“Primus sucks” is the battle cry for Primus fans everywhere, and to this day, I still love seeing it bring confusion to faces throughout the crowd, outside in lines, and even on blogs, posts, and articles. This is what we say when we are stoked to see a Primus show. This was a special setting for the band as well. The Fox Theatre is small, but it is packed with one of the best sound systems in the country. It only holds 625 amped up and ready to mosh Primus die-hards. On the other hand, it felt like about 900 were in there. The venue was full to capacity an hour before Primus was even on. This was as full as I have ever seen it.
The anticipation was building, and the cartoonish old time classic Claypool introduction music was playing through the venue. Les Claypool led the band out and they wasted no time with a picture of the album cover of Frizzle Fry that appeared on the screen as they played that song. When that concluded, Claypool performed his standard march while slapping the bass for “Here Come the Bastards” off of Sailing the Seas of Cheese. After the song, he paused to make small talk with the packed crowd. But then, he informed us that drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander was wearing the same overalls that he wore at their set at the Woodstock Festival in 1994.
After, they went back to Frizzle Fry with “Groundhog’s Day,” and then back to Sailing the Seas of Cheese with “American Life.” Therefore, the old school fans were elated with this start while playing songs off of arguably their best albums. And of course, “American Life” contained lots of current political connotations both in the music and on the film playing behind the band.
The next song was “Jilly’s on Smack,” which is a newer tune off of Green Naugahyde. Claypool brought out the instrument that he invented called the Whamola, which looks like a skinny stand-up bass with one string on it played with a bow. “Jilly’s on Smack” included a really new song tease at the end of it, and the last song of the first set was “Pudding Time.” This set was a great throwback to an older sound and raw feeling of a Primus show.
During the set break, as I was over hearing a conversation about Les Claypool’s music, I was reminded of the exact moment when he crossed over from being exclusively known as an alternative/punk/hard rock musician to being welcomed into the jam band community. It was at the Gathering of the Vibes Music Festival in Bridgeport, CT by the water, and there were two stages set up close to one another. On one stage was RatDog’s Rob Wasserman by himself playing bass, and on the other was Les Claypool. They were playing beautiful bass lines back and forth to one another across a crowd in awe. It was there that Claypool expressed his great interest in great jamband music, and from then on, his crowds transformed and grew at live events. That is what the crowd looked like on this night, a mixture of all types of music geeks.
The Frizzle Fry continued in the second set with “Spaghetti Western” as the opener. Alexander’s fierce drum rolls along with Claypool’s slapping and guitarist Larry LaLonde’s screeching guitar got the audience fired up from the start. Then the real flashback bust out from Pork Soda came out with “Nature Boy.” This song is quite a ride, and on a side note, the video for it is strange to say the least. The story Claypool told after this song was long and interesting as well. He talked about a time that when someone threw firecrackers at another person and they were about to get beat up until they said to the enforcer, “Look man, I’m sorry. I’m on acid.” Then suddenly all was forgiven, and they hit a deer on the way home. The crowd got a chuckle from the tale, and into “Over the Falls” they went. This song features a great story shown on the screen about a man who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
“Lee Van Cleef,” “Bob,” and “Over the Electric Grapevine” were chunky tunes that spanned the years of Primus, but then on the last song of the 2nd set, Les said that he was going to play a song that he has not for a while that is difficult for him to play. I immediately knew what it was and called it out because it is my favorite Primus song, “Tommy the Cat.” It has one of the best displays of bass work in any song, and Les crushed it while marching in circles. They encored with “Too Many Puppies,” and the intimate crowd erupted in gratitude for one of the most powerful shows that I have seen at the Fox Theatre in the 18 years that I have been going there.