Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains :: 09.25.04 :: The Riviera Theatre :: Chicago, IL

Question: What do you get when you mix Praxis, Parliament, and Primus?
Answer: Evil bliss!

The Colonel :: 09.25 :: Chicago
Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains charged into Chicago's Riviera Theatre on September 25 with an agenda. With this being the second show of 23 that will take C2B3 from the Midwest to the East Coast, down South and out to the Great Northwest, it appears this "supergroup" plans to show America what a Brain, a Bucket, a Bernie, and a Theatrical Wizard can do. Col. Les Claypool has gathered an interesting and inspiring group of musicians for this go around the country.

With legendary keyboardist Bernie Worrell manning a vast array of keys, hard-hitting drummer and long time Les associate Brain teaming up with old friend Buckethead, we find Les fronting one of the freakiest, most ambitious bands on tour.

Bernie Worrell :: 09.25 :: Chicago
With an early start I was running late and unfortunately missed the opener - Gabby La La, an eccentric frontwoman, who recently joined Les on Purple Onion. At 8:10, Bernie took the stage for a quick solo leading into the opening notes of "Buckethead" off the new album; The Big Eyeball in the Sky. Brain followed Bernie with a mild, pleasant beat; however, it was Les and Buckethead whom the audience came for. With the crowd beginning to stir, Buckethead and Claypool made their presence known. Les was wearing a mask that he perhaps pulled off the set of A Clockwork Orange, and Buckethead was donning the standard KFC/Michael Myers garb. Acting as entrance music was a heavy B3 jam that brought the Ringling Brothers Circus to mind only to be decimated by a shredding Buckethead solo.

C2B3 :: 09.25 :: Chicago
The crowd was a mixture of young and old, hardcore Primus fans, those curious about Buckethead or the WOO Warriors, Praxisheads, and just about anyone else imaginable. The floor was the site for the main event, with pushing, jumping, moshing, and even fist fighting taking place. "Tyranny of the Hunt" followed and was certainly more improvised than on the album. After Les' quirky vocals, Brain dropped into an electronic beat showing more attention to techno than I've seen from Les and his cronies. With Buckethead leading the crew, it appeared that each and every member of the group would have his own solo during this trance like jam. Bringing the third of three straight songs off the new album, "Thai Noodles" oozed its way through the audience. Body surfers emerged overhead, only to be dumped into the hands of security.

Buckethead :: 09.25 :: Chicago
The evil piercing "Ehhhhh Haaaaaaa" jumped out of Les' mouth to bring us the fourth tune off the new album; "Junior." This bass driven number featured Claypool singing the scary, distorted vocals, "Look at that Son of Bitch go," and a thumping bass that damn near made my heart jump out of my chest. The slow, creeping, trippy, reggae inspired "Elephant Ghost" followed leaving room for endless, ambient, tension and release possibilities. As it was this night, Gabby La La's sitar was a perfect fit in "Elephant Ghost," adding some greasy, twangy, Indian flavor. La La's solo gave way to Uncle Bernie and his assortment of possessed keys. He opened up the cosmos to allow some of the most unique and colorful waves of sound of the evening to emerge.

As Bernie faded out, Buckethead crept in, using his delay to create a beautiful, multi-layered cascade of notes. Dressed in a black Kung Fu outfit, Bucket crept around the stage adding crunchy, full-bodied guitar tones.

Finding himself somewhat overshadowed by this amazing band, Brain took a somewhat standard drum solo as if to say, "Check me out too!" Brain is a powerful drummer, of the Keith Moon variety. He's strong and all over the place. Often times, drummers get overlooked and under acknowledged, particularly if they happen to play with three uber-talented freaks. Drummers are generally there to hold down the groove, but there are also those drummers who take the music to another level. I wouldn't necessarily put Brain on the same level as a Vidacovich, Moore or Fishman, but hearing the man alone on stage allows one to hear and feel just how talented he really is.

Les on the Whamola :: 09.25 :: Chicago
Jumping in on the Brain mayhem, Claypool reappeared with the "Whamola" (a one-string bass played with a drumstick) in tow. Sporting a demented monkey mask Claypool proceeded to blast our ears and cleanse our colons with a smorgasbord of low-end madness. Buckethead, obviously inspired by Les' bassful shenanigans, reemerged to treat the audience to some old school pop locking (anyone remember Turbo from Breakin?). The Colonel then looped the Wham and performed a dance that only Satan himself could have inspired.

"The Big Eyeball in the Sky" provided great opportunities for Buckethead and Bernie to go at it with some crazy solo runs, which brings me to my overall feelings about the songs on this album and the show itself. This music is more of a platform for each individual to showcase his talents. Other than "Tyranny," "Junior" and "Elephant," there just wasn't a great deal of hooking up and grooving going on. Now, don't get me wrong; I love loud, bombastic drum solos. I get off when Zaak Wylde shreds aimlessly for five minutes, and I can't wait to see Ministry this week. However, I believe that these four guys are, for lack of a better word, better than that. Based on the grooves I've heard them lay down before, that's what I was half expecting at the Riviera. I mostly felt that it was a group of four guys going in four different directions.

C2B3 :: 09.25 :: Chicago
"Scott Taylor" closed the set. This is another song I truly love. It's a powerful and mean explosion of pure metal energy. An instrumental tune, "Scott Taylor" is a vehicle for Bernie to display his six decades of "WOOples." My notes read; "Bernie Intro" > "B-I-N-G-O" > "Jam" > "Bernie" > "Jam" > "Bernie" > "Jam" > "Bernie." After 60 years, the man comes up with something new every time he sits down.

Claypool :: 09.25 :: Chicago
Brain and Bucket came out for the encore with Brain sporting his sticks, and Bucket sporting his num-chucks. It's ritual for Buckethead to do a Kung Fu or "Bucket Chucks" jam in every show. It's fun, but tiresome. During his exhibition, Bucket went to do a lateral kick and his planted leg went out from under him. Down goes Buckethead! Throughout the show, some of the Primus fans littered the stage with cups of beer, causing the stage to become a veritable ice skating rink. He was down for a good 15 seconds, got up warily and thought better of trying the move again. The Bucket never came off. He strapped on his guitar and soloed, "World of Pure Imagination," "Star Wars," "Pirates of a Lifetime," and some crazy finger picking and slapping; there was nothing incredibly new, but it is always fun to see. The show ended very early (10:00 p.m.), with the whole band playing "Hip Shot From the Slab." Unquestionably, my least favorite song on the album, "Slab" doesn't provide any opportunity for anyone to step up. No groove, nothing. It's just weird. Not even a good weird. Not even Claypool weird, just pointless. But hey, ya gotta break some eggs to make an omelet right?

With this being the second night of the tour, my expectations unfortunately were a bit high considering the talent being provided. If you are a fan of any of these talented musicians I would strongly urge you to experience this madness for yourself. You will find that Les has more costume changes than, dare I say, Britney Spears. Brain can lay the beats that keep the sound moving, Bernie will WOO his way into your heart, and Buckethead will most likely have the same facial expression during the entire show. So what are you waiting for? "Look at 'em go, look at 'em go, Ehhhhhhh Haaaaaaaaa!!"

Buckethead, Tyranny Of The Hunt, Thai Noodles > Big Balls (AC/DC) > Thai Noodles, Junior, Elephant Ghost*, Drum Solo, Whamola and Drum Jam, The Big Eyeball In The Sky**, Scott Taylor

Drum Solo, Buckethead Solo, Hip Shot From the Slab**

* - with Gabby La La on Sitar
** - with Gabby La La on vocals

The Remaining Shows on Tour:
10.21 Salt Lake City, UT – Velvet Room
10.22 Denver, CO – Fillmore
10.23 Albuquerque, NM – Sunshine Theatre
10.25 Las Vegas, NV – House of Blues
10.26 Tempe, AZ – Marquee Theatre
10.27 San Diego, CA – 4th and B
10.29 Los Angeles, CA – Avalon
10.30 San Francisco, CA – Warfield
11.01 Santa Cruz, CA – Catalyst
11.03 Sacramento, CA – Crest Theatre
11.05 Eugene, OR – McDonald Theatre
11.06 Portland, OR – Roseland
11.07 Seattle, WA - Showbox

Words by: James Rategan
Images by: Adam George
JamBase | Chicago
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[Published on: 10/8/04]

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