Expect the band to supply sludge.
  • Expect the band to supply sludge.
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Right about the point when you’re thinking this is a band that should have never left the garage, Grails delivers. The band has a sound that is its own: in this case, nuanced, shadowy, ominous layers of rock and roll music that is greater than the sum of its parts. Not nearly as shape-shifty as prog rock, to the uninitiated Grails’ unkempt songcraft is worthy of a road map.


Grails, "All the Colours of the Dark+Immediate Mate" (Live Oxford Arts Factory)

Past Event


  • Monday, February 19, 2018, 8 p.m.
  • Soda Bar, 3615 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego
  • 21+ / $15

The concert experience is a bit like trying to learn to speak a foreign language — say, French, where the rules of pronunciation are all off. What you learned in grammar class no longer applies. But the words sound interesting and complicated in a good way. To say that Grails is one of those unique life experiences would be an underestimation.

Grails is a trio from Portland with a good number of years together as a band. Alex Hall, Emil Amos, and late-comer Zak Riles released The Burden of Hope back in 2003. There’ve been nine albums since. They were calling themselves Laurel Canyon in the beginning but switched to the present name at the release of their first full-length album. It’s a loud-as-hell shoegaze kind of show, and the members are known to sometimes trade off instruments. The core trio travels with a couple of sidemen to help fill out the sound.

Otherwise, each of the core band members have so many side projects going that Grails is almost a side project in and of itself; it’s been six years since their last studio recording. Now touring behind Chalice Hymnal (released last year), Grails is surely a cultivated taste. This is not a mainstream groove built for everyone, even though one may detect influences as wide-ranging as hip-hop, Western film scores, and metal. It’s earned Grails a dedicated following over the past decade, proving that even in a Bruno Mars world, there’s always room for sludge.

Chuck Johnson also performs.

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