This All-Star Jam was being billed as "Spur of the Moment", and
rightly so. Consisting of Les Claypool on bass/vocals (Oysterhead, Frog Brigade), Will Bernard on guitar (Motherbug, TJ Kirk), Mike Clark (Headhunters, Pres. Renewal), Robert Walter on keys and Cochemea Gastelum (both from 20th Congress) on sax and flute,
DJ Disk on turntables and Boots Riley (the Coup) on some occasional vocals, the group had apparently only spent a few hours' rehearsal time together the day before at Claypool's studio in Marin County. These fine musicians were donating their time and talents to the the AIDS Ride 8, which is a pledge bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, benefitting AIDS research.
Claypool led the evening off by explaining that we were witnessing spaghetti being tossed at the wall, and he predicted that most would stick. Indeed his prediction proved correct. Gets my vote for Best Spaghetti Ever.
The opener, "Watermelon Man", proved to be an emphatic indicator of the set to come. Clocking in at over 16 minutes, Bernard brought a dazzling combination of wah-ed out porno funk, freaky-slidy raga runs, and raved-up textures out of his Gibson hollow body, while Claypool showed a surprising delicacy as he danced around the
Headhunters groove. Mike Clark is a beast behind the kit, and it was a treat seeing him reprezenting on his legendary tune. It was amusing, to say the least, when Claypool brought out some Primus lyrics (Wynonna) during a particularly rocked-out segment of this jam, then tentatively teased the music to Wynonna, before sinking heavily back into the Watermelon Man groove. DJ Disk brought out some ecstatic female moans through his turntables as this one wound down.
The next tune, a Coup song called "Pigs in Shit", featured some smooth vocal stylings from Boots Riley. Some of you may know Boots as the hilarious voice of the prank phone caller from Will Bernard's "Motherbug" album. The two have collaborated numerous times over the years, with Bernard (along with Motherbug bassist Keith McArthur) contributing his guitar to the Coup's "Steal this Disc" release, under the pseudonym Bernard Williams. Tonight,
Boots was adding an elegant and eloquent hip-hop touch to the proceedings, with both amusing and thought-provoking flow. The band members were sounding like "Pigs in Shit" (that's a compliment, by the way), as they porked their way through a disgustingly steady and slinky groove for DJ Disk to work over.
The band then turned it up a notch as they plowed deeply and deviously into "Who Knows", the Band of Gypsys bluesfunk nugget. Bernard was doing a damn impressive Hendrix imitation for a few moments, perhaps having picked up some mojo on his recent tour with
Motherbug through Jimi's hometown of Seattle. As the flutter-by notes arose from Bernard's pedal-board, Claypool, Walter, and Clark were laying down a lysergic groove that would've made Buddy Miles proud.
"Hang Up Your Hang Ups", another Headhunters tune, was next and nice. This one featured some crushing Rhodes work by Robert Walter, and some nice onstage communication between he and Bernard. This tune got surprisingly heavy, as Claypool riffed insistently and provided some humming-vocals to scare away any nice melodies for a while. He and Bernard would eventually take off on a bass-vs-guitar duel that looked like David vs. Goliath, with the much taller Les and his towering stack of bass amplification standing next to the shorter Will with a simple Mesa Boogie combo amp on a crate. Unfotunately this jam eventually found its way back home to its feel-good-funk conclusion, but not after a good 15 minutes in the forest.
The most intriguing song of the night had to be "Hair". Sung mightily by Claypool, the chorus goes "I don't think it's fair / to judge a man / by the length of his hair", but I am not certain of the exact title. It was yet another bizarre mixture of hard rockin' Claypool and porno-funkin' Bernard/Walter, and yet another 15-minute-plus jam that was all sauce and no noodle.
Some noodles did come, in the form of a noisy 3 minute space jam that led into the Will Bernard song "Motherbug Theme". This version would probably better be called "Variations on the Motherbug Theme" because it really contained three distinct jams based around the three distinct parts of the song, all connected by frenetic improv freak-outs led by Claypool's blistering leads. Claypool jokingly announced afterward that we had heard "Chasing the Weasel by Will Bernard", perhaps suggesting that perfecting the subtle
groove-shifts of this song was like trying to catch a marmot. Definitely the loosest song of the night but maybe the most enjoyable.
Actually, the set closing "Taxman" might be vying for most enjoyable status as well; it featured an a capella Claypool intro of the "Gave My Love a Chicken" song from Animal House. He would break a bass string early on, prompting Bernard to go on a drop-string-drone excursion, lowering his E-string to a D and lower, while Claypool carried on with one less string. Bernard pulled his glass slide out of his pocket and the jam slid into complete textural anrachy. As a friend pointed out, this jam was akin to what Claypool's Frog Brigade has been doing with "Tomorrow Never Knows", only I would argue this was much further out there.
Cochemea Gastelum from 20th Congress was playing his sax through a variety of effects which made the jam extra Sker-y. Claypool sang one of the Taxman verses completely out of sync during one of the spookier parts of the jam, providing an ominous reminder of tax day, looming April 15.
For some reason, the musicians said nothing as they left the stage after this two-hour set. In fact, the lights stayed down and the disco ball continued to spin, so there was some confusion as to whether there might be another set. Unfortunately not tonight. But based on the musical interaction we witnessed, I would not be surprised to see some, if not all, of these musicians play together again. Truly a (Spur of the) Moment to remember, and here's to more
in the future!
Photos by SuperDee
Spur of the Moment | 3/30/01 | Slim's | San Francisco, CA
one set (1 hr, 55 min):
Pigs in Shit* >
Hang Up Your Hang Ups,
Noise Jam >
# - w/ Wynnona (Primus) lyrics by Les.
* - song by The Coup
** - instrumental version with some Boots freestyle.
^ - song by Larry Graham, the original bassist for Sly and the
Family Stone, chorus goes "I don't believe it's fair to judge a man by the length of his hair", included Boots Rap on the Coup's "Cars and Shoes" (see 12/2/00 Otherbug show).
^^ - Introduced afterwards by Les as "Chasing the Weasel
by Will Bernard"
^^^ - very groovy, most likely a Headhunters tune I don't recognize.
Les Claypool (bass, vocals)
Will Bernard (guitar)
Robert Walter (keys)
Mike Clark (drums)
DJ Disk (turntables)
Cochemea Gastelum (sax, flute)
w/ Boots Riley on vocals for Pigs in Shit, Who Knows, and Hair