The return to the stage of Steve Perry—frontman of Journey during the band’s years as 80s rock gods—would have been headline-worthy under any circumstances, given that Perry hadn’t given a public performance in two decades. The manner in which it happened, though, has made Perry’s re-emergence a topic of water-cooler conversation all week. The story was trending on Facebook for days after Perry unexpectedly took the stage—with his own personal mic, we now know—at the conclusion of the Eels’ Fitzgerald Theater show this past Sunday night.
In an interview with Stereogum, Mark Oliver “E” Everett of the Eels explained how he and his band forged a longtime friendship with Perry, despite some initial awkwardness. “There’s this kind of whole secret inner life to the Eels, and one of the weirder parts of it is that we’ve been friends with Steve Perry for years. It started because he’s been coming to our shows for a long time — like 10 years. And occasionally he would send word backstage that he wanted to meet me, but I always felt awkward about it because when I grew up I didn’t have an appreciation for Journey, and I felt like, ‘Well, I don’t know what I’ll say to him.'”
Eventually the two met, and Perry apparently became almost an unofficial band members, joining the Eels for their weekly croquet (yes, croquet; and yes, weekly) games and occasionally singing along at their rehearsals. “We started talking to him about it,” said Everett, “like, ‘Hey maybe you’d want to do this on stage with us sometime.’ And he’d say, ‘Nah, too much pressure.’ Because it is, you know? When you’re that well-known for something you do that well, and you haven’t done it for so long, it’s kind of a big deal. I get it. But this year it was different. He showed up to our tour rehearsals like he always does, but on the second day he came in carrying his own microphone that he brought with him. And I thought, ‘Huh, this is different. I wonder what’s going on here.'”
Everett says he doesn’t know why Perry chose Minnesota’s Capital City for his first cameo with the Eels, and he doesn’t know what might come next. “Steve does what Steve does, and you either go along for the ride or you don’t. I would love to do it again because it was such a fun experience, and I hope he will, but I totally understand if he doesn’t. It’s all up to him. I’m at least glad it happened this one time. In the meantime, I’ll just try to not stop believing. I mean, for now, he’s on the midnight train going anywhere. I don’t know where it’s going to stop.”