WRIGLEYVILLE — Jack McKee thought he might make a little money and put a few smiles on people's faces on Friday when he decided to busk on the corner of Sheffield and Waveland after the Cubs game. What he was not expecting was an impromptu jam session with Pearl Jam frontman and Cubs diehard Eddie Vedder.
But Wrigley became a real-life field of dreams that night, and McKee really did get to play with one of his heroes.
It all started at around 5 p.m. on Friday when McKee and Manny Miller, who play drums and guitar, respectively, in the Chicago band Royal Outsiders, started to wrap up their street performance. The two have been busking on this corner when the Cubs have afternoon games on the weekends since the 2016 World Series, so they've got a pretty good routine nailed down.
But then, McKee spotted Eddie Vedder, and suddenly there was nothing routine about his night.
"I look up and see Eddie, and I was like, 'Ed!?'" McKee said with a laugh. "He said, 'You guys should keep playing,' and he ends up going to Murphy's on the rooftop."
McKee wasn't about to turn down a request from Eddie Vedder, so he and Miller played for another three hours, with occasional encouragement from Vedder in the form of thumbs-up signs and applause from the rooftop.
At about 8 p.m., just as McKee and Miller were wrapping up a Led Zeppelin song, Vedder came down and asked if he could play Miller's guitar and jam for a while with McKee.
McKee and Vedder, both huge fans of The Who, started playing the band's song "The Seeker" before jumping into the Pearl Jam classic "Corduroy."
“So we jammed to those two songs, and he stuck around for about five minutes,” McKee said. "We kind of just hung out and talked" about Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron, Vedder's solo tour and, of course, The Who.
Vedder, who is famously a diehard Cubs fan, was in Chicago last week to join The Who's Pete Townshend for his Classic Quadrophenia show at the Rosemont Theatre. Vedder ran into McKee playing on the street again on Sunday, and he hopped on the kit.
"I grew up on Pearl Jam," said McKee, whose older brother got him into all the grunge greats. "It was pretty surreal, playing with him. It didn't feel like it was happening. I almost forgot that I was playing the drums because he was just standing right in front of me. It was almost like I was having an out-of-body experience because I was just watching him playing.
"He's just the nicest, most humble dude," McKee continued. "The thing is, I thought I'd be more nervous than I was, but he was so chill and laid back that after 20 seconds of talking to him, you're like, 'He's just a normal guy.' It was so great of him to do that."
McKee said the attention the Vedder jam session has gotten from national media outlets like Rolling Stone and Consequence of Sound has helped out Royal Outsiders quite a bit. He noted there was a much larger crowd around them when they played on the corner on Saturday, and he just created an Instagram account because now the demand for one exists.
Any fans of McKee's playing can hear it on Oct. 27, when Royal Outsiders will perform for their EP release show at Reggies Rock Club, 2109 S. State St.
"He's helped us out so much," McKee said of Vedder. "I'm so grateful to have had that experience."