Primus On The Rocks
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of Primus is “the presiding bishop of the Scottish Episcopal Church”. In the fictional Transformers universe, it is a living planet deity who fought the chaos-bringer Unicron. This past Tuesday evening the term applied to the power trio of accomplished musicians that laid down their unique blend of bass-heavy progressive funk/rock/metal they’ve been perfecting for the past 27 years.
It was a crowd-pleasing night of many of the band’s “greatest hits” with only a couple brief lulls in energy when certain newer or more-obscure selections worked their way into the mix. Master bassist and quirky vocalist Les Claypool is unquestionably the ringleader of this circus, assuming the duties of front man as well as holding down the rhythm section with his distinctive percussive slapping of various instruments. Guitarist Larry Lalonde perfectly pierced through the bass assault with his ripping lead lines and tonal textures. Drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander rounded out the original trio, having re-joined the band in the past couple years after an absence of over a decade.
Opening their set with a rousing “Too Many Puppies” (which included a nod to The Residents‘ “Hello Skinny“) Claypool humorously improvised the lyrics “too many hawkers…carrying around tubs” as the vendors weaved their way through the crowd selling overpriced cans of cold liquids. The trio raised the crowd’s energy even more as they progressed through songs such as “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” and “Jilly’s On Smack”.
After a half dozen lengthy musical workouts percussionist Alexander performed a solo that was as musical as it was interesting, demonstrating his pure virtuosity. During the drum solo Claypool emerged from the shadows to make some noises on his “Whamola” device, a bass guitar with a “whammy bar” modification that allowed him to bend the notes in new and creative ways. This was followed by “Eleven”, a selection from their classic 1991 breakthrough album Sailing The Seas Of Cheese that caused the more knowledgeable fans in the crowd to bounce and sway to the complex 11/4 time signature. A couple tunes later the band treated the energetic crowd to the live debut of a brand new song called “Seven”, written in 7/4 (seven beats to the measure rather than the standard 4, for the non-musicians out there).
Appropriately closing their set with an epic performance of “Harold Of The Rocks”, Primus then returned for a closing encore of “Southbound Pachyderm” from their 1995 album Tales From The Punchbowl joined by Sean Lennon…yes, son of John, who held his own on guitar during the opening act’s performance.
The opener, billed The Claypool Lennon Delirium, began the night with Pink Floyd‘s “Astronomy Domine” as stragglers made their way to their seats. Claypool and Lennon were joined by keyboardist Mark Ramos Nishita and drummer Paulo Baldi for an inspired set of psychedelic classics mixed with originals from their 2016 debut Monolith Of Phobos. Highlights included a reading of King Crimson‘s “In The Court Of The Crimson King” and the closing song, the Beatles‘ “Tomorrow Never Knows”, during which Sean Lennon eerily channeled the voice and spirit of his father.