Pristine streams, endless expanses of wilderness, and all varieties of wildlife call the Missoula valley their home. Another member of this interconnected community is the blossoming music scene. Missoula is fast becoming a destination for bands of all genres and thanks to the efforts of The Blue Heron, Mountains Meets Space Productions, and the fans of the music community these groups are receiving the support and enthusiasm they deserve. The town itself offers a melting pot of progressive views, environmental concern, and overall tendency towards good health and genuine respect for human life. Recently, an evening with Netwerk: Electric and The Slip helped provide further proof that Missoula loves to hear good music.

The night of March 26, 2002 offered me a personal chance to enjoy two bands that have been making a buzz on the "jamband" circuit. I arrived at The Blue Heron, Missoula's most prominent music venue, with an open mind and heart but definitely some anticipation of the night to come. Cruising into the beer garden I immediately felt at home from seeing the many friendly faces I cherish so much. Netwerk: Electric had already graced the stage. I quickly set my sights on the band and allowed my eyes and ears to receive their vibrations. Netwerk is a five-piece outfit hailing from Santa Cruz, California. The Latin influence of the region can definitely be felt in their music. On top of this Latin foundation, Netwerk summons the powers of funk, jazz, and world music as well as layering in some electronic fusion. The result is a product that keeps the crowd moving and shaking and while allowing the listener to escape on an "ocean of groove." The Netwerk set was short and sweet and I felt intrigued to hear and learn more from the band.

Jason Concepcion, the guitarist, absolutely befuddled me with his fast-fingering on the axe. He offers an amazing balance of being able to lead a groove and also step back in the pocket and place notes in near-perfect spots to set the tone of a piece. Jason meshes well with the solid rhythm section and soulful keys to bring to life this samba-flavored delight. As I stepped outside after the set I took in a big drag of the nighttime air and let Netwerk vibe soak into my soul. As it turned out, I couldn't have gotten enough air to prepare me for all the breathing I was to do during The Slip's performance.

The Slip is a three-piece group hailing from Providence, Rhode Island and are becoming well known for their incredible improv jams as well as their heart-felt ballads. Anticipation and excitement filled the air as the band took the stage. Immediately The Slip spaceship took off as they penetrated the outer atmosphere with a high-energy jazz piece. It seemed as if the drummer, Andrew Barr, was going to destroy his kit before the band got into their second song. Andrew is a phenomenal drummer with an amazing ability to feel out the beat while going off on extended drum fills and percussive experimentation. Throughout the night I stood in jaw-dropped perplexion at the complexity of his playing. The combination of Andrew's drumming with brother Brad Barr's jazzy licks on guitar and funk bump of Marc Friedman's bass form a launchpad for jams that transcend the crowd into unknown expanses of the universe.

As I got down to a mean funk tune I noticed Jason Concepcion diddling away on his guitar back stage. The Slip answered my obvious question quickly when Jason was summoned to the stage. The ensuing jam that developed was incredible as Jason and Brad traded phrases over the steady thump of the rhythm section. A crescendo was reached shortly after when the band called upon long time friend Nathan Moore to bless the crowd with a song. Nathan, formerly of Tha Musement, is a brilliant song-writer that a good friend of mine considers to be a modern-day Bob Dylan. His song of love-sharin', energy-givin', and earth appreciation tied together all the cosmic threads that music and the Missoula scene represent.

Music is such an amazing and powerful tool and I feel it is a crucial ingredient in the progression of society as a whole. The Missoula community embraces this progression as well as the music that lends itself to the movement. Thanks to bands like Netwerk: Electric and The Slip and the efforts of the music community this movement can continue to grow and prosper and we as humble humans can keep giving forth our strongest and most pure love, energy, and vibrations.

Ben Griffin
JamBase Missoula Correspondent
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 4/1/02]

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