Some say I'm overly analytical, so bored with reality I keep up this game finding correlations and inconsistencies so one more tiny section of the puzzle will have it's match. And they're right, I'm pea soup on a 42 degree evening but it helps to have found some sense of focus to balance that; live music. It's the ultimate ride for the mind that you can take yourself and share with so many others to create one spot in time that's unique. Saturday night's events at the Wetlands will surely be one of many stories flying around the travellers set loose from college and their jobs for the upcoming holiday just as the Disco Biscuits' Friday Toad's Place show was during the seasonal reappearance of lines outside Tribeca's refuge for musical diversity. There's no shortage of acts flying around right now, getting their chops in gear for whatever state they'll be in when 2001 hits with no defining destination for the fine people moving around as there has been in recent years.

The Slip is one of those acts that are being mentioned more and more which came as no surprise to me after a friend brought their second release, Does on a recent car trip, so Saturday's spot was clearly marked on my calendar for a while. But I overshot what came earlier......I showed up in time to check out Actual Proof's final song affirming my suspicion that their power could be divined more intensely through a better sound system. Also from that hill of Beantowns, Actual Proof carries a hopped up drum with electronic soundscapes fed through the bass, guitar, & keys providing ample ground for vocalist Mark Holmes to explore a range that evokes rock's screechers and adds the danceable MC type flavor of Jamiroquai. "Actual Proof" is a traditional Buddhist term that means everything inside of you, your morality and how you view yourself, affects how you view the outside world. Based on what parts of their view I've seen so far, I'm going to keep coming back for more of the world they're realizing as they go.

It took the slow burn of intense focus to wade through the whispering reeds of ancillary conversation but it seemed that was exactly the inherent challenge in connecting with the Drepung Gomang Monks whose act isn't even an act as much as it's a pure form of expression. Tens of thousands of years have passed since the first caveman found that not just the physical act of knocking his head against a rock could soothe frustration but that the groovy sound that produced could accomplish the same thing. And what about that wolf craning toward the moon? Howling as it was then adopted into various cultures that have and still do exist, tapping into the deepest parts of you to call out into infinity and stake the furthest boundaries you can for yourself; I am here. But sure, all that takes are a few accurately placed exertions and an emotional lubricant so the discussions of Buddha's wisdom and message of inner peace and compassion prevalent in the 584 year old house of learning show us very fulfilling possibilities of what to do after that initial smack on the ass. Or, you could close your eyes and let the chanting soak the reverberating caverns inside of you as well as the nervous passages looking for just such a massage to find their relaxed bearings again. As with everything, it is what you make of it so, if you can open your mind and use the strength of your focus to travel with the monks as they go, you'll come out the other end with a lot more than that which you had on the way in.

Self decribed minstrels, The Slip are also there for just that reason; to entertain and bring you places while they do but, beyond that, they have the feeling of myth, of the beauty, strength and intricacy we can still see in Greek columns and the brilliant stories of tapestry. It's obvious by how tight they are that they've done significant explorations within themselves to hear what it is their heart wants to get out and translate that to an even more open sense of listening and understanding (talking to one of their neighbors recently, I learned that The Slip's constant play covers for his own band, The Squad, when the neighbors go searching for the volume going on in the building). Each member of The Slip often does his own thing or links up with one or both of the others, providing options in the middle of an extended jazz kick for someone to jump back on his path from say, something hip hop going on on the drums or calypso on the guitar and maybe the bass grunging along a bit while the drum swings by with some zydeco before the guitarist does a quick, barn burning fly by only to relax underneath a heavier groove being developed on the rest of the stage, no problems sharing the spotlight with the others when each could easily lead the night by nature of their considerable talent. But that's not to say that The Slip lives in a frenetic pace, in fact, they have a mellower feel but not anywhere close to picking daisies on the hill. They go everywhere, up and down the scale of pace but never beat the audience over the head with their mastery. It's easy to hear, challenging to digest.

You get a sense of their disposition when guitarist Brad Barr addresses the crowd in a voice that gently glides through the short grass before he then goes back to swinging his axe like Paul Bunyan. On drums, Brad's brother Andrew shows no clear affinity for one style of music going from New Orleans marching beats to some very swinging jazz, harder edged hip bops and just about anywhere else he can find something that interests him and contributes to the overall sound which never suffers the freedom that each musician takes in their directions. "The trio really asks each musician to explore their full range of sound and to be fully present at all times, even if their presence is silence," (from the band's site). Like Soulive, The Slip sets up brother bookends but, in this case, it's Marc Friedman's bass in the middle taking on more responsibilities in melody and rhythm in the dynamic of a trio. None of them has a problem reaching the mammoth strength it takes to contribute to the propelling nature of their jams nor the deft touch of a chef watching over the slightest of souflets required in their softer moments of tone.

The incomprehensible breadth of the pool from which they offer your mind a drink is characterized not only with the styles that come out but in other details such as the expansions of the swing classic It Don't Mean a Thing (if it ain't got that swing), jazz standard When the Saints Go Marching In, a bluegrass interpretation of This Land is my Land and allusions to the Sesame Street theme along with others that I couldn't catch before the guys zipped off. And there's so much more of what The Slip did for us Saturday night, throwing down atonal noise jams, bluesy riffs and more open ended jazz sections, with no fear to delve into pop beats, Motown and even the original rock of artists like Marvin Berry. During the second set, Mark Holmes came back out for a very high temperature funk tune showing that The Slip's music can stand the test of strong or soft vocals, no vocals, a switch up of guitar to keyboard or just the addition of the organ as a fourth as they did for the second of two encores. They'll lavish you with the most beautiful interpretations of everything we've ever heard, grabbing and sorting sound from all over the classroom under the general direction of a wizz bang zoom we nor they could have imagined before due to the subjective nature of the night's moments.

It was the twelfth night of their 12 night tour "in a place where they just can't stop playing," as Brad put it shortly before their closer which went down somewhere shortly after 3am. Another journey piece, the guys took it all over the universe before ending up back with a simple few notes on the guitar that might normally signal a coming downbeat to end it but, in this case, it was used to build right back into another groove before they did eventually crash that customary bash. After two encores which were both as expressively out there as everything they played the entire night, Andrew got up with only the beating cow bell in his hand, eventually drawing the rest of the musicians offstage with him for an impromptu parade of bells and shakers that led through the crowd and out the front door where they waited to wish everyone crawling out into the four o'clock hour a safe trip until we could connect again.

The Slip will be playing Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, R.I. on Friday and Colgate University December 2nd but anyone who didn't get to experience what was going on with them this weekend will get to see another Wetlands evening with these guys on 12/29. The Drepung Gomang Monks are now heading into a bunch of dates in Pennsylvania and the MidAtlantic but have already developed a schedule which takes them through next August so the opportunities to check them out will be numerous and well worth it. Proceeds from this tour will be going back to the monastery in India which provides a free and open place for all who wish to come and study the ways of Tibetan Buddhism which is a luxury to those born into the current, Chinese dominated way of life.

Howie Greenberg
JamBase NYC Correspondent
Go See Live Moments!

[Published on: 11/20/00]

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