I feel like I got Borat-ed by The Slip. They went on and on in our interview about how much they don’t want to be plopped in with the rest of the jam band scene — how, sure, they used to do experimental jazz “back in the old days” but that now their music is much more structured and melody-dependent. A listen through their new CD, Eisenhower, and you (almost) believe they could be a next-generation indie band.
But last night… well… they sure sounded like a jam band to me. I was expecting to hear tight, structured renditions of songs from the new album. Instead, The Slip launched their set with four acoustic numbers, none of which I recognized, then went right into an electric set that featured lots of wild, experimental sound collages, jazzy interludes and an extra helping of long-form solos — i.e., jams. When they finally got around to playing their pop opus “Children of December” the song was so all-over-the-place that it was tough to recognize.
There’s no denying that these guys are first-class musicians. It was some of the best instrumentation I’ve heard in a long, long time — throaty, precise drums, intricate guitar and spider-hand bass. But the basic underlying structure seemed designed only to allow for the musicians to pull away from standard songcraft (especially on the rock songs). So while, yes, they played well, their songs were hidden somewhere in a cloud of noodling.
The only time they came close to sounding like an indie band was on “Airplane/Primitive,” but even that was marred by a number of improvisational gymnastics that would have been more at home at a groove festival. Missing were some of the more gorgeous ballads from the new album, including “If One of Us Should Fall.” Why skip it? The only thing I can think of was that frontman Brad Barr was uncertain about his vocals, though he clearly had the chops last night on the acoustic numbers (including a new song that reminded me of classic ’70s folk rock tune). Or maybe they were catering to the tiny crowd of 40. Just to add fuel to the jam-band fire, they encored with two instrumentals — one featuring drummer Marc Friedman playing a home-made PVC-pipe percussion device that made hollowed notes when pounded with flip-flops Blue Man Group-style. Bonnaroo here they come.
We’re having some serious technical difficulties around the Lazy-i servers these days, which is why there was no update or column yesterday. Look for Column 101 tomorrow morning if I can get the FTP transfer mumbo-jumbo figured out. Thanks for your patience.
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