More often than not I begin my days with The Slip. Perhaps it's a recent show, or maybe it's From The Gecko, regardless this young three-piece has become the sound track of my mornings. Now this is a bit odd because The Slip is unlike any other band that I devote such a large portion of my mental energy to at this point. When asked what type of music I'm into right now, I often find myself saying, "instrumental music," or "electronica," "late 60's Miles Davis," and anything that usually blows my mind. Well, I guess that's where The Slip comes in, because they constantly blow my mind, yet they do so in a different way than the other bands, DJ's and producers who sit atop my CD player.
I can't even tell you exactly what it is. At first glance, Marc Friedman is one of the most amazing bass players on the scene, his slippery (sorry for the pun, but it's extremely accurate) fretless bass work is pure bliss, and Andrew Barr is absolutely at the top of the list for young drummers. Then there's older brother Brad Barr, whose guitar playing is wonderful, but it seems to be his storytelling abilities and true, sincere aura that touch my soul.
The pop hooks and poignant lyrics stay with me throughout the day, and I find myself singing out loud as I drive over the bridge into San Francisco. The Slip make me believe in songs with words again. Brad has written inspirational lyrics to amazing compositions. He speaks universally to everyone, touching on life, love and inspiration. He somehow manages to pull raw emotion from the listener, yet offer hope while doing so. This is all done within the context of a highly talented instrumental framework. With roughly one part lyrics, and three parts trained instrumentation, the boys have found the appropriate ear cocktail for my head.
I hadn't seen The Slip since High Sierra last year, and was eagerly anticipating the arrival of a two night stint at the renowned jazz club and sushi bar, Yoshi's. To be honest, I was shocked at the turn out! I walked in with a friend of mine, and he couldn't even get a ticket for the early show, and had to eat sushi and listen from the bar outside of the music portion of Yoshi's during the first set. (It could have been worse ;-).
As I sat down I was overwhelmed with excitement. It was an absolute pleasure to see the band finally getting its due out west, and even more exciting to finally *hear* them in a listening room. The last club I had seen them in was a tiny little bar, and now they were selling out four shows, (two sets each night at 8 & 10pm) at Yoshi's! Kudos to the three band members, the kind people they work with and the ever so friendly folks at Yoshi's.
The fabulous two night engagement began with "Trane-ing," a great piece that tips the hat to the one only Coltrane. This track might just sound like a nice little jazzy number to those who's musical minds haven't had the necessary schooling yet, but if you've put your time into the greats, you will hear nuances of John's sax work all over the place, and shifts in the music that are very appropriately aimed at giving praise to 'Trane. This could be a blue print for how The Slip do what they do. They constantly weave familiar melodies and harmonies into songs that are definitely their own, leaving you wondering why it's so familiar, and changing it up before you have time to ask your neighbor what that tease was.
From "Trane-ing" Brad took the band into "Ambrosia" then dropped into their beautiful instrumental composition, "Nellie Jean." I think this was the first out of body moment for me over the Yoshi's festivities. In order not to sound too esoteric or as freaky as I very well may be, allow me to qualify what I mean by "out of body." I am referring to the sensation when the music takes over, and I am no longer forced to realize that I am sitting in a club, or dancing in a hall. When I stop thinking all together, and the music flows straight from the speakers to my soul, when I can feel the emotion of the vibrations, that is what I mean by "out of body." That's why I have spent the better part of my life going to shows, for the hope of having even one minute of an "out of body experience."
So it was the 10 to 15 minutes of Friedman's wahed out bass work that took me out of Yoshi's and put me on that cloud. But it didn't stop there. Next was DJ Brad Barr tweaking it on his guitar (making it sound like a turntable) for "(Get Me With) Fuji." This has to be one of my favorite numbers they do, and will be available on their long-awaited new album, coming out in June. It's a rager, and I was swinging back and forth in my chair, barely able to stay seated. (Yes this is a REAL jazz club and you need to sit while you enjoy.) It was great to see the band in this atmosphere, everyone paying full attention, eyes and ears on the music, no talking, no standing in line at the bar, it was all about The Slip.
The second set, or show, how ever you choose to look at it, was equally as impressive. It began with "Wolof" and was followed by "Tinder Box," which is a lyrical piece, also from their forthcoming album Angels Come on Time. But to say it simply has words is an understatement. It's an amazing walk through Brad's mind.
"In trusting the impersonal, much sacredness is lost.
WOW! Even now, without the necessary ingredient of Brad's voice, the words make the hair on my neck stand up. These aren't just words, it's beyond poetry, it's the thoughts in my head that I can't find the words for, it's the pain in my heart that begs to be freed, it's just amazing.
Most enlist and thus have missed the kiss extracted from the dust.
And I've listened since my patience began,
and it glistens in the distance,
standing in the footprints where I found my lover lost. . .
Thrice you have rescued me, from falling grace;
once when I was a beggar and you were the rain on my face,
once when I was crippled and you carried me,
and once when the blindness of others taught me how to see. . ."
The first night of The Slip at Yoshi's ended with a new vocal song that I can't get enough of, "Dear Melina." The song has taken on a different form every time I've heard it, (from various live cd-r's) and has even taken a new name since the first time my mouth fell agape at the amazing composition formerly called "Dark Angel." Again Brad speaks to the soul straight through the mind, and accompanies it with a resonating guitar loop that pretty much hasn't left my head in weeks. The music and the words create a world unto their own, and tell me of a love that I lost somewhere along the way, and am now dying to find again.
"Standing in the middle of a cold north lake, high water gonna rise to the edges of the great dam break, then cold, cold the water will allow me and my baby to be home, to be home, should be sleeping by now... I wish I had a word I could say to you to try and make you feel better help you see it through, but I never really know what I'm supposed to do about anything let alone you..."
The man is a genius. They are all geniuses. The music is beyond classification, it makes me feel, it inspires me, I find myself jotting down words to my own stories in the midst of a raging bass solo. And that is what music, and art is all about. The ability to tell a story, to convey an idea, to evoke various emotions, but finally, and perhaps most importantly to inspire others to create, live, love, and be.
Night one was obviously an enjoyable journey with The Slip, and night two found Yoshi's climbing once again into the musical vessel as the trio carried us away to a distant shore. In the first show of the second night Andrew told a quick story about a ten year old kid who walked up to him and asked, "Hey, can you play that song, I think it's called 'Yellow Medicine,' it's a 6/8 clavé." A ten year old calling out time signatures, now that's the kind of fans you want to draw to your shows. And play it they did, such wonderful "Yellow Medecine" for all to take in.
After a dose of "Medicine," "Air Of The Body" came into fruition. After 40+ plus shows on the road, this was the first time they had played this composition all year, and it was by far the highlight of the set for me. Again Brad playing with words, changing up previous notions of the song, and painting a picture of hope. The way Brad toyed with the concept of a shadow, light and darkness is still stuck in my memory. Think about a shadow. Images of darkness, perhaps sadness, even pain are brought to mind, but Brad won't let the dark win, because there could be no shadow without light. You need the light to cast the shadow, and "I know there's light, I know there's light." Just as any effective story teller will do, the words become metaphors for life. And The Slip do that as well as anyone right now. Don't dwell is the shadows, don't become consumed with the darkness, search out the light, believe in hope, LISTEN TO THE SLIP!
Set two was equally as amazing, as the band continued to balance sick jazz heavy instrumentals with one or two perfectly placed vocal numbers mixed in. "Dogs On Bikes" (which took the name "Horses On Bikes" for this evening) was the instrumental that has stuck with me from the final set. It was a wonderful example of the way the three of these men trade responsibilities effortlessly, shifting musical ground with no audible seams. This borderline telepathic connection no doubt stems from a life long musical bond. Two brothers and a childhood friend growing up together, learning, and coming of age spiritually, emotionally, and musically. It's truly an amazing thing to watch. The first encore almost knocked me out of my little black chair. It was the first time I, and perhaps everyone else in the room had ever heard, "If One Of Us Should Fall." Brad's words again poked through all emotional armor, and pulled at the exposed areas that are usually only left for private viewing. I was so drawn in I felt as though Brad was singing directly to me, and the backing instruments were in perfect harmony for the images in my mind.
The two night run was a huge success. The band was ecstatic about playing such a revered venue, and the crowd was more fulfilled than could have been expected. Each evening garnered a standing ovation, to four sold out shows at Yoshi's on Tuesday and Wednesday night.
I find so much in this band that it I can only hope they continue to blossom and create, touching, more people with their unique brand of Americana. I feel people need to know this music exists. Can you imagine if this was what found it's way to the radio. If this was what our children listened to. For now, I will continue to go to bed dreaming of my morning Slip, wondering what track will take me out of my bed and what song will carry me through the day.
JamBase | San Francisco
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