Arts Desk

Chris Grier, Experimental Guitarist and Former D.C. Musician, Dies [Updated]

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To Live and Shave in L.A. press photo, Grier at top left

Chris Grier, an avant-garde guitarist who played in the noise-rock collective To Live and Shave in L.A. and was based in D.C. for many years, passed away at Brooklyn Hospital last night from a cardiac arrest due to a pulmonary embolism, which was caused by a clot in his left leg.

Tom Smith, who co-founded To Live and Shave in L.A., broke the news on Facebook with a short, heartfelt message in tribute.

"Chris Grier, a brother-in-arms with To Live and Shave in L.A. from 2003 through 2007, died last night," he wrote under a photo of Grier sitting in a car, the landscape whipping by outside the window. "...[He] had the presence of mind to call 911, but when paramedics arrived they found him unresponsive... Damn, Damn."

"Regarding Chris' contributions to, and sordid gyrations near and upon the corpus of To Live and Shave in L.A., things couldn't have been easier, more directly effective or emotive, more antic, or more suffused with collegiality," said Smith in an email. "...Chris was no angel—he was a freak. He toiled by day in the bureaucratic killing fields (during the time of the Bush administration), and drained the less swank boîtes by night. How could one not love the guy? He was bright, hilariously profane, game for any perturbation. Brilliant chap."

In addition to his four years playing alongside Thurston MooreAndrew W.K., and others in To Live and Shave in L.A.,  Grier played in Scarcity of Tanks with Minutemen bassist Mike Watt and in the highly experimental Kohoutek.

"It feels really frustrating and unfair. Especially since he was really hitting his stride with music and life in general," said W.K. in an email. "From what I could tell, he was doing so well. I'm in a daze about this. It's really, really upsetting scary."

"He made big moves and sacrificed a lot to play music as much as he possibly could, often against the odds, and often due to his sheer tenacity and undeniable ability," W.K. continued. "When people ask what it means to be a successful musician, Chris really defines it for me—to play as much music as you can and with everything you have."

Scott Verrastro, founder of Kohoutek and the now-defunct D.C. DIY venue 611 Florida, and who played with Grier in Thee Ultimate Vag, remembers Grier as a key component of the group’s experimental spirit. “He was a dynamic, singular and highly charged guitarist, equally adept at lyrical Fahey-esque picking and in-your-face noise skronk,” Verrastro writes in an email. “Chris was also a complicated, generous, provocative and hysterical human being.”

Sean Gray, whose Fan Death Records put out the final To Live and Shave in L.A. album, echoes Verrastro.

"All around nice guy, focused," says Gray. "It was a pleasure to work with him on such a challenging record. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have met some of the people we have. It's a sad day for sure."

"It's a goddamn fucking shame. He wasn't yet 40," says Smith. "His meaty mug was a 1970s Idaho road atlas of debauchery. Again, what wasn't to love?"

This post has been updated to include more information about the cause of death and statements from Andrew W.K. and Tom Smith.

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