Gris Gris were responsible for one of 2004’s best albums, and their leader Greg Ashley is also partly responsible for two excellent albums by psychedelic punks the Mirrors and a superb solo effort. An awesome performance from this quartet who entirely fulfilled my expectations (based on their killer debut album).

Ottawa’s Golden Famile opened the show, and their back-porch country rock seemed to have grown an extra layer of green fuzz in anticipation of the headliners’ synapse-adjusting performance.
Ashley’s appearance is in sharp disagreement with his music; he may be the most normal-looking musician I've ever seen and could easily play Joe Average in any TV commercial. But his sound had hair down to its waist.

Sitting down with a battered black acoustic guitar, Ashley started with a sparse, plaintive sound. Singing through his heavily reverbed, crackly microphone, he sounded like some prewar folkie from a dusty 78. But the music was swiftly kicked into overdrive with the help of his well-stocked pedal board. As keyboardist Lars Kullberg did a feedback-inciting dance with a microphone and Squier amp, Ashley wrenched shards of searing distortion from his own instrument.

For a man with a reputation for playing sitting down, Ashley got around, playing his acoustic with a beer bottle, thrusting it into his amp at the end of the show, cavorting with his teardrop-shaped Vox knockoff.

The rest of the Gris Gris – recently boosted by the addition of Kullberg – provided solid support for his lysergic excursions. Bassist Oscar Michel, in addition to supplying some tasteful work on the four strings, also played wild, squawking clarinet and helped out on keyboards. Drummer Joe Haener’s steady rhythm was given extra thump from some-much-abused mallets (they were in tatters by the end of the show).

Even compared to the space rock of Black Mountain two days early, Gris Gris set a standard for one of the most psychedelic shows I’ve witnessed. The band’s tightly focused voyage to the crossroads of Texas and California psych was one I hated to see end.

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Commenting On: Babylon, Ottawa, 6/4/2005 - Gris Gris and the Golden Famile

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