down with COVID and was unable to play.
Kai and Olivia met in 2018, and after hearing about the band’s predicament, he texted her offering to play for her dad’s band.
Kai Neukermans, 18, appeared on stage with Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder, left, as he was asked to play drums for the band.
The teenager, pictured playing for Pearl Jam, contacted Vedder’s daughter and suggested he could help out after their regular drummer caught COVID
The band was performing to a crowd of 20,000 at Oakland Arena on Friday night
“It was a last minute thing, and I didn’t think it would work out,” Neukermans told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Kai was in class at Tamalpais High School when he received the message that the band wanted to see a video of him performing – with a plan that he would step in for one of the songs Friday night at Oakland Arena.
He recorded a video of himself playing along to the track “Mind Your Manners” from the band’s 2013 album Lightning Bolt and sent it to the band.
Within an hour, their tour manager told him to come down to the stadium.
Although the band got Josh Klinghoffer, formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Oakland musician Richard Stuverud to replace Cameron, they agreed to let Kai play a song, midway through the first set.
Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron couldn’t play due to COVID
Group members hail Kai after a standout performance as he supported the group
Kai, 18, who is graduating from high school this summer, is a drummer in his own band, Alive
Kai is already an “experienced” drummer and plays in a teen rock band called Alive, a band “started between surf and skate sessions in 2018”, according to their bio.
The band played BottleRock Napa Valley, main stage Lollapalooza Chile and Boardmasters England.
Kai’s 14-year-old brother Manoa Neukermans plays bass in the band, while his friend Bastian Evans, 17, from Laguna Beach plays guitar and vocals.
Despite his experience, Friday night’s stage was unlike any he had participated in before.
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 he had actually seen Kai’s band Alive perform.
Kai, seen far left, is pictured performing alongside the burgeoning band performing Mind Your Manners
Kai’s performance was a treat with the band members
The teenager is seen in a photo on his Instagram account playing the drums
“He hasn’t finished high school yet. This is the year, isn’t it? Vedder asked, motioning for Kai to come on stage. ‘Everyone is Kai. Kai, it’s everyone!’ to cheers.
The teenager, wearing a black Rage Against the Machine t-shirt, sat behind an orange Ludwig Vistalite drum set.
“You lead the group, brother! Vedder said, as Kai launched the track at high energy.
The crowd went wild as Kai set the tone while other band members performed with smiles on their faces.
“My heart skipped a beat and I was scared for a second. But I was convinced I could do it because I had trained a lot.
“It was surreal, the number 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 raised Kai’s hand as he bowed with the rest of the group.
“It all happened so fast,” Kai said. “I’m super grateful.”
Kai Neukermans, left, with his band Alive, which includes his 14-year-old brother Manoa, who plays bass, and their friend Bastian Evans, 17, who leads the band’s guitar and vocals