The Slip | 11.04.03 | The Stone Pony | Asbury Park, NJ
I get easily bored with music that isn't captivating. My general rule of thumb is I should be able to see a band night after night and be psyched every time. Still, there's more to it because part of music is about community, so I want to see music that I know will blow a newcomer's mind when I introduce them to it. Over the test of time only a few bands truly captivate me, one of those bands is The Slip. Now, I invite you to introduce yourself to The Slip as New Jersey did last night, with the band's first ever and long overdue performance in the Garden State.
It was a tough Tuesday night in the dirty Jerse. One of those nights when you kind of just want to kick it at home, but deep down you know the best thing for you is some live music. Outside of the legendary Stone Pony in the shore town of Asbury Park, the waves were crashing fiercely, the rain was coming down seriously, and the wind was blowing hard onshore. Inside was completely opposite; the room was warm and the vibe friendly.
It seems to be the human condition to want to categorize and that's why we label a lot of versatile bands "jam." On this night The Slip played their quintessential style of rock and jazz, with some funk, folk, spacey-ness, and African rhythms mixed in. They started the show with "If One Of Us Should Fall" a very solid new indie rockish tune off the new live double album aliveacoustic/alivelectric right into "Driving Backwards". They were playing very well, giving the audience a lot to dance about (and we were) until they turned the night up a few notches with a special surprise song.
There is at least one test for rock and roll excellence that I know of and it is called the 'Beatles Test.' Since The Beatles are in a musical class of their own we often forget how truly amazing they are. It's only when we hear another band play a Beatles tune do we realize how incredibly the Beatles do it. Some bands hit the vocals, others get the music, and some miss completely. The test of rock and roll excellence is how well the band can play a Beatles song. I've seen many bands, very good bands in their own right, try a Beatles song and just not pull it off. When The Slip broke out "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" they couldn't have picked a harder song for the 'Beatles Test.' "Happiness..." is like five songs in one with all of the ups, downs, and transitions. I am truly amazed to report to you all that they nailed it, without a doubt, even through John Lennon's final lingering 'gun' vocal with the jump in pitch. The audience was rocking with them to this classic all the way through.
Another definite highlights of the show was the set closing "Nellie Jean" -> "drum solo" -> "Peace, Love And Understanding?, (What's So Funny 'Bout)." "Nellie Jean" is a classic Slip song in the sense that it starts off mellow and builds in such a natural way that by the end of the song you are rocking way harder than you thought would have been possible when the song started. After about a ten-minute "Nellie", Brad Barr (guitar) and Marc Friedman (bass), left Andrew Barr alone on the stage to his drumming. If you have ever seen Andrew drum you can imagine how he had been wowing the audience all night, so we weren't quite sure what to expect. Needless to say he did not disappoint. While drumming, Andrew introduced a looper called the "jam man," which is one of the original loop machines that can loop only about eight seconds of sound. Without a break in music he laid down the background drum beat he had been playing into the looper and then began to work on his syn. The syn is one of the original synthesized drums from the 1970's. With the original beat behind him he experimented with the syn until he found the crazy combination of sound he was looking for (it sounded more like a distorted guitar then a drum), then he looped those together. For the final touch Andrew alternated various percussive instruments completing the sound. It was at this point I looked around and realized no one was dancing, everyone was kind of leaning forward with their eyes wide and mouths gaping. The man blew minds.
After about ten minutes of just Andrew, Marc came back on stage with his bass and Brad joined them with a cuica. A cuica is an African percussive instrument which generates sound by rubbing a damp cloth inside of it. As this part of the improvisation built on itself Marc laid down the bass while the brothers Barr traded shots on their instruments. You could feel the connection between Brad and Andrew, they were leaned over their instruments staring into each other's eyes across the stage, all that existed for them was the musical moment and each other. It's like if you've grown up doing something with someone your whole life, you know what they're going to do before they do it. For me, I've got two brothers and we've been playing basketball since we could walk. When we play together now, I always know what they're going to do and where there going to be before they get there. I was watching the same principle in action before my eyes and anyone who listens to the Slip's music picks up on that lifetime of closeness.
After Marc had his turn on an unbelievable bass solo, Brad had picked up his guitar and launched the band into "Peace, Love And Understanding?, (What's So Funny 'Bout)" which was written by Nick Lowe, but made famous by Elvis Costello. It makes for passionate music when artists share themselves through song, whether by lyrics or sound. This is not a band afraid to take a stance and they preached what they believed in to close the show. In these trying times when our government seems to be moving on with it's own agenda, the verse, "As I walk through/ This wicked world/ Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity/ I ask myself/ Is all hope lost?/ Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?/ And each time I feel like this inside/ There's one thing I wanna know/ What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?" resonated with everyone in the crowd. This was evidenced by the huge ovation the band received after the song and through the encore break at 1 am on a Tuesday night.
When they came back on stage Andrew thanked the audience and asked to turn off the stage lights so they could see the audience. After seeing us cheering for them so wholeheartedly, they kept the stage lights off for the encore of "(Take A) Beetle To The Badlands" that the crowd had asked for during the encore. In the third verse of "Beetle," Brad settled into a bit of an improved folk segment of the song with serious funk undertones. He was telling a story of how regular people could find answers in a special book which told the truth, after some musical runaround he unveiled to us that the book was, Michael Moore's Dude, Where's My Country?. Then through song he urged everyone to register to vote and finished the song with a barely audible chant of "George W. Bush has got to go" with a crazy reverb-ed funk behind it. When the song finished the audience exploded in general approval. Afterwards members of The Slip hung around the stage signing CD's and talking with any who approached them. It was truly a special night.
I was fortunate enough to be able to share the music of The Slip with a friend of mine last night. After the show she kind of nudged me and uttered dumbfoundedly, "There were way more sounds coming from the stage then people on it." The Slip captivate. They are right now making their way down the southeast so if that's where you reside, find the venue closest to you and introduce yourself to The Slip.
Words by: Dan K
Images by: Jon Bahr
JamBase | Jersey & Beyond
Go See Live Music!
The Slip | Tourdates
11.06.03 | Starr Hill Music Hall | Charlottesville, VA
11.07.03 | Plaza Azteca | Norfolk, VA
11.08.03 | Marrz | Wilmington, NC
11.10.03 | Blue Cats | Knoxville, TN
11.11.03 | Smith's Olde Bar | Atlanta, GA
11.12.03 | Georgia Theatre | Athens, Georgia
11.13.03 | Orange Peel | Asheville, NC
11.14.03 | Baylee's | Blacksburg, VA
11.15.03 | The Pour House | Raleigh, NC
11.21.03 | Pearl Street | Northampton, MA
11.22.03 | Page Commons Room | Waterville, ME
11.28.03 | Narrows Center For The Arts | Fall River, MA
11.29.03 | Narrows Center For The Arts | Fall River, MA
12.26.03 | The Knitting Factory | New York, NY
12.27.03 | Lupo's | Providence, RI