Show review: Three Mile Pilot at The Echo

My wife and I had tickets to Touch-and-Go Records’ 25th anniversary celebration in 2006, and I was really amped about seeing the back-in-action Three Mile Pilot–not to mention the reunited Negative Approach and Big Black,  the always amazing Shellac, our friends in Seam, the folks from Enon… And then the magazine schedule ran late and we decided to cancel our trip to Chicago. Man. I still get bummed when I think about it. So when last Friday’s show at The Echo was announced, I was super amped to get to see the progenitor of Black Heart Procession and Pinback once more in a small club.

Even coming from a San Diego scene that didn’t really have a unifying sound (Rocket From The Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, 411, Olive Lawn…), Three Mile Pilot were a real aberration–at first with nothing but hypnotic and heavy basslines and primal drum beats backing up soulful yowls. I still recall driving down with Seam for their gig with 3MP at the World Beat Center in 1993 and being mesmerized by the lack of guitar and unorthodox drumming: one bare foot on the stool and the other lazily and perfectly handling the kickdrum. The band is a more traditional four-piece now but still has that seemingly sloppy yet perfectly hypnotic and stripped-down quality that struck me way back then.

The first show of the band’s one-week tour up and down the West Coast balanced the slightly more rockin‘ and melodic cuts from the band’s excellent The Inevitable Past Is The Future Forgotten comeback LP with classic, rawer older stuff. I love it all, but it’s absolutely chilling when the main singer and sometimes guitarist Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession) puts down his axe and croons alone in the spotlight, absorbed in the weirdly plucked bass of Zach Smith (Pinback, Systems Officer) and the primal beats of Thomas Zinser (Black Heart Procession) and totally unaware of the crosshairs on his forehead. And, somehow, when he and Smith trade vocals it gets even better. And the newest songs? I didn’t realize there was a brand new EP until I got home that night. Total bummer because I like to support bands via the merch table. But I’m on the lookout for it and know it will be rad.

With the members’ commitments to other bands (keyboardist Tobias Nathaniel is also in Black Heart Procession), Three Mile Pilot doesn’t tour very often. So see if they’ll be hitting your town here, and catch the tour if you can.