There were two memorable portions of the Warlocks� stop in Seattle. One was when an eventually reduced crowd offered stale applause, awaiting a reluctantly offered encore and leading to an anonymous cry of �Come on, it�s not our fault you couldn�t sell out the venue.� The other was the band�s opener, the Gris Gris.
Most bewildering about the Gris Gris is the brain behind it, Greg Ashley. One of the band�s two Texas transplants to Oakland (the other being bass and clarinet player Oscar Michel), Ashley has made a reputation for himself as a wunderkind in his early twenties, nearly mastering the �60s-inspired, psychedelic folk-rock he�d already begun with the Mirrors on 2001�s A Green Dream. On record, Ashley has an aggressive yet innocent wail that complements each distorted thrash of his guitar. Live, he replicates the sound perfectly (as do the rest of his bandmates), but he�s misleadingly sweet-looking in a Sean Astin-via-Encino Man sort of way. Awkward? A bit. But the mismatch of soft appearance and confident musicianship work favorably toward the band�s charm. And the Gris Gris is a charming, attainable group, something that worked well to its advantage at Neumos.
Clustered on the venue�s main floor, the members allowed the crowd to gather around them in a vague circle. The audience members seemed ready to sleep, and it didn�t appear that there were any solid Gris Gris fans among them when the band opened with �Raygun� and let it melt into �Everytime� (both off 2004�s eponymous debut). Worse, the six token head-bobbers in the half-full room couldn�t compensate for the audience looking a bit lost (or entranced?) by anything played from the recently released For the Season, which contains more haphazard noise and continuous flow than its predecessor � save for the should-be sing-along �Down With Jesus,� anyway. But by the time the Gris Gris ended the set with �Necessary Separation,� the catchiest song the band members could scrounge up, the fans began popping up and screaming along to the surf-rock semi-hit�s chorus. Even the Ringo Starr look-alike with the bowl cut and bad suit. No, especially him.
What provided the most fulfilling bits of meat between the awkward moments and the rewarding ones? Perhaps when fairly new Gris Gris member Lars Kullberg abandoned his keyboard and guitar and let a microphone glide up and down a column of amps for continuous feedback, doing so as if it were a delicate instrument. Or watching Joe Haener drop several drumsticks in the course of one song, still balancing his lonely mallet on a snare from his bass-drum-free set. Maybe that Ashley didn�t speak much during the group�s performance so he could free up his mike for Michel�s clarinet. There�s not enough clarinet in today�s pop, after all.
Regardless of where the night�s highlights turned up, though, the Gris Gris didn�t prompt bitter audience banter, which � on this night � indicated success.
Prefix review: The Gris Gris [For the Season] by Chris Pacifico: http://www.prefixmag.com/reviews/cds/G/The-Gris-Gris/For-the-Season/1688
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