Creeping Up Into the Sky: Slint at St. Andrew’s Hall

May 10, 2014
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The members of Slint took the stage as if they had stumbled upon it by accident. After settling in for a moment, drummer Britt Walford counted off the opening notes to “For Dinner…” The slow-paced, avant-jazz tune was an exercise in dynamics, sometimes being so quiet that the guitars were barely audible. Though it would seem a risky choice to open a set, there was really no song in the catalog more perfect. It communicated two very important things to the audience. First, the mix coming through the PA was immaculate, which directly influences the second point, that Slint holds musicianship high above showmanship.

Without introduction, the band dove into a two song suite off of Spiderland, “Breadcrumb Trail,” and “Nosferatu Man,” arguably their two most popular tracks. Throughout the set, Slint would play Spiderland in its entirety, but playing these two songs early was a brilliant strategy to captivate the audience. For these songs, guitarist Brian McMahan put down his instrument to handle vocal duties.

slint-spiderland

Shoved way off to stage right, with his hands stuffed into his pockets, he began the spoken word section of “Breadcrumb Trail.” When it came time for the song’s second section, something happened to McMahan. He seemingly transformed into a fiending junkie. His left hand remained firmly planted in his pocket, while with his right, he pawed at his chest in a downward motion. After lines in the song that required him to scream, he would frantically wipe his mouth with the back of his hand.

Somewhere in this section, McMahan addressed the crowd saying, “This is the first time any of us have played in Detroit to more than seven people.” The crowd laughed and clapped and that would be the extent of the banter between the band and the fans. It was clear that Slint prefers to interact through their performance rather than vocally, which no one seemed to mind.

Departing from material off of Spiderland, the band offered “Darlene” and “Glenn,” off of 1989’s Tweez and 1994’s Slint EP respectively. At this point, Slint expertly switched gears into faster, more aggressive territory before returning to the more melancholic tone of Spiderland’s material. “Glenn” was a particular moment of the show where the band exhibited just how powerful they can be. Notably, guitarist David Pajo produced a tone that was so rich in harmonic overtones that it sounded like there were four of him on stage.

One of the biggest thrills of the set came at the beginning of the second act as Walford stepped out from behind the traps and picked up a guitar for the haunting, “Don, Aman.” Accompanied by Pajo, Walford pluck out chords and told the story about Don, a sad-sack party goer. The sort of ballad was intense and intimate in its minimalism, displaying a raw, emotional side to the band that has survived for twenty-three years.

Slint capped off the set with the immense, “Good Morning, Captain,” the epic that closes Spiderland. After taking a very brief break (Seriously, it seemed like they only walked off stage long enough to be out of sight) the band returned for their encore. First, was “Pam,” a track from the Spiderland sessions that was unreleased until the album was reissued earlier this year. The frenetic song proved that the band still had some untapped aggression to let out on Detroit.

To close the night, Slint went out on the tonally optimistic and energetic “Rhoda,” a song that appears on both Tweez and the Slint EP, though the latter is a re-recorded, extended version and is closer to what the band plays live. In all of its ambition, “Rhoda” was brash, bombastic and beautiful, as if Slint had spent all night building something only to destroy it at the end, on their own terms. In a wave of feedback, the band waved to the crowd, shuffled off the stage and it was over just like that.

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