Earl Greyhound – Towson – Recher Theatre, MD – 2007-03-01

Earl Greyhound
Where: Towson – Recher Theatre, MD.

When: 2007-03-01

If 2006 was an important year for The Slip then 2007 is turning out to be even more so for the Boston based band. After finding a home last year on Bar/None and releasing Eisenhower, they now find themselves sharing stages with bands like The Police, Wilco, The Arcade Fire, Bjork, The Holy Fuck, and many more as they hit the festival circiut such as Bonaroo and Sasquatch. Before these dates they’ve headed out on a headlining tour that stopped off in Towson, Maryland’s Recher Theatre March 1st.

Last time I had been to the Recher it seemed like a much larger place. This may have been because then it was either packed to the rafters for the Guided By Voices farewell tour but this time it was due the largest kick drum I’d ever seen in my life staring me down. It belonged to opening act Earl Greyhound and it consumed the stage. Looking at it was like staring into a large void, the very existence of my being sucked out through my eyes. Unfortunately it didn’t suck out whatever part of the soul has ears. The 3 piece consisted of a 1985-era Clarence Clemmons, (complete with sleeveless shirt) pounding into that monstrosity, a Black Crowes roadie look-alike on guitar, (with some of the shiniest prettiest hair I’ve ever seen on a man, let alone one who’s been on tour,) and a female Jimi Hendrix impersonator on bass. And no, it was not Lenny Kravitz in drag. Although that would just be Macy Gray, right?

The Greyhound, (why do jam bands have the worst names? Is there some sort of jam band Wikipedia that they go through to come up with spellings and phrasing full of terrible puns?) then proceeded to do what most opening bands do which is remind the audience of their devotion to the headlining band. No song really stood out as memorable or contained any discernible hook or melody. What did work was the sharing of vocals between Mr. Pretty Hair & Ms. Hendrix, whether it was trading off or singing together. Aside from that it was textbook southern jam rock. (The first band, Arizona, I did not see but if there is any sort of hierarchy between them & Earl Greyhound, I probably didn’t miss much.)

The Slip have proved themselves as a great live band since forming over a decade ago, releasing several live albums and being able to grab the attention of My Morning Jacket’s Jim James; so much so that he personally invited them to open several dates on MMJ’s last tour. They’ve always walked the line of “great live band but they can’t replicate it on an album”, which is always tough to do for a “jam band.” But Eisenhower pretty much put that label to rest, branching out more into indie rock territory; think Built To Spill if they had attended Berklee.

Opening with “Even Rats” was a good choice, certainly drawing in the faithful, if not large, crowd. From there the performance fluctuated between the sublime and the unfortunate. The first half found singer/guitarist Brad Barr straining for notes he couldn’t quite reach. Head back and staring toward the sky as if hoping the notes would rain down, his voice warbled, but not enough to detract from the first few songs. Once his vocal chords were suitably warmed up the evening gave him more trouble as he broke about a guitars worth of stings on his many weapons of choice. This allowed for bassist Marc Freidman and drummer Andrew Barr to go into an extended instrumental jam while Brad changed a string. Friedman displayed his creative skills and locked into a good rhythm with the drums, reminiscent of electric period Miles Davis. Once Barr returned he broke into some heavy John McLaughlin type shit to really finish the song off. This is clearly a band that can fuse multiple genres into one unique sound.

Most of the set consisted of their newer material with a few old chestnuts thrown in to the great applause of the crowd. They closed out the set with a tight new number and finished the encore with an electrifying version of “Children Of December.”

On a cold rainy night The Slip showed why they’re invited at such prestigious festivals to perform for large masses. Aside from a few minor glitches that can easily happen to anyone at any time, the show was as exciting and ambitious as one can expect.