Les Claypool | 03.21 | Milwaukee

By: Cal Roach

Les Claypool :: 03.21.08 :: The Rave :: Milwaukee, WI

Les Claypool by Dave Vann
It's easy to see how a guy like Les Claypool could become complacent, feeling like he really has nothing left to prove. The man basically redefined the role of the bass guitar and created his own unique musical niche to go with it. His talent is indisputable, and he's got a devoted legion of diehards who don't need convincing. He could just get up on stage and go, "You're all going to cheer because I just made a kooky drug reference and I play like this (unleashing an instant torrent of dbdbdbdbdbdbdbdbwwwwWWWW), even with a broken pinky finger."

Some fans got this impression over the course of Claypool's 2007 tour with the Fancy Band. He wasn't playing any new material and the setlists were getting repetitive. The previous year's tour with Primus had been dubbed "The Beat A Dead Horse Tour," and the concept was carrying over to his solo work. So, when fans read on Claypool's website that his spring '08 tour would feature "some new material," they were understandably excited. While this didn't actually turn out to be true, there have been surprises, and if Friday's show at The Rave was any indication, an increase in energy from the Fancy Band, now sans sitarist/vocalist Gabby La La. Claypool isn't willing to rest on his laurels just yet.

After bringing experimental/Middle Eastern/surf/metal mystics Secret Chiefs 3 along on early dates of the tour, Claypool surprised the crowd by subjecting them to Tim Fite in Milwaukee. The best that can be said of his opening set is that he had some interesting visuals on a screen behind him, but otherwise he was an unholy cross between Jimmy Buffett and Eminem - if Eminem suffered a crippling loss of rhythm. Fite had the crowd cheering when he was praising Claypool, making fun of cops and getting everyone to chant "fuck" over and over, but none of that takes any talent or insight. At least he was having fun.

In between acts, patrons could take advantage of $7.50 cups of Miller Lite or hear promotional pitches from Camel reps, the promotion responsible for turning away fans under 18, even if accompanied by their parents. Even Claypool later made disparaging remarks about the smoky haze in the poorly ventilated venue. Best to hold one's breath while dancing.

Before long, Claypool emerged and he and drummer Paulo Baldi began the intro for countrified funk-out "Buzzards of Greenhill." Claypool's slap bass was engrossing, but saxman Skerik was immediately dominant. The sound system - generally atrocious, but expertly tweaked by the Claypool crew - favored him in the mid-range while Claypool's vocals suffered. They broke into "Fisticuffs," a lost Brown Album Primus classic, and Skerik's wail proved that you don't need a guitar to rock. He started "One Better" with a serpentine, muted wah-wah lick, switched to a screaming octave-pedaled whine after the second chorus and then began to just ROAR like you've never heard a sax roar before. One of the biggest treats of the night was the debut of "Coattails Of A Dead Man," Primus's ghostly reimagining of "I Put A Spell On You." Skerik's voodoo snake-charm was so perfect for the tune it's a wonder Claypool doesn't pull it out more often.

Skerik may have stolen the show, but the whole band was in a tight groove for most of the night. "Rumble Of The Diesel" and "Of Whales And Woe" have become signature ensemble pieces - creepy, heavy funk jams that move the body and twist the mind. Claypool's peculiar songwriting brew is a dollop of Zappa and a dash of Tom Waits spiked with every rock fringe from punk to prog. From Primus's earliest demos to the present day, his sound is impossible to define succinctly. His humor is a surface sheen to keep the crowd bouncing amidst weighty lyrical concerns and a serious dedication to his craft, but at its essence there is nothing frivolous about his music. It's also a testament to the talent of his coconspirators that he can draw tunes from any era of his career and stir them seamlessly into the stew.

"Riddles Are Abound Tonight," from Claypool's 1994 album with Sausage, was a thrill ride of demented energy, and always a crowd-pleaser. The set-closer, Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," didn't really play to Claypool's strengths as a singer, but was a blast otherwise. Mike Dillon's xylophone work was incendiary - Keith Emerson with mallets - and Claypool's arrangement brought Baldi's propulsive drumming to the fore, charging the song in a way Floyd never conceived of. It was one of the finest full-band grooves in a night full of highlights.

JamBase | Wisconsin
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[Published on: 4/1/08]

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thedude3 Tue 4/1/2008 11:05AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Claypool is up their with the best of them. Intelligent, original, funky, witty, talented beyond measure. CLAYPOOL FOR PRESIDENT

nsafay Tue 4/1/2008 11:14AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I most definitely second that! With Derek Trucks as his running mate! Imagine those two on stage together! Wouold they get along?

johnnygoff starstarstarstar Tue 4/1/2008 11:22AM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


i really dug how Cal (the writer) really told it how it was. Not too flowery and vague but not too first-person minutia. Perfect balance. Kind of like Skerik / Claypool and Dillon or as I call them, "Flying Go-Go Taint"... thanx for the photos too Dave, as always.

Adam4man starstarstarstar Tue 4/1/2008 11:25AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

i agree with many of the criticisms presented in this article.

the sound/acoustics in the Rave suck donkey balls.

I ended up seeing Future Rock in Chicago because Claypool was sold out.

C-mon & Kypski opener kicked ass, check em out

NittyGritty Tue 4/1/2008 12:04PM
+7 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Thing, you said the same exact thing about radiohead. Let me guess, your a bored teen trying to piss off a bunch of hippies by insulting the best bands around. I see what your doing and i don't like it. Get a life.

Gary starstarstarstarstar Tue 4/1/2008 12:08PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I don't know about Les for President, but he is one hell of a musician. I've seen him a couple times, but the best show was at the Vogue in Indianapolis. Smaller club style venue - and very intimate.



lemonwheel44 Tue 4/1/2008 12:13PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

THING11. go sniff the backside of a sack.

DrEricFautstein starstarstarstar Tue 4/1/2008 12:38PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


"Skerik may have stolen the show"

Dude, Skerik always steals the show. Hes Skerik. the baddest dude on this side of the Mississippi. His Syncopated Taint is the FIRE. check em out if you havent already. I saw these 4 (with Baldi on drums) earlier this month. I think ive seen better from claypool but Skerik and Mike Dillon together is what this band is about. Claypool is just to sell the tickets. And I might actually vote if Claypool ran for pres....

gmoo Tue 4/1/2008 12:51PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Just saw this show in Chicago. Skerik was on fire! He and Claypool complement each other well. I was pessimistic about the show because the two previous Claypool shows I saw lasted just over an hour. This show was over an hour and a half w/ drums as a setbreak. Go these this foursome if you get a chance. Now they just need a guitar...where's Eenor?

articgtp starstarstar Tue 4/1/2008 03:24PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Mike D. plays the VIBRAPHONE not the xylophone.

and yes i have seen him many times and i just saw him at langerado, this is getting old. the same sets when he has a huge cataloge? lossing intreast by the minute.

ao1 starstarstarstarstar Tue 4/1/2008 03:33PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


The band is so tight and original.....I completely agree, skerik and claypool compliment each other so well......Les does have a huge selection of music to choose from...but, i'm fine with whatever he plays.....just wish their was more east coast love....or even a rothbury appearance

hnkscrpio starstarstarstar Tue 4/1/2008 04:02PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


ao1, Primus is playing Rothbury.

theguykeator Tue 4/1/2008 05:57PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


The Rave is wackest venue in the midwest.(Aragon Ballroom close second) Love how he mentioned the 12oz. $7.50 Miller Piss!! I dug Claypool in Mnpls. It was my first Claypool show. He put on a fun, funky show!

manjotar starstarstarstar Tue 4/1/2008 06:34PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


i love it when writers describe someones sound as incendiary...

it always reminds me of the kid in the russell crowe movie.

btw, dillon truly is incendiary.

sman Tue 4/1/2008 07:08PM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


The rave is terrible... it is run by a bunch of "mobsters" as well. What cha gonna do about it

PhatMaw starstarstarstar Tue 4/1/2008 09:57PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

much love for the rave. yea its dirty, smoky, and the sound system isn't the greatest but it brings solid acts to a city that seldom has an opportunity to see them. Claypool and the guys were burned the place down that night. caught them the next day in chicago just wasn't the same. nice piece though

C00lmike Wed 4/2/2008 07:50AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I was at this show, and the Rave nearly ruined my experience. That place is honestly the worst venue I've ever been too. Luckily for me, Les and Co. did not disappoint.

obrienthe1 starstarstarstar Wed 4/2/2008 08:26AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Saw Claypool last week in Tulsa and they covered Shine on you Crazy Diamonds with Skerik playing the lead guitar on his sax. AWESOME!!

kirkbrew Wed 4/2/2008 09:49AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


theguykeator nailed it. The Rave is the worst sounding venue I have ever been to in my 25+ years of concert going (and the Aragon is not peach either). On top of that, $7.50 for 12 oz Miller Light!!! I pay $6.50 for Guinness in Chicago and paid $6.00 for Sierria at the Pritzker Pavillion. Total BS. The place sucks.

PhatMaw may be right. It is a crap venue, but it brings bands to town. Then again, Madison is an hour away and Chicago 90 minutes.

Hope to see Primus this summer.

milmusic starstarstarstar Wed 4/2/2008 11:17AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I thought Les was great. He pulled out some funky jams. 'Coattails Of A Dead Man' was so creepy it send a chill up my back. His bassy sounds bring out the history of the building. I love roaming the halls and looking at all those old pictures with his rock in the background. No matter what some of you guys say, the rave is my favorite place in milwaukee for live music. I think of all the shows I have seen there over the years and it brings a smile to my face.

kandrokitis Wed 4/2/2008 12:09PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


any word of a possible Primus tour this summer? Les has no solo dates scheduled so far.

scubydum Wed 4/2/2008 02:07PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Yeah, Skerik is a badass! Stole the show from Dumpstaphunk at Bonnaroo 06 amidst an onslaught of funk.

wockee Wed 4/2/2008 02:52PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I really don't see how you can knock the rave. i've been going there for years and i've NEVER had a bad experience. best venue in town.

but aside from that...i've seen both claypool and primus a few times and this was by far the best show. it seemed like everyone had a lot more energy

kirkbrew Wed 4/2/2008 05:00PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


wockee – If you love it, cool! For me, I look for a venue with good acoustics, reasonable ventilation (if they still allow smoking), an OK beer selection at a reasonable price. The Rave is the inverse of that. Acoustics are “boomy” and mid-low and low end frequencies overtake the entire sound (due to the oval shape of the room I reckon), the place reeks like a frat house and $6.50 Miller Lights???

Serious folks, don’t go there. The only good thing about it is that since lots of people are smoking, it is real easy to burn one. Oh, and because the beer sucks and is way overpriced, you don’t have to wait long to get a cold one. That is about all that I can say good about the place.

C00lmike Wed 4/2/2008 09:34PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Yeah, The Rave definitely sucks balls. More bands should play the riverside. It has to be considered the best venue in Milwaukee. Great location, great sound, and very reasonable beer prices (for WSP they had 24 ounce sierras for 6 bucks and tallboy PBRs for 3 bucks). I've seen some great shows at the Rave, but I really think the place should be demolished.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstar Thu 4/3/2008 06:41AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

he tried out for Metallic once.. they said "man you are just tooo wierd"


petemora star Thu 4/3/2008 11:17AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Of course "The Rave" sucks. Its in Milwaukee. The only good things about Milwaukee is Miller Lite and Lenny and Squiggy. Les should switch to guitar, he manages to slap and pop all of the tone out of the instrument - totally overrated. Trey called him "plinkety plink Claypool" during the Oysterhead show. I'll take Duck Dunn or James Jamerson any day of the week. He does look pretty cool on stage though.

PhatMaw Thu 4/3/2008 09:57PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

how ignorant petemora

guitardave starstarstarstarstar Fri 4/4/2008 08:27AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Lenny and Squiggy rule. How awesome is it that Lenny is David St. Hubbins of Spinal Tap. "St. Hubbins is the Patron Saint of quality footwear." Give Milwaukee cred for the Shotz Brewery, too. How about "The Fonz" and Ralph Malph?

ChrisChuck1 Sat 4/5/2008 05:20PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

been to both the rave and the aragon in chicago and neither can touch the shitty-ness of the Ice Palace in Miami. I re-named it the HIV Palace by the time i left there due to the junkies shooting up outside the front, back and side doors.

DaveT star Fri 4/18/2008 04:01PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Isn't the Rave the old Eagles Ballroom?? 2 floors? Anyone, anyone...