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Live Review and Photos: King Khan and The Gris Gris, July 15, 2011, Echo – Los Angeles, CA

If only the southland freeways were as speedy as the weekend of the overly-hyped Carmageddon. It took half the usual drive-time to jet up to Echo Park from Orange County on a Friday night to catch this little gem of a show. Imagine that. Distracted by an impromptu geeked-out photo sesh of a spider found in the parking lot, I unfortunately just missed openers The Dead Ships. Sorry. Luckily, I strolled in just in time to catch the Orange County-based band The Cosmonauts for the first time. Aside from a little stage awkwardness I would have to say The Cosmos put on a strong showing.

Although I couldn’t quite make out any of the lyrics over their blasted guitars, I was drawn in by the band’s overall raw vibe and their simplistic approach. The Cosmonauts play a loud and hard garage-y punk style that would fit right in on the opening bill for a band like Thee Oh Sees. The drums were tom-heavy and hard-hitting, which provided a solid backbone for grime-y distorted guitars. One member was slamming on a twelve-string semi-hollow body (you do not normally see that guitar with a punk band of this nature) and I was a fan of the tone it produced. I think I saw just two pedals and one was a tuner pedal. In true punk fashion, The Cosmo’s are not screwing around with too many effects. They do it loud and proper. I respect that.

King Khan showed up next and you immediately knew things were a bit dysfunctional — in a good way. You never know what you are going to get from King Khan and this art of surprise is what makes his live act so enticing. One of the best things about King Khan is the fact that he is always involved with a plethora of musician friends, throwing together different projects on the fly to keep things fresh. On this particular night he decided to trade-off tunes with the Oakland-based band The Gris Gris (pronounced GREE GREES). Everyone anticipated the usual crazy stage antics from the eccentric Khan, but on this particular night the crowd was entertained by a more reserved and mellow side of the veteran punker.

By the end of the night, no one had been peed on. Khan did not remove his shirt. Was Khan’s typical high paced energy possibly stifled by the off-the-cuff, tit-for-tat nature of the show? Khan would lead an upbeat number and The Gris Gris would follow by leading a slower take on the previous. It was obvious this show was a bit under-rehearsed and thrown together. They did not bring their own gear. There were some amp buzzing issues the first couple songs. Once they stopped in the middle of a song and nonchalantly started over. It was a little fucked up and sloppy, however, on occasion when everything aligned, there were rare moments of that notorious wild time expected from Khan. The crowd left feeling like they got their money’s worth, having seen some moments of Khan’s manic shredding and some decent crowd surfing and stage dives. During the break just prior to the encore, I could hear the beating of the John Maus show just below at the Echoplex. Maybe I was quite lucky I was one of the few to catch this rare little get together… good times in LA.

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