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The Slits Tribute - The Echo - 1/15/12

Bratmobile's Allison Wolfe and Rainbow Arabia's Tiffany Preston
Bratmobile's Allison Wolfe and Rainbow Arabia's Tiffany Preston
Falling James

The Slips

The Slits Tribute

The Echo

1-15-12

See also: R.I.P. Ari Up of the Slits, Dead at 48

One of The Slits' earliest and most iconic songs was their 1979 single "Typical Girls," but there was never anything typical about the way the British coven infused their punk-pop ditties with subversive strains of dub and reggae.

Their lead singer, Ari Up, died of cancer in 2010. She was so distinctively charismatic and charmingly rebellious that it took a small army of atypical women from such simpatico underground bands as Rainbow Arabia, White Magic, the Sharp Ease, Bratmobile, Raw Geronimo and Vivian Girls to capture all sides of her irrepressibly mad personality at last night's tribute show at Part Time Punks at the Echo.

The Slips' Jessica Espeleta
The Slips' Jessica Espeleta

No one person could really replace Ms. Up, so members of the all-star tribute band -- calling themselves the Slips for the occasion -- traded off instruments and took turns singing lead on early Slits classics. (Unfortunately, there wasn't much heard from Trapped Animal, the Slits' promising 2009 comeback album, which was the last roar from the mighty Ari Up, who would die suddenly a year later.)

Thankfully, none of the night's stand-in divas attempted to mimic Up's notoriously garish fashion sense or unique vocal tics, preferring instead to remain in character as themselves, although Rainbow Arabia's Tiffany Preston, who started the night off with a buoyant version of "So Tough," exuded some of Up's confidence and fearless stage presence. Love as Laughter's Jessica Espeleta, who provided much of the Slips' musical backbone, switching from bass to guitar, was up next with a delightful rendition of "FM." A lot of times, these tribute shows often degenerate into campy sloppiness, but Espeleta's solidly throbbing bass lines echoed the dub-soaked intensity of the original Slits.

Laena Geronimo
Laena Geronimo

Raw Geronimo's Laena Geronimo was impressively energetic, taking the reins on "Ping Pong Affair" and "Typical Girls," as the other singers sashayed behind her in a sort of glorified Greek chorus. Bratmobile's Allison Wolfe stirred things up further with sweetly fierce takes on "Love und Romance" and "Vindictive." Later, beloved Sharp Ease mastermind Paloma Parfrey came out for even more spirited lead-vocal turns. Katy Goodman (Vivian Girls, La Sera) sang lead only once, but her version of the sarcastic ode "Shoplifting" was properly ebullient and celebratory.

 

La Sera's Katy Goodman
La Sera's Katy Goodman

One of the most moving performances came last, when White Magic's Mira Billotte cooed an intriguingly haunting version of "Earthbeat." Gathering momentum without coming off flashy, the Slips kicked into a convincingly spacey reggae trance, which came close to replicating the inexorable dub grooves of the vintage Slits. Usually, tribute shows end up sounding like little more than faint approximations of the original band, but the Slips managed to move beyond cheap nostalgia and evoked some of the Slits' genuine and bracingly adventurous passion.

Part Time Punks DJ Michael Stock told the crowd that the Slips had rehearsed for this gig for four months. It went so well that the band added a last-minute show at Harvard & Stone tonight, Monday, January 16.

Paloma Parfrey
Paloma Parfrey

Personal bias: It was hard to remain a cynic once those swaying reggae riddims shook me out of my lingering sadness over Ari Up's untimely death.

The Slips backstage after the show
The Slips backstage after the show

The crowd: Ironically, most of the kids at the show were too young to have ever seen the original Slits, but it was obvious that the band's influence has only grown over the decades, with their cheeky anthems inspiring a new generation of riot grrls and indie-pop poets.

Random notebook dump: The spirit of the evening was summed up best by Preston's admonition in "So Tough," the first song of the night: "Don't take it serious!"

See also: R.I.P. Ari Up of the Slits, Dead at 48

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