dUg Pinnick (King's X) and Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam) have been trying to get their (joint) musical act together for the better part of 15 years now. As musicians in two very hard working bands, however, little more than small snatches of time could ever be cobbled together. Both men very much wanted to do it, but there was only so much that could be done. dUg wrote with Jeff and Richard Stuverud (the Fastbacks) in 2001 and again in 2004, joined by Mike McCready. And then the years started to roll by anew.
In early 2010, however, dUg completed a long-contemplated move from Katy, Tex., to Los Angeles, and as Pearl Jam's seemingly never-ending touring cycle began to wind down, the opportunity arrived. dUg went north to Seattle, where he, Jeff, and Richard began the final stages of work on what would become Tres Mts. debut album, 'Three Mountains.'
The band made it's live debut at the Showbox in Seattle on Mar. 16, kicking off a mini-tour of primarily east coast dates. Along the way, however, a stop at Stubbs venerable ampitheatre during SXSW was scheduled. Tres Mts. was slotted in before the Bravery and Panic! at the Disco, and the crowd definitely skewed young and fratty. By the time they took the stage, however, a packed house ready for music awaited.
The opening notes were more tentative than triumphant, however, the band seemingly still working out its kinks on the fly. It didn't take long before the true nature of at least some of the problems became clear, dUg glaring to his left before bawling out the monitor man (having already made a number of polite requests to have his levels adjusted). dUg's voice is a powerful instrument, but without being able to hear himself it was no more likely to take flight than McCready would playing the guitar one handed.
Once the onstage sound was sorted, things came together very quickly, with four uniquely talented musicians gelling together out of a desire to make music together and rising in power with each passing song. McCready played guitar on the record and hearing him live is always a treat. His sound remains unmistakeable, even in this context, but he styled his actual playing to the music perfectly, fluid yet restrained and taking flight only when the space allowed.
This was my first exposure to Stuverud live and the man approaches the drums with everything short of hammers, providing a great show and coaxing a wide array of sound out of a straight-forward kit. He and Ament are in complete synch, ebbing and flowing in tight counterpoint to dUg and Mike's more freestyle ramblings, allowing the two free reign to alternately roar and whisper.
And that's part of what makes Tres Mts., particularly live, as good as they are. This band has dynamics. In an increasingly moribund musical universe, Tres Mts. are alive and vital. As the set moves on you realize that each song seems better than the next, and not just because one is familiar and the other not, or one is fast and the other slow. It's because the band has succeeded in capturing you, taking you with it wherever it feels like going.
This is what Tres Mts. do. And based on how quickly and effectively they got show number two sorted out, they're only beginning to find their true powers.