by Eric Sandy
Hearing that Slint would be coming to Cleveland in 2014 was a jarring experience. I had devoured the band's two seminal albums throughout college, often accenting lazy afternoons with their jangly melodies and capping late nights in Athens, Ohio, with journeys into the quarry. I never really entertained the idea that they might tour again.
Rapid-fire snippets of 80s rock and AM radio greeted me as I walked in and ordered a couple beers. The place was pretty packed. Eventually, the band quietly got onstage and began setting up their pedals and tapping odd notes along the necks of their guitars. Of course, they looked older. It's been 20 years! But we all soon found out that, in fact, very little time had passed. While each of these musicians had gone on to do all sorts of stuff, they've slipped back into the world of Slint with relative ease, it seemed to us plebeians in the crowd.
After a brooding and introductory "For Dinner..." the band launched into the opening notes of "Breadcrumb Trail." The audience cheered in recognition. And deservedly so. "Breadcrumb Trail," the opening track to 1991's Spiderland (original studio track embedded below), is one of Slint's masterpieces.
I'm not sure what went down during soundcheck, but Brian McMahan's mic was turned *way* down low. I mean, his vocals are atmospherically diminished on the album, but the first verse of "Breadcrumb Trails" last night was almost nonexistent. And it's a great dose of scene-setting! When McMahan hit "I asked her if she'd rather go on a roller-coaster instead" his mic had finally cranked up a bit.
The musical highlight came during "Glenn," an eerie instrumental from the band's self-titled EP. Drummer Britt Walford, who took the MVP crown for the night, held down the rhythm with mind-bending tightness. I'm often wary of bands that replicate their studio stuff with such precision in the live setting (let the songs bloom, dammit!), but that impeccable recall of Spiderland material in particular was what we had all come for.
The climax of the evening, "Good Morning, Captain" (likewise embedded below), was every bit as cathartic as its studio counterpart. After the guys ran through the Tweez-opening "Ron" (notably without McMahan's hilarious in-studio banter with producer Steve Albini; couldn't he have tossed those famous lines into the live version?), they launched into the finale's beloved bass line. Like the rest of the show, the band simply nailed this tune. And the build-up to the song's mountainous final lines was immense.
"I MISS YOU!"
For whatever it's worth and for quite a long time, I always heard McMahan screaming "I'M IN HELL!" at the beginning of that run of lyrics.
I don't know. Maybe he was.
The song is incredible. It mesmerizes me every time I listen to it, and getting to hear the band perform it live was unreal.