Wiltern – Los Angeles, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
Walking into the Wiltern, it had been nearly five years since my last live Primus experience. It pained me to skip their 2010 appearances in Los Angeles but as anyone who has read my words here know it takes an act of congress to get me through the doors of the cell phone venues downtown. That’s why I made sure to jump on tickets the second it was announced the band would pay Korea Town a visit on their 2011 North American tour. Having witnessed the band perform Sailing The Seas of Cheese inside the historic Art Deco venue in 2003, I knew another two set throw down at the best theatre in Los Angeles county was not to be missed.
I settled into my spot on the floor moments before the band hit the stage. I was aware that the band was performing their just released album Green Naugahyde from front to back and had assumed it would be the first set. You can imagine my shock as the wah infused guitar introduction of “Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers” came roaring through the PA. With an impressive light show, twisted animations upon the large video screen and two extremely large astronauts looming in the background, I was quickly reminded that Primus concerts are designed to overload multiples senses.
The first set did an outstanding job of bringing a well balanced mix of Primus material spanning their 20+ year career. “Pudding Time” “Duchess and the Proverbial Mind Spread” and “The Pressman” all did a great job getting the crowd into the evening early on. So much so in fact, bassist/vocalist Les Claypool took a few minutes in the middle of “Over The Falls” to acknowledge the crowd who not only sold out the theatre weeks in advance, but bucked the typical Los Angeles trend of staring lifeless as the band gave their all.
My personal highlights of the first set were a pair of songs from the groups’ 1995 effort Tales From The Punchbowl. Knowing I would flunk my Algebra final weeks after the album’s release, instead of trying I simply wrote the lyrics to “Mrs. Blaileen” down on the sheet designed to “show my work.” The song received many plays on my yellow Sony Sport Walkman as I rode the bus to summer school later that summer. The other highlight was “Over the Electric Grapevine” which featured the best of the best in first set jamming. At least on this particular night, when Primus sets sail into the unknown, the bands mindset is focused on creating a unified wall of sound instead of self-indulgent soloing.
I paid zero attention to the Popeye cartoon that played at intermission.
Green Naugahyde was an impulse buy from Target a few weeks ago. Not that I needed an excuse to buy the record as I own everything the band has released, but there it was and there I was and it just happened to fall into the basket. Having given the album a few spins, I enjoyed it, but failed to make a deep connection to many of the songs. I knew “Last Salmon Man” and “Tragedy’s a’ Comin” would be great live (and they were) but some of the songs that failed to connect with ended up being the best part of the set. “Jilly’s On Smack” was one of these, but then again it’s hard not to get excited when Les brings out his upright electric bass. “Moron TV” felt a bit like filler on the record, but having now seen it’s live incarnation I must go back and re-examine my beliefs.
Another highlight of the set was “Lee Van Cleef” a song the band is debating playing on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Monday. An ode to the late actor, the crowd found plenty of energy to bounce off each other as Claypool’s thumb bounced off his bass strings. “HOINFODAMAN” was another exciting moment, especially the gnarly distortion coming out of LaLonde’s amplifier. In fact my only disappointment in the second was that the band left the stage to a pre-recorded “Salmon Men” instead of finding a way to perform the song that clocks in under a minute.
Having already played for well over two hours, the boys came back for a lengthy two song encore. They kicked things off with “Southbound Pachyderm” which seemed to end (thus me stopping my camera) only to start back up and rage with an 8-10 minute psychedelic jam. The evening’s final song was the fan favorite “Tommy The Cat.” The group for one last time voyaged into a unique and indescribable sound that has now rocked three generations of fans. While the band still has a show scheduled next weekend in the Bay Area, the Wiltern is the “final” night of the North American tour. Los Angeles was treated to a technically proficient band who sounded as tight as they possibly could. Here’s hoping it’s not another five years before I get to catch my next Primus show.