October 16th, 2004 was the final night in a three-city solo excursion I made to see The Slip, The Slip, and The Slip (and Stephen Franke x 2). My artist management mini-career had recently shattered to bits and I think I jumped on this run more out of habit than anything, although I did/do really like The Slip. Certainly three consecutive nights seeing live music amongst crowds of friendly high-fiving acquaintances in the heart of neroland was an attractive endeavour, especially considering I wasn’t actually “working” any of the shows and was thus free to get my woo! on.
Which is probably why I don’t remember much about these shows, though I do recall that touring in my Honda Accord – lovely as a car as it was, and it was – did not compare to touring in the band’s old decommissioned OC Transpo handicapped bus that we self-converted into a sleeping/driving/jamming/woo! ghetto apartment on wheels. But alas, we had lost the nerobus to Ontario’s short-lived anti-emission rules a year or more before, which in the final analysis was probably a big (albeit indirect) reason why the band had unbanded. Regardless, I don’t recall with 100% accuracy but I’m quite sure I never saw the inside of a hotel room on this run. I suspect my nero-ness was still fresh enough to warrant ample couch space.
Anyway, I won’t get directly to the show in question because I really can’t recall much about it at all, aside from a moving snapshot in my mind of watching the band from the back half of the bar through obstructed sightlines. Funny, I figured that I’d been to Cafe Campus several times but I just checked and it looks like this was my only time seeing a band there (other than a possible nero show or two, but I recall most of their Montreal plays happening at Le Swimming) so yeah, the band I can almost see in my mind-photo is nearly certainly The Slip.
Unfortunately my brain is playing a silent reel so I can’t report on how the show sounded, and with The Slip it kinda could’ve gone either way. The band was pretty consistently on fire in a musical sense, but back then vocalist Brad Barr was still finding his chops. His voice was very hit-or-miss during The Slip days; when he was hitting he was hitting hard and when he was missing, well…
I mean, I have one of their live albums where Brad’s voice croaks worse than a rusty toad. And this is on an official release!
But from where I sit right now, having the benefit of knowing the hit-and-hit vocal consistency Brad has with The Barr Brothers and the respect and success he and his new band has received as a result, well, it gives me hope. For if ever there was a vocalist with a tendency towards missing it’s me, and it’s encouraging to see a real-live example of how good things can get with enough practise.
Actually, my good friend Doug (of The John Henrys and more) is a fantastic example of exactly this. When we first met we were both firmly amongst the vocally-challenged and after working (and working and working) at it Doug gradually turned into a hell of a vocalist right before my very ears. Now he’s such a good singer that most people would swear he was born with it.
So I needn’t have to look towards Brad Barr. I just need to practise.