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The Loop

Published: 2011/08/17
by Jim Crichton

The Slip – Berkshire Mountain Music Festival 8/11/01, Newport Jazz Festival 8/12/01

We look back ten years for this review of The Slip…

The Slip returned to Berkfest for the 4th year in a row on Saturday, playing to a crowd that couldn't have gotten much bigger despite moe. playing just across the way. They were on the familiar sundeck (Showcase stage) where they had played so brilliantly almost exactly one year ago. After that show quite a few long time fans ran out of superlatives trying to put joy into words. With no band following them this night, hopes were high that they would do it again.

They opened with Munf, the first tune in their first disc, Gecko. It's not one of those softies that they sometimes use to break the ice or set the mood. Andrew did open it quietly, but the distinctive beat emerged quickly and then Marc and Brad joined in, and the air guitar aficionados had something to do with their hands as well as their feet ;) The song that followed was either Torque or Clementine (I'm almost always wrong and I think it was Torque, so it's probably the latter ;) Both were written around the same time and get played infrequently. In either case it was short and sweet and led the way to Trane-ing; Brad took the time to intro this self-written tune, paying homage to the genius of John Coltrane for opening up limitless possibilities, many of which The Slip have pursued. Brad started off with the frequency analyser, down on one knee twisting knobs, giving their soundman Sam Leonard all he can handle ;) The tune gets very fast then jumps instantly into a very Coltranesque head. Brad and Marc have their moments but Andrew always stands out in this one, teasing the cymbals and the percussion table (pots and pans missing this time) for a bit then absolutely exploding, hitting everything on his kit in 20 different sequences, seemingly.

They stopped briefly, then Andrew got out the slide whistle for Marc's old standby, Don't Foil the Mohel, a tune they had done a couple of weeks back with Skerik. It's a monster, Marc's line is mesmeric and Brad has the Spice Groove edge to his tone (Marc also wrote that one). In keeping with tradition, they broke out a new tune and invited Brian and Alex from John Brown's Body to join them with trombones. Brad had given them a quick idea beforehand and they did a terrific job tailoring it to the 'work in progress'. The lyrics were biographical, the intro music is something that has been around awhile in the Slip-Miracle Orchestra community (Leslie Helpert opened her WMRQ Jambands radio show with Half Asleep, which had a very similar sound (Geoff Scott and Andrew were backing her that night). Marc added his own unique sound, scraping the strings sonorously with the metal mushroom shaker. All in all a great collaboration that will hopefully be heard more down the road.

Moral Decay had some Honey Melon teases going on but was otherwise fairly standard. Brad is always fun to watch during this one, the timing of the finishing section is so intricate. His all out scream of Beware never fails to bring a smile. He intro'ed the band after this and then Marc started the bass line for Yellow Medicine, a tune with something like a 50 note head ;) Brad also screams during this one, but rather than a warning about the evils of modern culture, it's a beckoning to some older, wiser forces, and many of the crowd lent their vocal support. All 3 have 5 minutes or more of solo time here before they get back to the head. Brad get's first ups and was as good as ever mixing it up and bringing it back fresh. Marc was all over the place, abrasive, gentle, complex, simple, beautiful, he ran the whole gamut. Andrew seemed a bit quiet and got some help from Brad and Marc quicker than usual, Marc scraping in the realm of Wakeman on a church organ and Brad just strumming, Andrew then coming back to life in a big way. They got back to the head and finished it with another scream, this one even more soul-wrenching with the effort he puts into it.

They thought they were out of time at this point, but Sam spoke through the PA and the crowd heard him tell them that they could play as late as they wanted. Spice Groove followed, as brash as ever, Marc had it going on all night, but he had a 3 minute section early on during this one that was awesome, walking up and down the neck of the white Fender while Brad was freq'ing and Andrew just smiling and playing with his eyes closed. This hasn't been played much recently and it was a great time to dust it off. They segued smartly into Maybelline, Andrew and Brad in perfect sync as Marc vamped, right leg kicking away. It's the shortest tune they'll likely ever do, but so much fun, nice to get Chuck Berry at a festival. Brad reached for the sitar-guitar and proceeded to pick out a sweet Yesterday tease which slid sweetly into the gorgeous Cumulus, 20 minutes of sonic bliss where Brad is front and center with that distinctive sound, but Marc and Andrew are doing wonderful stuff underneath. There are quite a few versions of this with sitar-guitar but this one is right up there with the very first one, way back in '99. Nashua Roads is new, first played at the Creekside Jamboree following the Yellow Med there back in early June. It's still developing but will definitely be a big tune in the future. Brad broke a string and by the time he switched to the Alsoa guitar Marc had already teased Dogs on Bikes. Sam then let them know via the PA that they were running out of time, which almost always makes things go a little longer than usual ;) Brad teased Smoke on the Water once he was up to speed, and then went full-fledged into Dogs, a tune that doesn't allow any body parts to stay still. Marc was scraping and sliding madly and they changed speeds throughout. There was a minute or so of Just a Closer Walk With Thee, a Nawlin's favorite of theirs, then Brad dropped in some more Chuck Berry for good measure; after a while the stage manager prompted them to wrap it up and they bowed out gracefully after another couple of minutes with the crowd roaring for more.

They went from an all out, no holds barred set in the mountains of Great Barrington to a succinct, well-planned scenario among many of their heroes in stately Ft. Adams, across the water from Newport and home of the annual Jazz festival. Brad and Andrew grew up just up the road and Marc had a powerful presence as well, since the portapotties came from his hometown just across the Mass border ;) It was a misty, chilly day with hot corn baked in the husk selling well and long lines coiling out of the CD vendors booth where the artists signed their wares. Lots of nice carved driftwood, jewelry, and JVC chairs selling for $35, etc. Wayne Shorter was playing on the Fort stage at the same time that they were in the Mercedes Benz pavillion, an odd circumstance, since at last years Freihofer's Jazz fest at SPAC they had played against Herbie Hancock, both bands they would have loved to have seen themselves. It was nevertheless a packed, sit down crowd under the tent, very respectful and appreciative. They applauded Andrew after he finished a brief soundcheck; he had his eyes closed for the duration, just flicking at the pieces Sam needed to hear as he put together a wonderful exhibition. They played a trio of the same tunes, opening with Trane-ing, which fit the scene perfectly and was even tighter than the day before. Marc's So Dope was next, a bluesy number that doesn't get played nearly often enough and was for sure picked due to the setting, it's a gem. You'll Find A Home is a beautiful song very reminiscent of Georgia that Brad has imbued with Slipness. Marc had a sweet solo here, the crowd hadn't seen a bass played with a shaker before ;) Brad stopped afterward to mention that it was nice to be playing the festival rather than trying to sneak in, which had never worked since they hold it in a fort ;) Yellow Medicine came out again, a much shorter version, once again tighter than Berks, Andrew much more involved during his section, Marc again nailing his solo (he was dead perfect all day) and the section after Andrew's solo was awesome but shortened as they segued into Moral Decay. They had done their 50 minutes but were allowed an encore, which became Sorry, a Marc tune that had Sam (someone who sees them more than anybody) jumping with glee. A bit shorter than usual but a very nice way to end the set. Then they went and signed discs in the tent and darn near ran out.

8.11.01 Berkshire Mt Music Festival-Great Barrington, MA Showcase Stage
Munf, Torque, Trane-ing, Don't Foil the Mohel, untitled*, Moral Decay,
Yellow Medicine, Spice Groove, Maybelline, Yesterday intro>Cumulus, Nashua Roads#>Dogs on Bikes% *w/Brian and Alex on trombones from John Brown's Body #broke string and switched to the Alsoa guitar
%w/Smoke on the Water and Just a Closer Walk With Thee teases

8.12.01 Newport Jazz Festival-Ft. Adams, RI Mercedes Benz Pavilion
Trane-ing, So Dope, You'll Find A Home, Yellow Medicine>Moral Decay, E: Sorry

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