Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Photo Credit: Brian Ives (really!)
Well, its hard for me to be objective about Les Claypool and Primus.  He's one of my favorite musicians, and I named him one of the best artists of the '00s. I saw them for the first time in nearly two years Saturday night at the Paramount Theatre in Huntington, New York (great venue by the way) and they were awesome.

I've seen Primus a number of times, and they've had their ups and downs.  I honestly think the current lineup - with Les, perennial guitarist Larry "Ler" LaLonde and drummer Jay Lane - is their best one yet. Jay was an early member of the band, but left the band before they really recorded anything.  For years, he played with Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead in Ratdog... and later in Further, which features Weir and Phil Lesh.

I saw Primus with Jay for the first time in the summer of 2010, a few months after he replaced Tim "Herb" Alexander. I thought they were great, and I love their latest album, the first with the current lineup, Green Naugahyde.

For years, Primus have been moving towards the jam band world and they are pretty much a part of it.  The musicians in Primus (all of them who have cycled through the trio over the years) are incredible musicians and fully able of improvisation.  But the years Lane spent with Bob Weir made him a sort of black belt in improvising, and it's made Primus a stronger band.  Not that they meander like (I feel) many jam bands do.  But they are better than ever at stretching their songs in different directions live.  I think that's crucial for them.  Les isn't the kind of artist to play the same songs the same way every night. And the ability to jam hasn't come at the cost of any of their power: they could tour with Rage or Sabbath or Soundgarden or Rush tomorrow, they haven't become a hacky-sack group.

As I mentioned, I really dig their latest album Green Naugahyde, and I was glad to hear a lot of songs from it live. "Last Salmon Man" was powerful, so was "Jilly's On Smack" and "Eternal Consumption Engine." "Eyes Of The Squirrel" was like a Floydian jam, and "Moron TV" was powerful also.  They also played lesser known songs like "Over The Falls" and "Southbound Pachyderm."

I think the fact that they play so much new material, and lesser known stuff - and by the way, the audience is 100% with them - that allows them to play their "hits" "Jerry Was A Race Car Driver," "My Name Is Mud" and even "Wynonna's Big Brown Beaver" with enthusiasm.

One great thing about the Lollapalooza era is that, for a time, it allowed some pretty uncommercial bands to break through.  None were more left-field than Primus.  Yes, they had some of the punk rock influences that everyone else did, but put that together with their love of King Crimson, The Residents and Frank Zappa... they are a totally unique band. It's so great to see that their fan base is as strong as ever. It's like a verification that they made all the right choices back in the day.

I'm a big fan of Les' solo projects, and it's always interesting to see what he'll do next.  But for now, I think Primus are on such a roll, that I hope they do another album really soon.

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