Live review: Ancestors, Grayceon at Relax Bar, February 2.


On record, Grayceon sound like a Renaissance folk group. Plant the Frisco trio onstage and crank the volume, and they sound like a metal band. They’re both, but I like the metal band better.

Yeah, that’s a cello to which Jackie Perez Gratz (also of Giant Squid) is administering long bowstrokes. And verily, the material does hearken to dayes of olde -- a waltzing sea chantey; a folk dirge switching off with a whirling Jewish wedding dance; a courtly ballade. Lotta lutelike counterpoint/harmony between the cello and Max Doyle’s guitar.

Can’t help but notice, though, that this shit is freakin’ loud, and that Doyle is banging his head like a triphammer to the none-too-dainty sticksmanship of Zack Farwell, a lad who clearly digs his Bonham. The Zep connection is maybe most instructive; lean back and let the waves of distortion massage yer pancreas, and in a minute you’ll be slipping over the hills and far away. (Couldn’t hear much of the vox, which may’ve been for the best.) Grayceon is a band with a vision, original.

L.A.’s the Ancestors, on the other paw, aspire not to novelty -- they’re stoner rock, plain & simple (also good).

Hmm, where’s that organ sound coming from? Turns out that keysman J. Christopher Watkins and sound processor Chico Foley have secreted themselves in a side booth to avoid competing with the other three Ancestors for the stage space, a.k.a. a nine-foot square of the floor. The duo’s contribution is key to a factor that marks the best bong-huffin’ outfits, namely the physical thickness of the atmosphere. While guitarist Justin Maranga displays a canny compositional edge to his wah-bent solo-perpetuo, and bassist Nick Long and drummer Brandon Pierce keep up a worthy slog, it’s the Watkins/Foley input that enables the music’s ever-building bigness and adds a distinctive fog of harmonic ambiguity. Ancestors’ debut album, “Neptune With Fire,” arrives Tuesday.

Another attribute that marks even the best stonerockers, unfortunately, is an eventual ennui-inducing proclivity exercised upon listeners who have not primed their pulmonary regions or at least gulped a few brews. And this being an early show (Grayceon went on at 5:30, Ancestors 6:30), there was diminished likelihood of proper prep.

Management need not have bothered with the all-ages thing this time; there wasn’t a soul who looked under 23. But the idea of earlier shows here is great.

Much to my regret, I had an appointment with a prospective liver donor and could not stay for the hard-thudding gush of the Seattle band Lesbian. Next time.