The Slip, Southpaw, Brooklyn, NY- 10/8
The Slip makes me want to dance like Uma Thurman just before she ODs in Pulp Fiction. I want to thrash around in that strange mix of passionate aggression and a silly schoolgirl bop. I want to jump up and down, shake my head and sing along. But the band spent much of the summer completing a new studio album, and have played all too few gigs in the past 6 months or so. I was particularly excited, then, to walk out of the buckets of cold, nighttime rain, and into a crowded Southpaw with the band already on-stage, in the middle of “Soft Machine”.
Their single set was loaded with the material they presumably recorded, songs that have filtered out in the past year and half, such as “Event Rats.” The intro jam for the Brooklyn version made lengthy strides, the same kind of opaque spaciness of the opening tune, but with a different edge. Brad was playing a little voice box through the guitar strings. After the kick of the song itself, the trio crashed through a contrasted, speedy jamlet and followed up with a slick, but plaintive “I Hate Love.” Guitarist Brad Barr was getting down on the harp, and would again for the ensuing “Moderate Threat” > “Cowboy Up.” The first half of the instrumental pair began with a super heavy groove, drummer Andrew Barr playing an almost tribal beat and bassist Marc Friedman staying low and rumbly. But as they popped into the airy “golden oldies” passage and I started to smile, the name of the song made sense for the first time. The real threat was in the rowdy, grinding stomp of “Cowboy Up.” Brad strolled across stage to lean over his brother’s kit as they moved on a rootsy mood. Moving back to the mics, Brad pulled out the harp again, and let loose over a bucking drum-n-bass drive. When he switched back to guitar, it was with a furiously shredding slide, but he returned to the harp once again, this time with a sparser sense of the rhythmic, as the music swelled to its rowdiest boister yet.
After it settled though, a quiet intro to the frustrated melancholy of “Paper Birds” rolled off the stage. Marc played a fantastic line during the first chorus and Andrew led the way through a raw, dramatic climb to the second verse. By the end of the second chorus, the band was a unified machine set to run. Marc’s driving bass brought the unit to the “Warrior Blood” passage, but the lyrics, and the reworked lyrics, were totally absent. Instead the music wound down to a lingering dissonance.
But like spontaneous generation, suddenly the band was charging into “December’s Children.” It’s their rock star number, to be sure, but they pull it off time after time- just the opening rhythm chords are enough to send chills down my spine. As the lyrics drifted away, fuzz bass swelled up, the other instruments chased, and the band punched out a huge ending, making the room howl and fall into giddy chatter. Unfortunately that chatter was still lively when the quietly depressed “Suffocation Keep” began. In the few post-summer performances, the quirky, but potent number has become a full blown song that comes together in clear stages; when Marc drops his first note a minute or two into the song, it shakes; when Andrew’s slow backbeat comes in, it makes you shiver. The pair hit a solid groove to start the jam, Brad then joining with that slightly-Scofieldesque tone he uses less frequently nowadays. The whole movement became a dense rolling passage, wonderful and danceable and Brad lightly sang the opening lines over and over at the very end.
“The forest is big, that’s why we need rangers. If you’ve got to run, babe you’re allowed.”
To close the show, a twangy “Poor Boy” and a monster rendition of “Sometimes True to Nothing”. Brad and Marc were digging like clockwork while Andrew directed the overall movement- it’s easy to be lost in Brad’s dreamy lyrics, or awed by Marc’s stunning, entirely innovative bass, but Andrew’s rock-steady drumming is The Slip’s secret source. The music rode up to a joyous revelry and spun into a rowdy, almost chaotic jam. Then it was quieter again, Marc establishing a new direction, and Brad painting with fazed guitar. Andrew reasserted his guidance with a big, loose beat and the other two slowly began to wrap “STTN” around it- a breathtaking display.
It was still early, barely ten after midnight, when the band left the stage, and even the three song encore, including the new “Thunder Rose” > “If One of Us Should Fall”, with Brad collapsing on stage and playing while lying on his back, didn’t keep us out much later than twelve thirty. The room was begging for another set, but to no avail. Luckily the trio will be back for a pair of dates at the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan in late October/early November.