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November 12, 1980 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-11-12

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The Michigan Daily Wednesday, November 12, 1980 Page 7

5:00 p.m. AAQ


The Slits:

You had to be there

mean much to most of you, but if you
were at the Slits concert Monday night
at Second Chance, it probably sounds
like an invitation to dance. It's an in-
cantation, really, one meant to be
hollered at the top of one's lungs. What
it is is a sort of nonsense, gobbledygook
meant to sound "tribal," that Slit
singer Ari Up explodes with oc-
casionally before a song (and it does
sound tribal, the way Ari caterwauls
The point is simple. Like most other
parts of the Slits presentation, such
shrieks help construct a unified,
ethnicized clan that unites audience
and performer. Most everything with
the Slits is a gesture of community; the
infectious Jamaican rhythms, the way
Ari tried to explain to the audience that
just because the band had stopped
playing "the songs don't ever stop" as
long as there is an audience responding
to them, the way people were regularly
invited up on the stage. All this made
for an audience at least approaching an
unnatural level of good will. And it
made for an evening of music punched
through with gaping holes, empty sound

there for the audience to fill (for silence
is a rhythm too, as one of their songs
puts it). But most of all, it made for an
evening which the body supremely
responded to-especially the feet.
A TRIO of British women that banded
in 1977, the Slits consist of singer Ari
Up, guitarist (sometimes) Viv Alber-
tine, and bassist (sometimes) Tessa. As
they have, they say, had trouble fin-
ding a good female drummer, they
were supplemented by a male drum-
mer, as well as one who played guitar
and another who played keyboards,
flugel horn, euphonium, and .assorted
percussion things.
It was exciting, watching the Slits in-
vite the audience into the charmed cir-
cle they create when they play; it was
even more exciting, I think, to watch
the nervous faces of the Second Chance
bouncers, they who have caused such
carnage in the past, passively watching
as the group invited any and all to share
to stage with them. What keeps the Slits
invitation to rush the stage from being a
cheesy, hollow statement is the power
and friendliness of their music.
It is a sound tough and physical-the
thick bass sound of reggae music and
the ethereality of dub, where layers of
sound are constantly in motion, sculp-

ting a rich but hazy presence. Perhaps
the most important component of their
music is their inspired use of space. As
do almost nonwhites who take off from
Jamaican music, the Slits opt to leave
wide swathes of emptiness in their
songs, often having guitars and vocals
drop in and out seemingly randomly.
IT HAS BEEN written that the
vestiges of punk are to be found in all-
women groups such as the Slits and the
Raincoats-groups in which a
genuinely amateurish, unpolished ap-
proach 'is taken to matters of in-
strumental ability. And definitely, it's a
crude sound the Slits have got-that use
of space isn't just a capturing of the
hypnotic sparseness of reggae and dub,
it's a reflection of the Slits' musician-
ship. Yeah, they don't play as well as,
oh, Supertramp. But to these ears, their
music is democracy in action, noise
caught up in drama where the musician
strains against the limits of her
"Say, she sounds like a banshee
pterodactyl," someone suggested of
Ari's singing. That's about it. Although
Tessa mostly remains implacably
solemn throughout, Ari (and oc-
casionally Viv) erupts with fingernails-
on-blackboard cackles, full of glee, that

challenge the audience to howl back.
Save when Viv took the mike for a
remarkable loping, Ubu-oid flight of
fantasy, the singing was basically
relaxed. The Slits are caught up in free
rhythms and free singing, but whatever
intensity expended to achieve such
freedom came off as extraordinarily in-
fectious fun. And that's a little bit
odd-for such a liberating unit with
such a unique drive for communion
with their audience, the Slits sound
strangely non-intense.
BUT THEN, there are many ways to
sell an important approach. "In Africa,
music tends to be tied tightly to the
sociocultural events for which it is
created; without the events, the music
is not produced. . . While Westerners
tend to stress composer and song title,
Africans stress the type of song and
situation of which it is a part," writes
afro musicologist Alan Merriam. The
ways the Slits try to shut the gap bet-
ween audience and performer are
nothing new. But what's new is the con-
text-neo-tribalism-and the audien-
ce-young punks. Like the aforemen-
tioned African music, one gets the
feeling the Slits were interested in
creating an event, not music. And they
managed to make one-one not par-
ticularly meaty, but one eminently
The Slits aren't sure about a lot of the
things they do: they straddle political
material without any real fervor, they
play some non-Rasta arty stuff, they.
have a wierd pop song sensibility that
intrudes on some of the more rhythmic
music. But what they do know is that
they want to move their listener-in
both senses of the phrase. And they do.
I'll take the Slits vision of the African
aesthetic over Talking Heads' any
day-there's a lot less manipulation in-
volved and less gimmickry.
A week ago Ann Arbor saw another
trio of women take a stage, when the
Roches appeared at Power Center.
Both the Roches and the Slits wear fun-
ny clothes, they both have six legs, but
that's where the similarity ends. I'll
take the Slits' stage demeanor over the
Roches, too. When I saw the Roches, I
was seeing three suburban cutie pies,
asserting their cutie-pieness by insult-
ing the audience, wiggling their bot-
toms, babbling Steve Martinish non
sequiters, doing anything to endear
themselves to their audience. Mon-
day night at Second Chance was dif-
ferent. There was a certain'high point
of the end of a song, a moment long af-
ter a large contingent of the audience
had begun dancing on the stage. The
show was over, and there was applause
from the peopleton the dance floor, and
applause from those onstage, too. Ari
just looked at everybody who was clap-
ping as she left the stage, smiled
widely, and said, "don't clap, don't
clap!" "We should be applauding you"
was a part she didn't have to say. Even
during a pretty good term for concerts,
such moments are rare.




- ---- -


edpse RAY
and the
Special Guest:
Ernie Krivda Quartet
November 12
Wed. 8:00 p.m.
Hill Auditorium
on Sale
Box Office
Michigan Union
$8.50 7.50 6.50
reserved seats
on Sale
in Ann Arbor
Discount Records
Schoolkids Records
in Ysilanti:
Wherehouse Records
in E. Lan~inds
Discount Reco
and all CTC outlets.
For information
Call: (313) 763-2071
Management: Joe Adams
direction: Smada Artist
Management International
L.A. Calif. (213)T734-3113
design by/Jane Goldfarb



SAT., NOV. 15

No, not Maggie, Terre and Suzzy. Devoted Buddhists all, Ari, Viv and Tessa, the people who are the Slits, prepare for
their show Monday night at Second Chance. The question is, ultimately, where is Tessa's other foot? A heated seareh
later revealed it was in the small plaid valise.,

The balding, portly figure -onstage
looked more like a factory worker than
a highly respected concert artist, and
yet when Julian Bream's fingers began
their craft every ear in the audience
was commanded to listen. Hunched
over his guitar, his totally absorbed
demeanor made it clear that the
audience rarely existed for this man.
Only at the end of a piece would he
glance up and seem to be surprised by
the sudeen materialization of thousands
of cheering fans. Indeed, the over-
whelming impression that dominated
the first half of the concert was this all-
consuming concentration, the intensely
communal relationship that Julian
Bream shared with his instrument.
His first piece was the Passacaille
and Gigue in D by Weiss. Both sections
were thoughtful and tender, presented
with no discrepancies in inter-
pretation, intonation or technique. The
piece was more than well received by
the audience, but Bream's
acknowledgement of the appaluse was
stiff and formal, as if the audience were
only a very superficial part of this
BREAM'S SECOND selection was
the Bach Sonata No. 1, originally for
Violino senza Basso. Here Bream
displayed a characteristic trait: There
is no frivolity in this man's playing,
every note is placed with careful
Sprecision. The adagio was full of
emotional impact, the ravages of which
were clear on Bream's face when it was
not almost buried in the neck of the
guitar. The agonies and ecstacies of
every piece were evident on Bream's
most expressive countenance. The
fuga was an especially exciting work to
listen to: A repeated bass pattern

built and built until it culminated in a
fervent, arpeggiated climax.
In a wry moment, Bream glanced up
at the audience; but this was only a
brief acknowledgement of Bach's
humor. He then diligently returned to
his work. The siciliano was the only
section at which a prist might have
been offended. It was given a rather
Spanish flavor that was totally un-
characteristic, but very effective
nevertheless. The presto was im-
pressive if a little too controlled.
Bream's fingers flew flawlessly over
the strings with the much-sought-after
quality of effortlessness, but the urgen-
cy of the piece was obscured by the con-
stantly enforced control.
The first half of the concert ended
with the Fantasia, Op. 30, by Sor. It
began with a reiterated note surroun-

ded by various choral structures, which
evolved into a rather martial theme.
This was then elaborated upon in a
number of ways ranging from simple
block chordal treatment to brilliant
figurations and some amazing stac-
catissimo runs. In a sudden capricious
moment during a carnival-like section,
Bream elicited laughter from the
audience with the rhythmical weaving
and bobbing of his head. Even he per-
mitted himself a small smile here.
THE CONCERT resumed with
Tonadilla: La Maja de Goya by
Granados, which began with a minor-
keyed, Halloweenish type df waltz. The
piece contained a great diffusity of
things to interest the ear, from the
strange tonalities to the charming,
See BREAM, Page 5

student 1.50.
2.50, 3.50, 4.50



_ .. _,



"An Evening with
Abbie Hoffman"
NOV. 12 Michigan Theatre
8:00 P.M.
Abbie's back from the
underground to speak on

"The River."

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