Slide (band, 1990's)

Slide, in 1998. Photo: Corinne Schipert

Slide (1993-2000), was a neo-Americana/roots bands active in the 1990s. They were contemporaries of Wilco, Ray Mason Band, Charlie Chesterman & the Motorbikes, etc. Slide were noted in Rolling Stone Magazine and shared a cover story with Wilco in Billboard Magazine, on the return of 'roots music'. Like many of their contempories Slide was heavily influenced by both blues rock and by 70's punk, but Slide were 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 terms 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.

Suzi Lee initially played a modified C-3 Hammond organ but later switched to a custom built MIDI accordion which could switch between mic'd accordion and a synthesizer. Electronics, combined with otherwise very "low-fi" instrumentation and arrangement, and a focus on songwriting, was probably the defining style of much of the band's career.

In Boston they became the de-facto house band at Joe Hernon's Kirkland Cafe in Somerville. The scene at the Kirkland was rag-tag and very eclectic, in sharp contrast to the better-known but considerably more mainstream scene at the Middle East Cafe in neighboring Cambridge. The Kirkland Cafe gave Slide a springboard for a strong local following. They'd tour the United States at times working with Deborah Klein, who also managed Morphine.

Live, Slide was often determined—for better or worse—to surprise, even confuse, their audience. There was often great emphasis on improvisation, not as a "jam-band" (i.e. extended solos), but 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", one of a number of such 'theme' nights (others included the Chirstmas Carol, playing all of the Clash's London Calling, and a 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").

Slide independently released three recordings, all recorded with Grammy Award-winning engineer/producer Ducky Carlisle. 1997's "Forgiving Buckner" happened to catch the fancy of the sports media, particularly Peter Gammons, and 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. 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.

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 group Bearmonster). Dimitri Fane has retired from active music and lives in Australia.


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