Oh, the fun to have; to live the dreams we always had.
The Gratitude Migration was a place where local artists, freaks, hedonists, addicts of all flavors, the spiritually inclined, and the myriad unmentionable misanthropes could gather on the beach, NYC in the distance, and frolic for three days under the relentless mid-July sun. For the second consecutive year, Ellis Ashbrook performed the festival – albeit two very different shows/circumstances. The common thread for each was the sense that something new was happening, and rain.
In 2016, the band, at their penultimate gig (unknown at the time) with the Barber/Lowe/Granoff/Major lineup performed a monster 90-minute breakfast set on the beach from 9:30 to 11am. It was the result of a previous night rain-out, but proved to be a hallmark event nonetheless. A Sunday morning rock-show filled with long spontaneous jams and unexpected covers, the show was memorable and different for sure. Who knew the following Boston show, two weeks later, would be the last of a decade long endeavor that produced three albums, ground-breaking basement shows in rapidly gentrifying Bed-Stuy—among the first of their kind—and countless connections and friendships along the way. The show was the sunrise before the last sunset on a remarkable run.
One year later, Ellis Ashbrook returned to Gratitude with a slightly different lineup. With the departure of Natalie Lowe came the addition of Dan Keller, multi-instrumentalist/vocalist and longtime fan, and the band took to the sand with a remarkably different sound.
Like the previous year, their Friday-evening prime-time slot was awash with torrents of summer rain and wind. Fortunately, the festival was prepared this time and the show was able to persist under the tent with some technical difficulties forcing a temporary outage of the staged lighting and video screen. Nonetheless the performance went off a great success showcasing the heavier, more progressive side of Ellis Ashbrook with some subtle hints of the funk. Notably the return of Skunk!, the first post Lowe excursion of the Assemblage classic, featuring some extended playing atypical of previous performances brought the party vibes to the party people. All in all, a fine outing; with takeaway consensus that the personnel changes were starting to settle into reality, and things were coming together. It had only been the fourth post-Lowe show and their sound was gelling. For posterity, here is the set list:
Friday July 14, 2017: THE GRATITUDE MIGRATION, Keansburg, NJ
Set: Accelerator, When Will This End?, Good Time Blues, Peripheral Declination, Therefore However and So Forth, Kan Eye Tuch U? -> Skunk!, Psychic Vampires -> Wipeout > Psychic Vampires
 Unusual ending
 With Harpua reference
 With, “That’s one of my favorite beach party songs” comment after ending from John
 With ride-out jam
 With “darkness jam” as band jammed out the ending of Skunk! in total darkness during power outage that only affected the lights/visual effects, including vocalizations of “are we back online?”