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Published: 2006/01/20
by Dan Alford

The Slip, Pearl Street, Northampton, MA- 12/31

The game is over. The lights are flashing and there’s background music, victory music, as one character poses proudly and the other sulks. The score is something like 120,000 to 63,000, and Marc drops the screwy faux guitar control for Guitar Hero on PS2 and raises his hands in triumph. But when he turns around, there really are hundreds of people cheering for him. Marc Friedman of The Slip, that is, finishing a goofy video game version of “Even Rats” played in competition for the position of bassist (Brad and Andrew playing along on real instruments here and there).

Actually, silly as it was, the interlude was welcome as the last moment of rest in the New Year’s Eve set at Pearl Street in Northampton- from there on in, the show was a stylishly grooved out dance party laced with a healthy dose of fused improvisation. Not that the night hadn’t already had its highlights- during “December’s Children” Brad climbed atop the stack of equipment on stage to shred a solo while Marc strolled over to work the guitarist’s pedals for him. “Was anyone here born in December? My sympathies.”

An instrumental followed, a tune from the bass zone with a long, involved first section, all wavy and thoughtful, that resolved into a nice march. Or maybe not really a march; it was looser than that, a movement under the night sky. But the music grew loud, thunderous and caught a breeze to send it soaring. There was also a tight, shorter version of “Get Me With Fuji”, energy packed- probably the most manic song of the night with a crushing bass fueled jam and plenty of screeching and skidding from Brad. So there had already been some noteworthy musician/showmanship, but after the videogame came the meat of the night- the lead up to and carry through the midnight hour.

The trio returned to the music with “Soft Machine”, a song that has been such a staple for the last two years that it encapsulates the shift from old, jazz wanky Slip to new, punky-rowdy Slip. Such a wide variety of versions have graced so many stages, and the song seems to fit in every set list spot, from opener to closer to center to bathroom break. This particular rendition, like “Fuji”, was shorter but bombastic. It set the stage for a follow up long yet sparse and thumpy intro to “Cowboy Up”, that had the band, along with opening act Apollo Sunshine’s guitarist Sam Cohen endlessly dancing around the composed theme without actually playing it clean. The center jam stretched out like the intro, Brad laying down a number of loops as the rest of Apollo Sunshine joined in, making for a crazed percussion session. At some point Andrew was trying to string up a rainbow colored 2006 across the stage, but the sign was too heavy and droopy. He turned to the audience and shrugged an “Oh well” while the ensemble behind him was just about lighting the stage on fire. Not long after, Brad and others were holding the cord and swinging at the sign, the 2 finally tearing off and spraying confetti and candy into the crowd, although not as dramatically as they intended. The percussion kept shaking on as the group labored to open the other pis- the kind of silly, homespun antics one might expect from The Slip.

By the time it was over, it was well past the midnight hour, with no “Auld Lange Syne” to be heard. The next morning I heard someone grumble that “They were way off on when it turned midnight,” but he had clearly missed the point- if he wasn’t lost in the long moment, and was actually watching his wrist, he definitely missed the point. Regardless, the trio pulled itself back together and jumped into a surprise, barn burning cover of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. The end was giddy with energy as the tempo built to a peak of exhaustion. Or plateau. To finish the set a rapturous glory filled drive into the new year- “Please. Be released!”

While everyone could have happily sweated out another full set, curfew limited the show to a 20+ minute encore of the Surprise Me, Mr. Davis protest stomp “As Long as There’s One of Us Standing”, a regular, but always charged encore, and the exceedingly rare old favorite “Honey Melon”- a joyous, glee-filled mountain stream of tweaky leads, beats and Baba O’Reilly teases to send the crowd out into the cold, snow covered new year.

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