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Mercury Lounge / July 13, 1996

by Jessica Letkemann

July 13th was a dismally grey day in New York City. I had been looking forward to this show for weeks at that point, but the weather (a mid-day monsoon) and the drag of an all day meeting at school sort of took the edge off of the anticipation. A few friends and I gathered at the Mercury Lounge at 6pm. Being both a bar and a music club, we sat in the front bar section talking nervously about the show. Yes, we knew we were early. But we wanted to be in front, but as much as I know I shouldn't admit it, I wanted to meet Jeff. We had been sitting there no more than 15 or 20 minutes when Robbi Robb strolled out of the stage area and headed for the door (His face seemed to say "Food!") A minute later, Jeff walked out of the stage area. My friend Paris calmly grinned at me and pushed me toward him.
Although I only spoke to Jeff for about two minutes, I went happily back to my friends with the distinct impression that Jeff is a very pleasant, laid back, friendly person. I gave him a copy of the last issue of this zine (#4) and he started flipping through it. Then I asked if somehow, someway, I could ask him some questions for my zine. He told me it was gonna be crazy because it was sold-out and a lot of people from their record company would be there but that sure, find him after the show and he'd do it. I thanked him profusely, wished him a good show, and said good by. After Jeff left, my friends and I also headed out for some food.
We got back early enough to be first in line. Not long after, many other people started arriving. I was immediately aware of the fact that these people seemed generally cool, friendly, and very into 3 Fish or at least curious in a positive way. Certainly there were many, many Pearl Jam fans there. But it wasn't that they sported PJ t-shirts, or shouted ignorant things about "Where's Eddie." (My friends Cecily and Cynthia went to see 3 Fish in Chicago on July 4th at a place called the Double Door. They reported many many belligerent Eddie seekers. My reaction: Isn't Jeff important in his own right? Would they yell "Where's Jeff" if they went to something only Eddie was at? Ah, well, that is another rant altogether.) It was extremely nice to have a casual conversation with a group of strangers about a band that you all like without it overlapping into stupidity. Also nice was a healthy number of conversations solely about 3Fish, other bands, and even a couple about Robbi's band Tribe After Tirbe.
A woman named Kristen Barry with a guitar and a cordial attitude entertained us for awhile, and then it was time for Three fish. The set change wasn't long at all.
For the first several songs, Jeff was stationed at a guitar at stage left, while Robbi played a very beat up bass and sang and Richard Stuverud thumped away in the background. One of the first things I noticed beside the atmosphere of unhurried music making, was that there was a mic in front of Jeff.
The overwhelming rythms of "Silence," the beautiful unplugged realms of "Solitude," and the mid tempo ease of "Lovely Meander" were among the sets highlights.
My friends and I were enjoying the show a great deal, but in the back of my mind I was really hoping to see Jeff play bass. After a few songs, he and Robbi traded places and indeed Jeff picked up a slick brown wood four string. Soon he sang also, most notably on "Build" where he got a couple of verses all to himself. His voice was pretty good, a fairly smooth (though nervous) tenor. During the course of the set, which they played most of the songs on the 3 Fish album, Jeff managed to show his ease with even more instruments. He got behind a djembe drum for one song, not missing a beat of the complicated rythm. During the encore, which Jeff had to coax Robbi to come back out for, Jeff manned the keyboards. Robbi was all over the place too, playing bells, hand drums, guitar, and bass during the course of the night.
Jeff and Robbi invited a friend from the crowd up at one point for an extended jam. The guy got up there, strapped on a large hand drum, and proceeded to wheddle some amazing beats out of it with his bare hands, and he didn't even look like he was concentrating too hard.
After just less about an hour, including a two song encore, the show ended. Again, Jeff tried to convince Robbi to do some more songs, but Robbi wasn't into it. Jeff seemed eager to jam, and was obviously dissapointed.
The crowd seemed satified though. I hoped they would play more, but felt I got a lot more than my $6 worth.
I went in search of Jeff for the short interview and found him hanging out by the basement stairs eating an apple. He told me he had to do another interview (for MTV) first because they had just come up to him before I did, but he asked me if I could wait. I assured him I'd be there.
MTV didn't let Jeff out from in front of the cameras for over two hours, by which time it was well past 2am. He looked so incredibly tired when he stumbled out of the basement, but he sat right down and tried to get through my interview with great effort. Just as I was taking out my tape recorder, we just decided not to do the Q&A afterall. He just looked so exhausted. He waved goodnight to all of us, we told him to get some sleep, and we all went home grinning from our 3fish encounter.


copyright 1996 Tickle My Nausea / J. Letkemann