Primus appeared at the Tabernacle in Atlanta last night, and good â€˜ol Unk T made the scene. I was first introduced to Primus when Andy was skateboarding in Southern CA (“92 or so) as their music was used on a lot of the homemade skating vids. Les Claypool, lead singer and electronic bass player extraordinaire, organized the band in the late 80’s in CA. Their music is difficult to define; Primus has been called everything from “thrash–funk meets Don Knotts, Jr.” to “alternative rock” to “the Freak Brothers set to music.” Les Claypool himself once described their music as “psychedelic polka.” Primus is the only band with its own ID3v1 genre tag, as extended by Winamp. (For a sample, go to
Amazon for a taste.). They are characterized by their irreverent approach to music. The band’s catchphrase is “Primus sucks!” a tradition that dates back to their first album. To this day, at concerts, fans can be heard chanting “Primus Sucks!” until the band takes the stage.
That’s exactly what happened at the Tab last night: PRIMUS SUCKS rocked the house for a full 30 minutes before the opening act took the stage. In pure Les Claypool fashion, the opener was Rasputina, a collection of cellists playing alternative rock.
Recently joined by Chris Vrenna from Nine Inch Nails as their drummer and producer, he is credited with pushing them ahead with the distortion and electronically produced sound effects they had been experimenting with for a couple of years. The resulting genre and sound defies categorization. The band’s leader, Melora Creager, is classically trained on the cello, and has been playing since the age of 9. She and her ‘second chair” walk onto the stage in full Victorian funky garb, followed by the drummer Vrenna who dresses a lot like a Tickle Me Elmo. Their hard-driving electronic sound is juxtaposed with a dark ethereal sound; a result that refuses to fit cleanly into any genre. It wasn”t just music; it was at least 60% performance art as well. They were a very fitting introduction to Primus.
After another 15 minutes of “Primus Sucks!” chants, Les Claypool wandered onto the stage, and began with his weirdest hit form the 90’s: “Too Many Puppies”. The crowd — primarily college-age kids — began hopping up and down and weaving from side to side. I was on the main floor about 15 feet from the stage (typically not thought of as the mosh pit) and was caught in the wild crush. I”m sure that some around me wondered about the COG (creepy old guy) in their midst, but must have gotten over it quickly as I was exuberantly included in their celebration of the hard-driving bass notes. Quickly moving into Sea of Cheese, and several of his other of his hard-driving hits, the crescendo continued unabated until he took a break to talk to the crowd. That allowed some of the less fortunate revelers to be carted off by the “crowd safety” crew after they had collapsed (or just been winded by the activities). Les then brought out an eight-string electric bass, the extra strings bracketing the normal octaves (two ultra low and two high pitched) and proceeded to dazzle the crowd with a piece that seemed to last for 25 or 30 minutes. Incredible.
After a total of more than 90 minutes of playing, Primus unceremoniously left the stage, returning after 10 more minutes of “Primus sucks!” for another 15 minute encore, including the famous Mr. KnowItAll and the South Park theme music. Whew! What a performance!
I realize that most of the family-regulars who read this blog may not frequent alternative rock concerts, but I do and this one did not suck. For two and a half hours, I left my routine workaday life and stepping into wonderland. Alice doesn”t live there anymore.