Photos And Review | Primus | Port Chester

Images by: Andrew Blackstein
Words by: Chad Berndtson

Primus :: 6.24.14 :: The Capitol Theatre :: Port Chester, NY

Read Chad's review after the photo gallery.

Primus is an acquired taste, existing in – or more like occupying – the space where art-rock, metal, funk and jamband meet to forget themselves and rage together for a few hours. That the trio is sometimes inaccessible and occasionally stunty is part of the deal: set the scene, let the casual onlookers hang out nervously around the perimeter and engage front-and-center the fans for whom this odd collection of sounds and grooves holds singular appeal.

It isn’t that the setlists or jams see enormous variation or surprise, or that the expected theatrics – gnarly stage setup, titillating visuals, Les Claypool’s twisted- wiseacre monologues – are all that fresh each and every time. No, what brings you back to Primus – what sells out a show like this typically galvanizing night at the Capitol Theater – is the depth of the experience.

All Les Claypool bands have layers. You start with the carnival atmosphere, commingling with those who have also come for the “show” aspect. This is a place where of course there will be trippy lights, and of course there will be two 15-foot astronaut statues flanking the stage and of course vintage Popeye cartoons will be shown on the projection screen during set break, because why not?

A layer below that is the aural assault: Les’ filthy thump, slaps and grooves, Tim Alexander’s pummeling, yet nimble drumwork, Larry LaLonde’s abrasive guitar runs, stabs and snatches of melodic counterpoint. And a layer below that is the actual songcraft – a catalog of character sketches and incisive, even scathing commentary that asks nothing of the listener but to hang on a little longer before it’s default-described as “wacky,” so often the crutch phrase used to describe Primus’ eccentric approach.

The two sets at the Capitol drew from across the Primus discography, and what was most encouraging was how the best songs from 2011’s Green Naughahyde – particularly the frank, let’s-funk-our-way-through-the-pain “Jilly’s On Smack” and the mutant bounce of “Lee Van Cleef” – have integrated with the expected Primus highs of tunes like “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver.” I don’t share the opinion that “Naughahyde” is any great leap forward for the band, but a solid collection to keep pace – if not quite on par -- with the Frizzle Fry era of Primus output and convince us that with all the other things occupying Claypool’s creative space, returning to Primus isn’t just a nostalgia trip.

Maybe that’s the way to think about Primus in 2014. Les turned 50 last year and proved he could leave it behind before, so that it’s back and once again thriving – having not altered its fundamentals – is the reason to keep coming. There’s heart behind Primus; it’s not a mechanical “wacky” for wacky’s sake. Underneath the scary-funky menagerie populating this trio’s world is a band aging with grace.

Primus, 6/24/2014 Setlist:

Set One: Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers, The Last Salmon Man, Southbound Pachyderm, Over the Falls, Lee Van Cleef, The Heckler, Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver, Frizzle Fry, Groundhog’s Day

Set Two: Spaghetti Western, Duchess and the Proverbial Mind Spread, Moron TV, American Life, Jilly’s On Smack, Mr. Krinkle, My Name Is Mud, Mrs. Blaileen, Jerry Was a Race Car Driver, Harold of the Rocks

Encore: Too Many Puppies > Hello Skinny > Too Many Puppies

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[Published on: 6/26/14]

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