Sunday, July 11, 2004

Primus Sucks

Carl Sundberg
Pulse Columnist
October 27, 2003

The bizarre freak show that is Primus rolled through Eugene on Saturday night in support of its new album, "Animals Should Not Try To Act Like People."

The three original members of the band -- Les Claypool, Larry LaLonde and Tim Alexander -- joined forces once again for a reunion tour extravaganza, playing two sets clocking in just under 180 minutes to a sold-out crowd at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.

The crowd did not explode when the band took the stage just after 8 p.m. Instead, they roared, then fell silent as the band slid into the Pink Floyd-ish "Southbound Pachyderm," a trippy, lurching song about flying elephants. They stretched the song out for nearly 10 minutes, bending it into new shapes that I'd never heard before. However, the crowd was not blasted into a frenzy -- they were lulled into another world. This shows that Primus no longer needs to prove themselves. They are masters; they are the "Southbound Pachyderm."

Since last performing, the group has established a new sense of improvisation in their songs. Hearing new versions of "Frizzle Fry," "Pudding Time," "Toys Go Winding Down" and one of my favorites, "Over the Electric Grapevine," was amazing. All these songs were mutated and stretched like putty, which just made them heavier and funkier than I have ever heard. And this was only the first set -- a mere appetizer for what came next. The true show began during the second set when they performed their classic album "Sailing the Seas of Cheese" in its entirety.

During the strange breakdown of "Is It Luck?," Primus launched into a cover of Pink Floyd's classic "In The Flesh". The crowd erupted in approval.

I took a particular liking to the version of "American Life," when Claypool unleashed the baddest gypsy-funk bass solo I've heard in quite some time. Alexander got his never-ending solo too, rolling his drums up and down the walls of the Hult Center. The crowd paid its respects with maddening applause.

At one point, Claypool came out with the strangest instrument I've ever seen. It appeared to be a large rod with a single bass string attached to it. It seemed to be made for percussive purposes, because at one point Claypool was simply beating out a furious rhythm on the thing with drum sticks. It was unreal.

The second set concluded with "Los Bastardos", in which a slew of masked musicians took the stage and played along with the band. Claypool said to the crowd, "There are only three words, so sing along: 'Here they come.'" The crowd followed along, growing louder as the freak show onstage began to grow into a frenzy. The set ended and Primus walked offstage.

It wasn't long before the crowd grew impatient for an encore. The crowd chanted "Primus sucks!" with increasing volume. All fans know this routine; it is a calling card. This is what brings them back out.

And sure enough, the group returned for one more song. The chords to "Too Many Puppies" began, and Claypool sang: "Too many puppies are being shot in the dark/Too many puppies are trained not to bark ... ".


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