Slide (band, 1990's)

Slide in 1998. Photo: Corinne Schippert
Slide in 1998. Photo: Corinne Schippert

Slide (1993-2000), was a neo-Americana/roots bands active in the 1990s, based in the Boston area. They were contemporaries of Wilco, Ray Mason Band, Charlie Chesterman & the Motorbikes, etc. Slide was noted in Rolling Stone Magazine and shared a Billboard cover story with Wilco. Like many of their contempories, Slide was influenced by both blues rock and by punk rock, however Slide was also heavily influenced by New Orleans rhythm & blues music, as well as electronica.

Slide's distinctive punk-era raggedness and irreverence, mixed with strong musicianship, was a differentiator. In general their music and performances were eclectic, and often unpredictable.

Slide was formed in 1993 following the end of Boston-based 3rd Estate, a sprawling funk/afro-pop band formed by Shaun Wolf Wortis and Suzi Lee. Wortis and Lee had a romantic relationship during the time of both 3rd Estate and Slide. 3rd Estate had toured extensively and Wortis and Lee were looking for a smaller group and a new focus on American roots beyond funk and dance music.

Instrumentation

Shaun Wolf Wortis was the band's primary singer, although all band members sang. A combination of gritty "roots" instrumentation, mixed with electronics, was the defining sound of much of the band's career.

Suzi Lee initially played a modified C-3 Hammond organ with Leslie, but later switched to a custom built MIDI accordion which could switch between mic'd accordion and a Roland synthesizer, occasionally through a Ampeg flip-top amp.

Dimitri Fane played either a 70's Jazz bass or an 8-string Hagstrom bass through Ampeg amps.

Ken Schopf played a Rogers kit with lots of hanging rattles and things.

Shaun Wolf Wortis often played a hand-built Strat copy, or a 60's Danelectro, usually through a 1970's Marshall combo, although he used a wide variety of amps (his experience of being electrocuted while attempting to fix a 60's Ampeg amp is chronicled in the song "Sugar Fuzz" from 1998's "Whipdang!")

Slide live

In Somerville, Massachusetts they became the de-facto house band at Joe Hernon's Kirkland Cafe on Washington Street. The scene at the Kirkland Cafe was rag-tag and very eclectic, in sharp contrast to the better-known but more mainstream scene at the Middle East Cafe. The Kirkland Cafe gave Slide a springboard for a strong local following. They'd tour the United States and at times work with Deborah Klein, best know for managing Morphine.

Live, Slide was often determined—for better or worse—to surprise their audience. There was often great emphasis on improvisation—not as a "jam-band" with extended solos, but rather with the entire structure of any song possibly shifting radically mid-song.

The emphasis on surprising their audience would lead to the "Mardi Gras Ball" and other 'theme' nights (including one particularly strange event where they brought out Bingo cards and had the audience play Bingo, only to be interupted by a pantomime struggle entitled "Monkey Fights Bear", set to Aram Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance").

Discography

Slide independently released three recordings, all recorded with Grammy Award-winning engineer Ducky Carlisle.

1997's "Forgiving Buckner" was one of the original "neo roots rock" albums of the 1990's. It blended 60's and 70's rock with punk energy and irreverence. "Forgiving Buckner" captured the interest of the sports media, particularly that of famed baseball writer Peter Gammons. The band were featured—along with Johnny Ramone and Bruce Hornsby—in a Gammons ESPN piece on rock and roll and baseball. Sports Illustrated also featured the band.

1998's "Whipdang!" was widely praised in reviews and was possibly their most complete recording. An eclectic stew of roots, pop, electronica, and featuring a cameo appearance from Screaming Jay Hawkins.

2000's "Pulling Teeth" was a dark and haunting effort, as the band tried to cope with collapsing personal relationships and growing disillusionment about the music business.

Breakup

After flirting with various major labels, extended touring, and various personal disruptions, the band broke up in 2000.

That year "Mudslide", featuring Wortis, Lee, Rich Gilbert on second guitar, Rich Cortese on bass, and Ducky Carlisle on drums appeared at Peter Gammon's first-ever "Hot Stove, Cool Music" benefit concert at Boston's Paradise Music Hall, playing Slide material.

The original Slide reunited to play various Mardi Gras Balls—a tradition Wortis and Lee and then Wortis alone continues to this day—as well as a short set in a benefit to help long-time friend and journalist Lexi Khan.

Shaun Wolf Wortis, Ken Schopf, and Suzi Lee continue to be active in the Boston scene. Lee performs occasionally with husband French blues guitarist Bertrand Laurence. Schopf and Wortis have recently started a new duo Bearmonster. Dimitri Fane has retired from active music and lives in Australia.

Personnel

Some press