To jam or not to jam

The Slip, the Paradise, February 23, 2007
By CAITLIN E. CURRAN  |  February 27, 2007
The Slip

There were two distinct types in the crowd for the Slip’s sold-out show at the Paradise last Friday: those who have hazy memories of dancing to a Slip show outside at some festival in Vermont, and those gamers who discovered the Slip by playing Guitar Hero, which features “Even Rats.” In both cases, the Slip owe their good fortune to being a Boston band with chops — which places them in the heart of a jam-band scene that dates back to Phish’s big breakthrough in the ’90s and also puts them in the backyard of the company that developed Guitar Hero, Cambridge’s Harmonix Music Systems.

The trio chatted and drank their way through a loose set, almost a backdrop to the drama unfolding among groups of bantering friends clumped among the crowd. They didn’t seem ready or even willing to enter the slick world of Guitar Hero-ics. Long before the video game came along, the Slip had made a name for themselves as jazzy, experimental jammers, happy to tour relentlessly, known for their dynamic live performances. Most of their releases have been live recordings. And a good number of their songs are long, winding instrumentals that can reach the 10-minute mark. So expectations were high at the Paradise.

But the this is a trio in transition: November’s Eisenhower (Bar/None), their first studio album in five years, marked a turn away from jamming and toward verse-chorus-verse alterna-pop. Their set stuck mostly to tunes from the new album, and they didn’t seem quite sure how to handle the new material — to jam or not to jam. Guitarist Brad Barr was, as always, spot-on with his fleet-fingered solos. And everything did come sharply together for “Even Rats.” Ah, the power of Guitar Hero.

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