The Slip, The Icon, Buffalo, NY- 3/6
Buffalo is a weird city. Like most of Western New York, Buffalo was built in an awkward, almost anachronistic manner in terms of architecture’s influence of the development of community. While there are unique neighborhoods in Buffalo, most of the city is a disorganized hodgepodge of residential, business and industrial space, strewn together without much organization, almost instructed to find a way to get along. Large, autonomous factories share the same street with entire housing developments; there are strip malls that house both liquor store and health clinics, which more often than not sit across the street from a generating station. It does not make much sense, and when driving through Buffalo’s winding, irregular neighborhoods, it is tough to imagine any community uniting under these circumstances; right next to factories and bereft of parkland, or having to deal with parkland right next to the factory.
The Icon shares the Buffalo aesthetic with the rest of the city. What had to have been a chop shop ten years ago, The Icon is a large garage situated next to an irregular intersection that is a third residential, business and industrial. There is a car parts warehouse across the street, a developing loft next door and what looks to be a pedestrian mall down the street. The Icon is cold (possible due to the fact that it is a garage), impersonal and dark, but with a hint of Buffalo charm dispersed within; juxtaposed, absent of much sense, but more than happy with it. Still, like the rest of the city, the Icon is an uncomfortable space, not sure of what it should actually be by trying its best to assume a foreign identity. Thankfully, the venue is only the medium that encapsulates the message, and on this night, The Slip was a great messenger.
Unfortunately, I arrived late and missed both Apollo Sunshine and Sam Champion. Both bands have been recipients of a wealth of accolades throughout the tour, and although I tried valiantly to get there on time, I had a difficultly finding the venue; might as well blame my tardiness on Buffalo and its unique urban aesthetic. Apparently both bands were a welcome treat and will not be missed next time, because I know where the venue is now.
Thankfully, I made it well in advance for The Slip. While the venue’s peculiarities and sheer sonic girth (it is a garage and it was loud) toiled with the P.A. throughout their ninety-minute set, the trio still exemplified why they are one of the most forward thinking, musically progressive bands in our quaint, improvisational community. First and foremost, The Slip has changed. They have changed considerably. While my inaugural experience with the trio five years ago exhibited a youthful jazz trio picking apart the progressive ethos in groove jazz, Marc Friedman and the Barr Brothers have grown into an introspective, emotionally entrancing indie-rock band. While their jazz chops made sporadic appearances throughout the set, especially on an explorative, fifteen-minute “Get me With Fuji,” it was their pop charm, clean, crisp and thoughtful, that directed the set, from an obligatory rendition of “Children of December” to a harmonious take of “Even Rats,” their new single that reminisces about a classic show in Canada’s capitol. Each song flirted with more traditional folk, alternative country and rock melodies than contemporary jazz, emphasizing songwriting over exploration, direction over open-endedness and emotion over cheap thrill. This was exploratory stuff; do not get me wrong, but in a different fashion.
Yes, the songs were tighter and most of them embodied much more Wilco than Ornette Coleman, but The Slip’s approach to emotive, folk-driven indie was over abundantly unique, showcasing how many influences can be utilized to tell a story aside from improvisation or not sorely directed by improvisation. “I Hate Love” was a reggae-rock masterpiece, while “Wine and White Soda” took alternative country, smothered it in a trough of screech and reassembled the remains at the height of inebriation. Exploratory? Yes; in a spacey, needlessly meandering fashion? No. Just simple music performed by complex musicians that emanated the beauty of both sides.
While the venue could have been nicer to the band by turning down the master a touch and remixing the instrument levels to gain a crisper, clearer sound, The Slip’s talent heavily outweighed the sound problems. By the third song, it did not make a difference. As “I Hate Love” climaxed, the boys could have been transmitting through a makeshift ham radio and it still would have sounded fantastic. I still wish I calculated the complexity of my urban surroundings to make both Apollo Sunshine and Sam Champion’s sets, but I guess there is no such thing as perfection.