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Words by: Dennis Cook :: Images by: Dave Vann
The Slip :: 04.27.07 :: The Independent :: San Francisco, CA
We're well into the woods when I notice the Big Bad Wolf plush hat on drummer Andrew Barr. The opening moments of any Slip performance are a tactile audio smorgasbord, and I rarely experience them with open eyes. As a muggy day slipped into a crisp, clear night, the trio made sound wriggle and yowl as it hit the air. It took mere seconds for the room to crackle awake. The Slip taps into a roiling underground place where universal melodies and fables live. Often this face time with primordial creation is a soft slide but this night had teeth.
The Slip :: 04.27
"Children of December" took up its frequent opening spot but introduced by a modal instrumental fantasia, seductive and lithe, something Paul Motian might have cooked up with Bill Frisell. By the time Winter's offspring scampered out, we found ourselves neck deep in a wholly different tune than the one that appears on Eisenhower. Kasey Knudsen (sax) and Rob Ewing (trombone) of Disappear Incompletely added beautiful curves on an arrangement that recalled Al Kooper's saucy work with Blood, Sweat & Tears. Ewing and Knudsen reemerged at irregular intervals and proved a model of tasteful, thoughtful playing that never failed to kick things up a notch or three.
As many times as one sees The Slip or delves into their recordings there are always new faces to discover. They exhibit a fearless, maybe even a reckless, gusto for rearranging their catalog. Nothing is static, and despite studio versions and precedent, all is mutable in the minds of Andrew, Brad Barr (guitar, vocals) and Marc Friedman (bass, keys, guitar). To wit, crowd fave "Get Me With Fuji" was a sprawling mini-epic that began with Melvin Sparks black funk then veered into jittery Soul Coughing territory, which dipped into a reggae one drop before ending on Steely Dan jag. Older gem "Weight of Solomon" was transformed into a unique blues exposition powered by Friedman's Clash-like bass – a nice '70s punk element to join the swell Johnny Thunders rasp that permeated Brad's usually sweet voice this Friday.
The Slip with Horns :: 04.27
Everywhere one catches an increasing rock vibe that snatches discreet bits from the genre's whole history. The Slip take dusty clichés and create a transmutative finger pop that could make ol' Chuck Berry duck walk like a youngster again. When they sauntered into AC/DC's "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Want To Rock 'n' Roll)" the very tuned-in audience freaked like American Bandstand kids getting a visit from Elvis. Brad scraped all the hard truth out of lines like "Gettin' ripped off, under paid/Gettin' sold second hand/That's how it goes playin' in a band." His keening falsetto stabbed the words like a prison shank while Andrew thumped with crucial authority around Friedman's humping bass attack. The trio was equally possessed on the evening closing take on Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker." Without a doubt, we're witnessing the full flourishing of a band to rival Radiohead, Wilco or any other genre-busting but still deeply rooted ensemble. It's groups like this that remind us of rock's near infinite flexibility, sui generis imaginations that remake the familiar.
Marc Friedman :: 04.27
During a steel drum led workout late in the show, a lexicon explosion went off in my head. It's something that usually occurs at least once at a Slip performance but I never know when it'll hit. With Brad moving like a spastic squirrel, pouring sweat into his headband behind the drums, Andrew pursuing his island soul inside the hard angles of the steel drum and Friedman dancing a one-man hurdy gurdy on bass pedals and keys, I fished out my notebook and scribbled the following:
The Slip are like good grass, one's favorite food, a baby's gummy smile, a new flavor extended on a most inviting Lick Em Stick, a crazily hued wet dream, an inner tube ride on the slipstream, Charlie Brown's magic Christmas tree, a Mardi Gras parade on the Yellow Brick Road.
Where this stuff comes from I couldn't tell you but I know inspiration when faced with it. The Slip are restless creators that offer a curious mixture of comfort and experimentation. In lesser hands, it'd be sonic gridlock but worked with their chiropractic expertise the challenging becomes downright cuddly. Even as they carve out a more pop sound on Eisenhower and the uniformly great new material, there remains alluring shadows, parts hidden amongst the trees and moonlight. Lifting a glass of "Wine and White Soda," I toasted the idea that we'll likely never fully understand The Slip. This goes for both band and listener alike, for no one looks more shocked at what emerges than the three guys onstage. A happy happy surprise it is.
The Slip :: 04.27
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