The Slip, The Mobius, Ashland, OR- 11/10
Andrew Barr’s arms fly, tossing threads of percussion into the room like strands of my hair stripped by the desert breeze and sent flying out the car’s open window. Brad Barr, on the guitar and vocals, reflects his brother’s intensity in his face, wrenching, twisting, fighting gravitya horror film reflection of a soul possessed by inner demons, tormented, destined to forever play music in hollow caverns where it’s widely acknowledged music doesn’t grow. Plunging into the vibration of copper threads, passionately (no strumming or plucking here), Brad kneads musical dough, that sat out overnight, back into something tangible, something rhythmic, something with a heartbeat, filling inanimates with a life of their own.
Marc Friedman on the bass stands between these two menboth pouring sweat, flying into their music, drawing it into the room from emotional depths only music speaks about accuratelycalm as can be, feeding this musical exorcism through the voluptuous beats of the bass. Marc is passionate himself, in a quiet way. He smiles like the neighbor kid, steeped in talent, who wanders over and thinks, “Neat, that looks like fun,” picks up a bass and starts playing solid, rich rhythms, reflecting easy joy all the while.
Songs from their new album, Eisenhower, dominate the set. There are more harmony vocals and Brad’s voice sounds better than I’ve heard before at a live show. The twisted consciousness of their lyrics tell stories on waves of heart-oriented, pop-poetry, hard rock explorations. There’s an emotional thread to this music that makes me feel, not good or bad, just feelI want to cry and laugh at a tragic joke told just out of my earshot. They paint both sides of the spectrum in sound: fun, passionate, intense, drawn-out and life-sapping all at once. I love the mix: a knife in the heart to the soundtrack of an approaching ice cream truck. The heaviest lyrics ride high-energy, upbeat rhythms blended into a lyrical Mardi Grasdancing emotional wreckage in a joyful wave over the earth, toes deep in the mud. “I Hate Love,” for example, not on the album but similar in tone, and one of my favorite songs of the night, should, as the title suggests, guarantee a one-way ticket to a night on the couch but, its sweet upbeat melody could easily fool any love struck music aficionado into accepting it as flowers and candy.
The Slip blend standard instruments with electric tools, tweaking sound into new layers. Andrew taps a triangle, a wood block, a cowbell, all very adept at disguising themselves as short rubber bars on a drum machine set-up like an extra conga at the drumset’s edge. Brad plays various tools and toys against the strings of his guitar, creating theremin-like echoes and wails. A glowing, green-eyed, severed doll-head joystick screeches into the room, channeling bleeps and wails from a collective grave of dead Atari’s crying out from old basements and garbage heaps. Marc plays a conical metal shaker against the frets of his bass, introducing various forms, mediums and depths of sound to one another in a textural orgy. A tambourine bounces off a bright yellow shaker, both drawn and perplexed by the other’s unstable vibrations. Andrew plays a guitar with his drumstick tapping the frets where his fingers showed them how a moment ago. No object’s resume is too thin to discount it as potential music here. A slow howl rises. I look to the men on stage. No open mouths. No voices whatsoever. It must be an instrument, screaming, wildthey’ve broken too many rules to expect their tools to obey now.
Brad holds both hands on the arm of his guitar. The top hand makes chords. The bottom teases the threads at both ends, pinching them gently, briskly, snapping the strings like a wet towel across a locker room bare ass. The guitar blips and squeals, unaware it contained that sort of voice. Red-pink dances across Andrew’s cymbals like reflections on a bleeding glacial lake. Puffy white tufts at the end of his drumsticks entice sound into the room, shaking breadcrumbs in front of a flock of geese that take flight, suddenlyrunning across the lake all at once then filling the sky. They play interesting, awkward sounds intentionally, open and slow, again and again. To the virgin ear it could easily sound like a mistake (a slip-up if you will) but then they stay there; in that moment before dark, after sunset, not sure which way it’s gonna go, playing in the mud after slipping in the pit.
The majority of this crowd isn’t listening. They’re chatting, missing three men on stage playing in the imprint of music hanging in the air, implied beats, clear as day without a hand to clap them out. I hold my breath and listen to the broken momentum magnified. They don’t hide behind the music; they use it. They express something you don’t read about in papers or see on the screen. It’s strong, and real and I still feel it. It keeps me up at nights: my inner demons chattering at all hours now that The Slip’s inspired them to come out of hiding and speak their minds.