There doesn’t appear to be a cap on the acceptable number of eulogies to New York’s bohemian past. In every medium, another tribute lurks—from the canonical (Blank City, Downtown Calling) to the crass (a “Basquiat 88” T-shirt, in memoriam to artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, who died of a heroin overdose in 1988). The band Gray, however—an ensemble that originally included Basquiat, Michael Holman, Nicholas Taylor, and later on, Vincent Gallo—is one New York artifact that doesn’t invite nostalgia. Gray didn’t want to be a product of its time, after all; if anything, they strove to do the opposite of what other musicians were doing, including calling themselves musicians. “The idea of sounding like any other band, regardless of how out-there they might be, was strictly verboten,” said Holman in a 2011 interview. “We never wanted to come off as proper musicians. We always wanted to make music from a painterly, or more to the point, a sculptural perspective.” It’s also hard to wistfully reflect on a band that won’t die: Last year, Holman and original member Nicholas Taylor released Shades Of…, a collection of works derived from Gray’s original vision, and the duo played a kind of reunion show at the New Museum in New York. That performance wasn’t totally avant-garde, as some may have expected. Event organizer Ethan Swan likened the trip-hop-infused concert to “ignorant dubstep,” a reference to Gray’s philosophy of “ignorance,” which demands that instruments be “played” in the most nontraditional of ways. (Holman reportedly peeled strips of masking tape off his drums—an old Gray trick dusted off for the occasion.) Tonight, Gray makes its Washington debut at an event presented by the Corcoran and Adrian Loving, the local DJ who has brought a miniseries of downtown New York-themed films to the Corcoran, Phillips Collection, and National Gallery of Art. But don’t expect anything too challenging; unlike old Gray, the new Gray is a little more black and white.
Gray performs at 4 p.m. at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th St. NW. $30. corcoran.org. (202) 639-1700.