The Slip, Toad’s Place, New Haven, CT- 4/3
It is impossible to fit The Slip into any one type of category or genre. Some may be tempted to simply label them as a jamband based on individual songs or by the group's audience. However if you look at The Slip's songs in a live setting or simply studio versions, it gets difficult to characterize the group. The Slip has songs that could be put in the electronic category, others that are rhythmic jamming, and another handful that rely on lyrics to guide the music. When a band is capable of exploring different musical genres, they are capable of controlling the tempo in a live setting in a much more dramatic way, by varying their style completely, rather than merely altering the pacing. This makes The Slip live experience a special one.
As the show on April third began, the first three songs were a microcosm of what The Slip is capable. We were first treated to an instrumental introduction guided by guitarist and vocalist Brad Barr with drummer Andrew Barr laying down the tracks to keep the music from losing direction. Andrew chose to use his bass drum to move into "Dear Milena," a song centered on the lyrics rather than the instrumental side. And although the lyrics took the spotlight, Andrew and bassist Marc Friedman kept the music rolling in an upbeat fashion for this ballad of sorts. The combination of Brad's vocals and the light feeling of the instrumental accompaniment, including Brad's main guitar part, had a fluid nature.
Already the band had shown the Toad's crowd how they operate as one unit. The band then moved in a completely different direction with "Get Me With Fuji." The audience knew that the song would be very different from the previous one when Andrew began the breakbeat drum intro. The rest of the band followed into the electronic and jazz inspired instrumental; and it was only a matter of moments until the three band members found the collective groove that would drive the song. The chemistry of the band shined through in this song as well, as the band worked with loops in order to formulate something very tight.
The band went through two more songs, including a new and untitled instrumental. At this point a new type of banter began. Coming, logically, from the over-21 section of Toad's, a call and response formed, with the audience shouting at times amusing anecdotes, as the band attempted to explain why they seldom play in Connecticut. At times the loudness of the audience detracted from some of the band's jazz-inspired playing which requires a more respectful crowd, but the band seemed to want to please the rowdy crowd, so they continued to challenge both the audience and themselves.
What came next was one of the highlights of the night. Brad began a haunting instrumental introduction of the Bob Dylan classic, "The Times They Are A-Changin'." It seemed that the band would play the song in a completely instrumental fashion, as there was no singing on the first verse, but shortly into the song, Brad began to sing the timeless and poignant lyrics. The instrumental sections that the band added to the song were of a melancholy and dark style, which fueled the famous lyrics to a large degree. Andrew then changed the tone as the band went into "Sandman," perhaps with new meaning for the title, considering current events. The segue echoed the previous song as Andrew began it playing powerfully, seemingly fueled by anger. The song was short, and followed its normal course, but coupled with "...Times…" more emotion seemed to show through.
The second set started with Brad on his nylon string, and, with Andrew leading the way, the lyrics to "Poor Boy" began. The whole song had a much looser and easygoing sound than what the band had played before. Brad then stayed on his nylon string as the band played a new song similar to "Dear Milena" for its ballad style and also for the focus on Brad's lyrics. After this two song interlude of a different style the band was back on for the tighter, faster paced nature of the first set. Brad opted for the sitar as he played the fiery main riff of "Mudslide." This one echoed the way the first set ended with an abundant amount of emotion coupled with topical lyrics including the title of the song as well.
The back and forth nature of the crowd and the band continued as Brad began a classical sounding improvisation. To understand why this was both clever and humorous one would have to have heard the one very loud person shouting for "Johnny's Tune" the entire night. Brad and the band had their fun and began the introduction to the requested song, which was greeted by a joyous response from those who were desperate for it. Marc and Andrew laid down a tight groove to allow Brad to do some of the best soloing he had done all night, a true musical exploration for the guitar player. Brad allowed Marc to take the spotlight at one point in the song, as he played a fast-paced solo to match the tempo of the song. Andrew joined in as Brad sat out for this section of the song to allow his band mates to participate similarly in the same style of musical exploration.
After the slow tempo of " The Highlands," the band dropped into "Tinderbox." While they moved at a fast pace now and were all clearly focused on a destination, but the path to get there was unclear. That's what made the communication of the three so interesting to watch as they were able to stay together at all points of the song, and with Brad on slide to guide them they reached the final point and the audience greeted them with appropriate applause.
As the band emerged for the encore, the clock was creeping towards the one o' clock curfew of Toad's Place on weeknights. The band wasted no time moving into the crowd pleaser, "Weight of Solomon." Brad's vocals became soulful and he filled the room with his words with the once-rowdy crowd now exhausted. As "Weight" concluded moments before the clock would strike one, they moved into "Sorry." The crowd was pleased that the band would give the gift of a two-song encore despite the club's curfew. The band had to cut this one a bit short due to the already broken curfew, but the crowd was certainly not disappointed. Brad explored during this song in a different way then he had throughout the night, and Marc's fast soloing and upbeat tempo was a nice way to cap off the night. The audience erupted in appreciation and would not allow the band to leave the stage for what seemed to be quite a long time.