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POP MUSIC REVIEWS

Three Fish's Pearls of Insight Don't Save It From a Jam

July 29, 1996|CHEO HODARI COKER

The Pearl Jam apparel and memorabilia being sported by many of the audience members at the El Rey Theatre on Friday were a tip-off: It was the L.A. debut of Three Fish, a side project spearheaded by Pearl Jam's bassist Jeff Ament. The blend of Middle Eastern-flavored rock and loud, fervent angst came across with mixed results.

Opening with the moody, Doors-like "Here in the Darkness," Ament played a Wurlitzer keyboard and filled the air with jazzy tones, while singer Robbi Robb's off-key voice cut through it like a piercing siren.

That summarized the Three Fish situation: Ament performed brilliantly on a variety of instruments, and drummer Richard Stuverud held up the bottom throughout. But Robb (from the band Tribe After Tribe) is fighting for an identity as a singer. Swaying from side to side, dancing to his own inner rhythm, he couldn't figure out whether he wanted to be Axl Rose, Perry Farrell or Sammy Hagar.

Opening act Kristen Barry, a sprightly Seattle native whose debut album is coming out on Virgin Records next month, captured the audience, moving the crowd with rollicking renditions of "Created," and "Big Girl." Robb should watch her to see how it should be done.

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