Words by Shain Shapiro

The Slip :: 11.04.05 :: Mezzanotte Lounge :: Syracuse, NY

The Slip by Yael Dahan
The Slip is too popular for the Mezzanotte Lounge. The oddly shaped, living-room style music space just north of downtown Syracuse can comfortably contain two-hundred sweaty dancers. On Friday, November 4, the sold-out venue crammed significantly more inside for The Slip, creating an uncomfortable, unbearably humid atmosphere; however, I found a solution, albeit weather-pending. I moved outside and watched the show through the main window, because the stage protrudes out onto the sidewalk a good few feet more than the entrance, creating a cozy enclave for dancing. That is where I parked myself halfway through the first set, and my night improved dramatically. Now, add unseasonably mild November weather into the equation and once more, my night got even better; top that with the beauty of watching one of America's best acts from a few feet away, and I was more than content.

While the venue was filling up, Northampton, MA-based quartet Somebody's Closet treated the half-packed bar to an hour's worth of sun-soaked folk. Led by keyboardist Jeff Bujak and vocalist Christine Eck, the foursome ran through a dozen cheerful tunes, primarily off their latest release, Breeze of Transition. This band has quite the back-story, as they have battled with several relocations and member departures since they formed in Tempe, AZ in 1998. Each song spoke to such trials, both verbally and musically, exhibiting a band extremely confident in a sound that they have had to work feverishly hard to keep consistent. If bright, melodic folk turns your crank, I recommend oiling it up in Somebody's Closet.

B. Barr & M. Friedman by Jon Bahr
Forty-five minutes later, I was outside and astonished at the lemming-like mush that had accumulated just south of the stage during the set break. Right when the Boston-based trio took the stage, the energy developed by the palpably sold-out crowd erupted and never left the immediate fevered pitch all night, because The Slip, plain and simply, kicked ass. The set was song-oriented, as the trio focused more heavily on their pop-based material over their jazz-based, doubly showing off why and how they are simultaneously the best pop band and the best jazz band in the country. This was done not only by encasing the show in the best of both worlds, but also by cramming each individual song throughout the three-hour show with the same mantra. "Soft Machine," the show opener and one of the band's best known indie-jazz hybrids, was also laced at the seams with progressive rhythms and metal-harvested tenacity, while the four-minute, relatively standard pop ballad "I Hate Love" was drenched in Caribbean influences, including reggae, dancehall, and Soca. This continued throughout the more improvised, jazzy tracks, most noticeably an uplifting rendition of "Get Me with Fuji" and an equally superb "Even Rats." In addition, an instrumental, gorgeously symphonic cover of U2's "With or Without You" and an impressive foray into "Children of December" followed suit, as each song flirted with jazz, rock, and funk (along with countless other genres – it would be an exhaustive list to do it thorough justice) underneath a highly unique backdrop of '80s new wave, early '90s grunge, and perfect pop.

Andrew Barr by Jon Bahr
Each song showcased the fact that The Slip is a deeply mature, introspective bunch, emanating unabashed, ferocious intensity within each eclectic note. I stopped counting how many varying melodies the trio touched upon halfway through the second song of the first set because if I continued, I would have succumbed to dizziness. This was astute, esoteric music, but it was disseminated in as welcoming a fashion as a simple pop song, keeping the venue obtrusively packed, perhaps more so as the night progressed. My enclave, vacant at first, became just as densely packed as the front of the stage midway through the first set, and we were outside, unable to drink and behind the stage, peering at the trio through a looking glass. Yet, none of those variables mattered when the brothers Barr and Marc Friedman were on stage because everyone was too enraptured in every melodically grandiloquent progression to move, drink, or care about either.

While many acts can solder together strands of rock, jazz, folk, funk, and whatever else in one extended jam, none that I know can make it seem like nothing unorthodox has happened throughout the progression better than The Slip. I was outside, relatively cold, without a beverage, and behind the band the entire night, and I could not have cared less. What surprise came next, and trying to decipher how they wielded it off so impressively every single time was much more important.

JamBase | Syracuse
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[Published on: 11/15/05]

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