The Gris Gris | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Gris Gris 

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I know this makes me a philistine, but I prefer my psychedelia watered down, the way this Bay Area band plays it. Nothing against all those crazy long-haired Japanese freeks and their howling mystical vortices of interstellar guitar noise, but I've got my nerves to consider--I'm glad the Gris Gris has jumped out of that spaceship and into a hay wagon full of melancholy, tender pop. With its Vaseline-coated sound, the band's self-titled debut, released last month on Birdman, isn't vivid or harrowing enough to come off like a bad acid trip--rather it's like the spooky, whimsical dream a little kid might have if he fell asleep listening to his big brother blaring some uncut old-school psych through the bedroom wall. The atmospherics get help from homemade percussion instruments, including a couple that sound like a musical saw and a set of castanets, and here and there you'll hear a guest musician on sax or "feedback microphone." Aside from a handful of instrumentals, the songs seem written to serve the bleak, playful yarns that front man Greg Ashley spins with his wobbly voice: my favorites are "Mary #38," about a country girl who moves to the city and winds up living in a box, and "Winter Weather," about a beautiful young thing whose moods never turn warm. With Magnus and Plastic Crimewave Sound; the Civilized Age headlines. Saturday 18, 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $7.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lisa Youn.

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