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Outside endeavors help Pearl Jam survive, thrive

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Though they're still fully committed to the band, Pearl Jam has long ceased to be a full-time concern for its five members.

And that's not necessarily a bad situation, they say.

With prolonged gaps between the nearly 30-year-old Seattle group's studio albums -- last year's "Lightning Bolt" was Pearl Jam's first in four years -- the musicians fill their time with other projects, from frontman Eddie Vedder's solo ukulele albums and tours to solo endeavors and other bands for the other members. Drummer Matt Cameron also does double time with Seattle mates Soundgarden. But they view these activities as more positive than negative according to guitarist Mike McCready.

"We're all very supportive of each other's kind of projects," says McCready, 48, who helmed a deluxe reissue of his side band Mad Season's sole album between Pearl Jam releases. "I think we all know that if we have the freedom to go out and do other things, we're gonna bring everything back home -- a little wiser, hopefully -- back home to the Pearl Jam world, 'cause you learn from playing with different people."

Bassist Jeff Ament, who's released two solo albums and started bands such as Three Fish, Tres Mts. and RNDM outside of Pearl Jam, concurs that these other musical endeavors help the group expand its sound when the members come back together.

"The main thing is we wanted to be able to stretch out," explains Ament, 51, who was in the bands Green River and Mother Love Bone with guitarist Stone Gossard before they started Pearl Jam in 199o. "You look at the Beatles or (Led) Zeppelin, and those bands pushed themselves. And when I look at somebody like (Vedder) and what he's been able to do and how he's pushed himself as a musician and creatively, it makes me so proud.

"From the very beginning, we wanted to be a band that could really dip our toes into a lot of different styles and dynamics, and I think we're there."

And, Ament adds, he doesn't think Pearl Jam is done with that stretching, regardless of how long it takes between new albums.

"We still know that there's much more that we can do," he says. "We still haven't really delved into keyboards and synthesizers and strings very much, so there's still some areas that we can get into.

"And that's not just with the music but how we run the business and how we do things. The industry is changing so much, and that helps us, too; it kind of keeps you on your toes in terms of how you want to put your music out there and how you want it to feel. That's really important in terms of how we've grown and how we look at things down the road and what we want to do next and all that stuff."

Pearl Jam

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16

Joe Louis Arena, 19 Steve Yzerman Drive, Detroit

Tickets are $66.50 and $36.50

Call 313-471-6606 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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