The Slip: Seeing Double Playing Triple (Relix Revisited)
Tonight The Slip, which comprises 3/5 of Surprise Me Mr. Davis will perform in Fall River, MA in lieu of the five piece due to weather-related travel issues. Here is a look back to a feature on the group in the December-January 2004 issue of Relix.
Brad Barr is a rabbit. The Chinese Zodiac sign for people born in year 1975, rabbits are said to have talent and compassion and to seek tranquility. That describes Brad Barr alright—these traits are his defining qualities. Real, non-zodiac rabbits are also known to have an uncanny sense of smell. That might explain Brad’s nose for song. He smells melody. He sniffs it. He snorts it, lets it trickle down his throat like the drip from the coveted crema of espresso, and then lovingly shares it with the world by exhaling it through his hands, letting his fingertips find their places on his guitar and the rhymes line themselves up on his lips.
In conversation, Barr is usually relaxed and attentive. His thoughtfulness is a reflection of his willingness to participate in the moment, every moment, and although he is articulate and conversant, he has the gift of listening more than talking. Except in interviews, of course, where he’s expected to say more. Even then, his tangents are developed carefully, unraveling in fragments and run-on sentences in much the same way that his guitar playing digests a song and then elaborates.
His guitar solos never sound like solos; they sound more like contributive teamwork, as he and his bandmates—brother Andrew Barr (drums) and Marc Friedman (bass)—create clear-eyed and uncluttered mosaics of sound. The Slip’s music is undeniably jazz in both attitude and implementation, but it is no more afraid to rock out than it is to go nearly silent for minutes on end with only a few sparse notes sustaining it.
All three musicians are intuitive improvisers with a group mind. This creates an ideal dynamic for the trio, as one of them at any time holds down the fort while the other two playfully run off together, sometimes for peeks-around-the-corner and other times for longer, wilder adventures. Through it all, the music remains tasteful at every turn—rarely is there a note that’s not meaningful, rarely is an effect used carelessly. The Slip’s music is pure, created by pure musicians with pure intent and pure purpose.
It is music that has grown gracefully into adulthood and which is the natural result of its own adolescence. When Friedman and the Barr brothers first moved to Boston in 1995, to attend Berklee College of Music, they felt rootless and aloof from the Boston scene. Unfulfilled by the college curriculum, and untied to the city, Brad was riding the subway one day when he overheard two people having a conversation about their house get-togethers. Thursday nights they served coffee and tea and had drum circles and poetry readings and whatever else people wanted. Intrigued, Brad introduced himself and asked, “What’s this all about?” Before long, The Slip started performing regularly in the basement of what became known as the “Red House”—but more than that, the three of them found friends, like-minded artists, and a community in which they belonged.
“Those shows didn’t feel like Slip shows at all,” remembers Brad. “We were really just being contributors to this beautiful little space that came up, and I thank god for that, just because it was what I longed for and what I think Andrew and Marc longed for too. It was a womb and it gave birth to a lot of the freedom that we came to nurture over all these years, because everyone was really open to whatever we wanted to do—like extend the song or play for a long time.”
That nurtured freedom (and the band’s insistence on using it) has been the basis for so much of their appeal. The Slip’s long, improvisational jams are the focal point of their live shows and a primary reason why the jamband audience has embraced the band so adoringly over the past seven years. But because the group is resolved to remain pure and sincere and honest and true, some listeners may be a little surprised by the release of Live at Club Helsinki, one of the two new live albums The Slip released this fall.
“Everybody seems to think they know what The Slip is about,” explains Brad cautiously, “but really for us it’s always a rediscovery. So we said to ourselves, ‘Let’s put out this record just to remind people that it is still undefined as of yet.’ We still have all of these different colors and sides we’re trying to work with.”
Live at Club Helsinki is a side that many casual fans didn’t even know existed: The Slip Unplugged. Not just acoustic, but improvisationally stripped down as well, Helsinki is a collaboration of campfire songs that are as accessible as they are beautiful. Featuring traditional songwriting, classic storytelling, and melodies that dance on the tongue, these songs belong in the same songbooks as those of Paul Simon, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan. Recorded live—at a tea-cup sized venue in a cupboard-sized town—the album is entirely different from anything The Slip has ever released before.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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