A Bebop Way of Knowledge 

The Gris Gris go Mile High


Oaklander Greg Ashley (of last year's sublime solo album, Medicine Fuck Dream, and this year's hot new tripped-out combo, the Gris Gris) moved here from Texas two years ago, and his music has a bluesy, psychedelic sensibility. So, of course, the music press can't use his name without typing "Roky Erickson" somewhere very close by. The 23-year-old Ashley thinks it stems from the original one-sheet sent out by his label, Birdman. "I mean, I like the Thirteenth Floor Elevators," he says, "and I've definitely taken some stuff from that." But the music on both his 2003 solo record and the Gris Gris' new self-titled disc takes cues from many other stops on the garage-rock road trip. "Necessary Separation" is straight-up, Nuggets-style boogie, and "Best Regards" is highest-grade, slow-spun psychedelia, with radio frequency buzzes dipping in and out of an Eastern-inspired, almost Church-y intro. The album's final track, "Winter Weather," comes off like a tranquilized parody of Beach Boys-style sunny pop, guitar strings popping like mosquitoes. And then there's "Me Queda um Bejou" (an extremely rough Portuguese translation of "I want a kiss"), which rises swervingly from a simple guitar strum and drum beat into an alien space freakout in such a way that, when the guitar and drum come out the other side, they seem achingly beautiful. When the clatter rises again, it has pots-and-pans percussion to join the battle, and when that drops out again, there's piano added to the mix. So what will win -- chaos or simple beauty? And does it really matter when there's so much reverb, it sounds as if they're playing inside a giant, mirror-lined can some yards away -- the aural equivalent of Vaseline on the lens when shooting an aging actress?

See the band up close and personal this Saturday at the Mile High Club, 3629 MLK Jr. Way, Oakland, with Bart Davenport, Sam Flax Keener, and Willow Willow. 9 p.m., $6. 510-654-4549 or OaklandMileHigh.com. Gris Gris also plays Kitchen Sink magazine's release party Friday (8 p.m.) at Pegasus Books in downtown Berkeley. -- Stefanie Kalem


Lit Happens

Wild About Larry

Sex at the St. Francis Hotel sparked a scandal that sank Fatty Arbuckle's career in 1921, after a starlet with whom the big screen comic dallied died. Racy enough in real life, it has now been configured into, of all things, a first-person faux memoir by Jerry Stahl, who's at Barnes & Noble Emeryville (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... Buddhism and the Twelve Steps, like peanut butter and chocolate, are a winning team, as ex-boozer Kevin Griffin reveals in his mindfulness manual One Breath at a Time. Addicts of all kinds are welcome to join Griffin's Wednesday-night drop-in sessions at St. John's Presbyterian Church (2727 College Ave., Berkeley) (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... Beat-and-beyond icon Lawrence Ferlinghetti reads at Black Oak from Americus: Book I, the first portion of his new epic. Its ambitious topic? Just the American mind (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). ... Who says you're not Dorothea Lange or Samuel Pepys? Cut and paste your life at Scrapbooking 101 at the Berkeley Public Library's Claremont Branch (Sat., 4 p.m.). ... After two ships exploded at San Francisco Bay's Port Chicago in 1944, the surviving munitions workers who refused to resume work without improved conditions were court-martialed. Robert Allen, author of The Port Chicago Mutiny, introduces the live musical drama Port Chicago, based on this tragedy, at Oakland's African American Museum and Library (659 14th St.) (Sat., 6 p.m.). ... Ex-Chronicle reporter Julie Smith bailed for the Big Easy and a new career writing mystery novels. She reads at Cody's Telegraph from her latest, Louisiana Lament, in which a swimming pool holds the first clue: a corpse (Mon., 7:30 p.m.). ... Call it a cult or call it a port in a storm: D'Arcy Fallon lived in a seaside Christian commune as a teen in the '70s. Her memoir So Late, So Soon revisits those years and the choices she made. Ask her what she misses most at Bookshop Benicia (Tue., 7 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus


Air Berkeley

On middle-school Career Day, you don't get options like "kite wrangler," and maybe you should. But if you want to observe that art in its essential arena, head to the Berkeley Marina's Cesar E. Chavez Park this weekend for the nineteenth annual Berkeley Kite Festival and West Coast Championships , where the Berkeley Kite Wranglers will attempt to break their own Giant Creature Kite world record by flying eight 100-foot octopus kites simultaneously. This year's other highlights include giant drumming from Taiko Spirit and kites and windsocks "bigger than a house and longer than a train." For those who like their kite arts subtler, there's team kite ballet, a Japanese-style Rokkaku kite battle for the skies, and kite-powered buggy demos, plus the usual free kite-making, lessons, and candy drop, food, bounce house, and live music. Call 510-235-KITE, or visit HighlineKites.com/Berkeley_Kite_Festival for complete details.-- Stefanie Kalem


A Bebop Way of Knowledge

Greg Osby wears his St. Louis shoes to Yoshi's

Alto saxophonist Greg Osby is the next two -- no, three -- generations of bop in one. When the so-called swing revival of the early '90s was red-hot, he and a bunch of fellow New York jazz players formed M-Base, a loosely organized movement (Steve Coleman was also a member) devoted instead to playing their music of choice -- straight, cool bebop. Osby is still determinedly mining that vein of mid-20th-century sound, as heard on his two most recent Blue Note recordings, St. Louis Shoes and Public. However, his devotion to Bird and Diz didn't stop him from jamming with the Dead at their last New Year's Eve gig at the Oakland Arena. The St. Louis native, who also was reportedly inspired by his more "cerebral" work with drummer Jack DeJohnette and pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, comes to Yoshi's for a two-night stand Monday and Tuesday (8 and 10 p.m.), with a quartet featuring his latest protégés, Japanese pianist Megumi Yonezawa, bassist Matt Brewer, and drummer Eric McPherson. 510 Embarcadero West, Oakland, 510-238-9200 or Yoshis.com -- Kelly Vance


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