Bowery Ballroom | NYC | 04.17.02

At the epicenter of three Boston neighborhoods lies the Choppin’ Block, the kind of drinking establishment where you are likely to find the same residents there everyday at opening and leaving at closing. This was the type of place where the bartender would pour you a shot, look at it kind of cock-eyed, take it himself and then pour you a fresh one, hopefully in a new glass. As a college freshman, this was my home.

Olde-time bluegrass mainstays The Two High String Band began their two-year long Saturday night residency back in ‘95, giving the Block its first taste of music since the seventies and, along with it, a new breed of clientele, including us freshman who were eager to get down and dirty. (They also served us with our school IDs, which was quite convenient.) One Saturday evening though, there was no hoedown. The Block was still filled with the regular Saturday night people, but there was this trio on stage all longhaired and fuzzy, filling the room with such warmth and playing with such precision, the music just flowing and perfect. In my head I was confused as I was expecting one thing and got another. I so wanted to find out who and why and what but I just remained still and took it all in. At the time that I had been immersing myself in jazz and Latin music, gobbling up as much as I could, constantly digging into the archives, the names of Trane and Green and Hancock and Elvin Jones all rang in my head. As I remained listening to these boys, I heard these names again. What sensations it brought. All musical fascinations were being played out in that dingy little spot we called home. It was magic and it was where I wanted to be every night, and it became so. I watched this band grow from its humble beginnings toward the captivating force it has become today. From that little hole in the wall to a national tour, trips to Japan and thousands of smiling faces along the way, The Slip is truly awesome.

Five years later, we move things to the concrete jungle of New York City and into another grimy tavern renowned of legends. Like those Saturdays in Boston where you always had a place to go, here the occasion falls on Thursday and the place is the 55 Bar. Unveiling the sorcery of sonic splendor and rhythmatic science, Wayne Krantz, Tim Lefebvre, Keith Carlock and, of late, an array of atmospheric hedonists break down all barriers and build their own church of logic each time they step to it. Fluidity and rebelliousness, tranquility and thunder, each are definitively interwoven into the fabric of their music as it is taken beyond the realm of mundane consciousness. Here, I find my new home, another house of influence and comfort where in cold, cold Gotham it will always be warm on the body and the mind.

For this author, not a time in my life musically has there been such a connection between lifetimes as there was on April 17 at the Bowery Ballroom. Old friends and new coming together for the first time, each extremely fond of each other both in music and in friendship, radiating the true meaningfulness of what the music is all about. A show out of my dreams it truly was.

The evening began with a hard driving set by Wayne Krantz and his co-conspirators: drummer Keith Carlock, bassist Paul Sacalow and Dave Binney dropping heavy, multi-directional samplings. As the room just began to accumulate listeners Krantz took off, leaving those unaware of his work in complete hysteria and wonder. Carlock, playing Andrew Barr’s trap set instead of his usual mountainous Keith Moon setup, wielded forceful kick drum hits, giving the music more of a rounder low end. In place of the venerable bassmaster Tim Lefebvre, Paul Sacalow laid things down proper as Wayne just tore through. Binney’s sampling accents were interesting at times, but often bled too much into the space of their sound and blanketed the internal workings between Krantz, Carlock and Sacalow. The band continued to turn it on, peaking most high, and in an instant, dropping out to allow Krantz to direct from the mind or for Carlock to change tempos and guide in his own direction. Those coming in unaware of what lie before them were held steadfast to watch and listen at the power and grace flowing from the stage. A resounding applause from all in the room brought bright smiles to the faces of all four mad scientists. As their set came to an end, they had gained an audience of appreciative, young minds looking to facilitate expansion through music. Looks like there will be some more people coming over on Thursday night.

Juxtaposed to the model of supreme instrumental velocity of Wayne Krantz, The Slip has been walking down another path of late. Not saying that the trio does not excel in improvisation and instrumentation; they most certainly do, but as they have been on that road for most of their years, their latest release more reflects the talents of Brad Barr’s songwriting abilities rather than the band’s free jamming. In a live setting though, the band eloquently combines both of the ingredients, the musicianship and the oratory, to create the fullest music I have witnessed in a Slip experience. Interweaving Brad’s vocal numbers with the trio’s magnetic instrumentalism yields a uniquely diverse blend of what characterizes the Slip’s music, as I feel it is now full.

On this night the band began with the subtle “Lazilee”, Brad’s vocals pulling heartstrings about the room as Marc and Andrew bring the rock n’ roll to the bridge. As the set progressed, the dance party began to erupt. A soft “Dear Milena” picked up as “Get Me With Fuji” once again hit it on the floor, hip-a-shakin. The boys really took things out impressively, working tempos provided by Andrew Barr superbly with Marc Friedman’s expressive bass work driving the rhythmatic forces letting little time lapse in between selections. After a short setbreak (for such a dynamic first set) the band came back for the second half of the evening’s affairs. “Sometimes True to Nothing” began the set, which was a bit mellower all together than the first. Moving into “The Witch in the Kitchen”, then interplaying the rest of the evening’s tunes in a wonderful medley of tranquility, beginning with “Sorry” and taking things out and falling back into “If One Of Us Should Fall”, “Dogs on Bikes”, a new vocal number entitled “Before You Were Born” and back into “Dogs”, the Slip manifested color and genius, the perfectionist reality of song and inherent beauty.

Although it had been sometime since I have stood before Brad, Andrew, and Marc and allowed myself to be fully enveloped in their musical message, the same feelings from years back were all still very much a part. That which drew me to them initially is still in the air and in the heart. Speaking with everyone, you could tell that they felt it too. This is what the Slip is: a place in the heart, a place in the mind and a place in the soul. All thoughts, feelings and emotions, the elements of life that keep the heart beating strong and keep the mind healthy and full, the Slip brings them to life like no other. We should all be a part of that.

I was brought home on this night. Not necessarily to a place with a roof but to a familiar, comforting place within myself where all I felt was a bit of joy and pleasure. With all the world may experience in a given moment, it is sanctity to have such a place in life. We should all find ours and take ourselves there whenever we can.

Robbie K
JamBase | NYC
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[Published on: 5/1/02]

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