Keep coming back

Singer Edie Brickelland some old Bohemians Slip into something viable

Edie teeters on one foot, streaming consciousness. Kenny noodles a spacey jam while John pings a cymbal here, a cowbell there, tom-tomming a slippery polyrhythmic groove. Slinky, sweaty old-school Boheads--Adina (but no Christina?), Amanda, Mark and Sherry, Kim and Brenda--pack a Club Dada sardine can; even "Grateful" Dave Moynihan, even "Chate" ("rhymes with 'hate'") sway to the hypnotic vibe.

This is not 1985. It's not the Summer of Ecstasy, although a flashback would be less surreal.

And this is not the New Bohemians.

Desperately trying to get you off my mind
but ya keep coming back
Love's never easy to lose my friend
--Edie Brickell and New Bohemians
"Keep Coming Back"
Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars, 1988

Breaking an extended hiatus, former New Bohemians Edie Brickell, Kenny Withrow, and John Bush are working together in a new band called the Slip. Singer Brickell, guitarist Withrow, Bohemian percussionist-turned-Slip drummer Bush, and bass player Scott Johnson debuted here in March; returned with newest member Zac Baird (keyboards) in June; and recently performed in Seattle. The band currently is in New York City recording for Geffen Records, and tickets are on sale for a return engagement at The Majestic Theatre October 17.

The March 9 performance at Club Dada was Brickell's first with her bandmates since an unremarkable one-off two-night New Bohemians reunion and benefit in 1994 at Trees. The two clubs face each other catty-corner across Elm Street in Deep Ellum, a one-time blues mecca (the national historic landmark Majestic was a cornerstone) whose 1980s resurgence as an arts center can be partially attributed to the Bohemians. The loose-limbed jam band and its inventive singer attracted a cultlike hometown following--tapers, homemade-shirt sellers, and an extended family of generously tie-dyed fans, many of whom attended several Bo-ins a week--before being signed to and generally sanitized by Geffen in 1987.

The quirky surprise No. 1 hit "What I Am" on Rubberbands, performed in large measure by studio musicians, shot a restructured and renamed "Edie Brickell and..." to pop superstardom. After the lesser success of the more organic sleeper, Ghost of a Dog (1990), and a second brief bout of touring--including some shows with Bob Dylan and the Bo-aligned Grateful Dead--Brickell married fellow star Paul Simon and relocated to Manhattan; the remaining Bohemians moved to Seattle, essentially leaving hometown fans estranged until now.

Geffen released Brickell's adult contemporary solo album, Picture Perfect Morning, co-produced by Simon, in 1994. While it contains some exceptional songs--the upbeat "Tomorrow Comes," the piano-bar blues "Stay Awhile"--the work is disjunct, with disparate guest performances by Barry White, Aaron Neville, Dr. John, and others. (A digital version of the 2-year-old album's video for its soul-pop single "Good Times" oddly is shipping with all new Windows95 software.) New Bo spinoff Critters Buggin appears on last year's avant-jazz hard listen, Guest, on Sony/Loose Groove.

I was predictable/You saw me run away
Long before I hit the door you were afraid...
But you were good to me
and so you turn me 'round
I defended you/and then you put me down...
And it's unnatural/You always move away
Why do you come if you won't let me say
what I wanna say?
Who made our dreams?
--unidentified improv
The Slip
Club Dada, 1996

At the March Dada show, the Slip unveiled a handful of catchy new danceables--the seductive "Magazine" ("Hear it from the lips/of the girl on the magazeeeeene") and the jump-country buffalo-slaughter lament "1873" ("...was a very bad year for me")--before recessing to the club's Far Bar, joining the many longtime fans who spent the better part of the evening reminiscing out of Slipshot. ("No one can fill a guest list like the Bohemians," doorman John "Beard" Brewer would later remark about the 200-plus freebies that evening.) After a long break, an extended freeform--led by Withrow's signature arpeggios and Brickell's multi-entendres--was followed by a replay of the first set.

Though little more than an onstage rehearsal, the performance unleashed the long-dormant Bohemians' trademark improvisation. Bush's delicate approach to drumset is sometimes tenuous but more often expansive, as in the syncopated "Shenandoah" ("So much resistance to the real thing"). With one less drummer the band's sound is unified and uncluttered. Johnson plays fitting lo-fi bass and harmonizes well with Brickell, who sings with developing confidence, strongest on bluesy numbers like "Reason" ("I can't reason you away...You knock me to my knees"). Johnson, who fronted Cosmic Chimp and played in Grateful Dead cover band The Dead Thang before relocating to Seattle, had only three days to prepare for the concert.

Brickell would be turning 30 the next day (March 10). "That's what this is all about," she said of the "one-time thing" during the break. "I had to get it out of my system."

But now "the cat's out of the bag," says Withrow. "We're considering this a new band."

Withrow and Bush had been traveling from Seattle to New York to write and rehearse with Brickell at the unoccupied home of Spin Doctors drummer and Dallas native Aaron Comess, who often is away on tour. "There was a drumset there, so we were writing like that," says Withrow, "guitar, drums, and vocals, which is great because you don't have any constraints, and when we get on a roll, Edie can improv in song form. It just grew organically in that direction."

The Slip will continue to practice and perform here--"kind of a screwed-up way to do it," says Withrow. But in the band's one-time hometown, Brickell's mother can babysit the singer's two children--son Adrian Edward and daughter Lulu--and the band easily can get gigs.

The Slip performed two full sets June 7 and 8 on Dada's moonlit patio to more-attentive nightcrawlers in full wriggle, flawlessly executing more than a dozen new songs and a few covers, including a lighthearted rendition of War's "Cisco Kid" that Friday; and the Marcels/Elvis hit "Blue Moon" and Martha and the Vandellas' "Heat Wave" Saturday. Withrow was particularly fluid, and Baird--who this year quit Texpatriot-to-Kansas funk band Billy Goat--was soulful and subtle.

"Thanks ya'll for being here," an elated Brickell said midset Saturday. "We're trying to get it together with all these new songs, working through 'em and playing 'em...and being very unprofessional...but it feels very good."

Brickell also performed some solo material, like the thoughtful "Lost in the Moment" from Picture Perfect, and a few romantic duets with Withrow.

For set-closing jams, the Slip was joined Friday by the Spin Doctors (who headlined Starplex earlier that evening); and Saturday by original Bohemian drummer Brandon Aly, a conga-heavy rumble to which Brickell gave...the slip--retiring before the instrumental's raucous peak.

She's not mad/She's quiet
She's not quiet/She's just afraid
Nothin' to say/Shy
Must I always be afraid
of what my heart feels?
Must I always feel the pain/never to reveal?
Nothin' to say
--"Shy"
The Slip

"It was one of the coolest experiences of my life," says Audra Smith--a member of the online Edie Brickell Mailing List (www.crl.com/~phantom/edie/edie.html)--of the two Slip performances she attended in Seattle August 28.

"The first show was at Gasworks Park, which is filled with old metal equipment. It was on a makeshift stage in front of an open-air building. I assumed there would be armed guards around [Brickell]," says the *XX**-year-old college student who had never before seen the former Bohemians perform. "I was wrong. I just walked backstage. I saw a small group of people just talking casually...[Brickell] was wearing a red T-shirt and Levis with some funky Birkenstock-looking straw shoes and white socks. She wasn't wearing any makeup, and her hair looked like she had just washed it and let it air-dry. I was quite surprised by what a petite person she is.

Audra felt awkward asking for Brickell's autograph. "I said, 'I feel kind of cheesy...,' and she said, 'I understand.' [Brickell] had a more drawly voice than I thought she would," but her singing "was the best thing I had ever heard.

"The night show was at the OK Hotel," Audra recounts. "The place was very hot and there were no chairs--well, about three. It was pretty uncomfortable, but the Slip came on and it was OK for a while. They played...more new ones and a couple of old ones: 'Ghost of a Dog' and 'Forgiven,' which they said they hadn't played in about five years. I left quite fulfilled.

"Here's a little bonus ditty that Edie sang between songs," Audra relates. "'I'm a pair of pants; can't keep my mouth shut. Your butt is my brain.' Whatever."

Why don't you come up
you could stay for an hour?
And if you come up
you could stay for the whole night through
Baby, if you want/you could just take a shower
Do just what you want,
baby, do what you wanna do
--"Magazine"
The Slip

Proceeds from the $21 tickets to the Slip performance at the Majestic Theatre (which, this being the real world, is being billed as Edie Brickell and the Slip) will benefit Little Folks School, a 43-year-old nonprofit in southeast Dallas that provides childcare services to low-income families. The balcony will be closed and only 1,000 tickets sold for the gala affair. Says Little Folks development director Sally Fay, "One of our selling points [to Brickell] was the intimacy." Boheads and Slippers can "expect an eclectic evening...in a cozy ambiance."

All Slip songs identified by working titles transcribed from a recent set list

The Slip performs Thursday, October 17, at The Majestic Theatre. Comedy troupe 4 out of 5 Doctors opens.

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