Primus 10.11.11

Michigan Theater
Ann Arbor, MI

Words & Photos By Greg Molitor
(ReMIND Photography)

The best bands change with the times. Truth is no fan of live music wants to hear the same song played the same way over and over again, especially us jammers. We need it fresh and expect nothing less. Enter Primus, the talented Bay Area trio that’s recently returned from a two year break from performing. Madman bassist Les Claypool pulled the plug in 2009 because he believed the project had run its course for the time being, and luckily for fans, the band has reinvigorated its sound in 2011, completely avoiding that common stale pitfall that spells doom for many acts who seek longevity. On Tuesday, October 11th, I made the short journey towards Ann Arbor to see if the guys still had it. And yes, they’re back in a big way, thankfully, still spooking us after all these years.

My crew and I ventured to the Michigan Theater around 8:50 PM and were greeted with a shocker of a situation. The folks at Will Call informed me that the box office had closed. Huh? “It’s almost set break, man. We don’t have your tickets.” the worker proudly proclaimed. “You have got to be shitting me….”

Worker #1 grabbed worker #2 who apparently had my tickets. “Nope, we don’t have your tickets.” Great, just great. After “requesting” an answer that would better correct the issue, worker #2 had a short conversation with worker #3, and what do you know, worker #3 was holding on to them just for me… right…. I then raced inside to extract as much awesome as I could from the remaining minutes of the first set. Upon arrival, the freak out session was already in full swing with Primus delving into some strange, spacious moments during “Eleven”. The set finished with “Bob”, “Jerry was a Racecar Driver”, and a version of “Tommy the Cat” so slammin’ that any malcontent lingering from the earlier troubles were trumped, torn apart, and buried by unbridled enthusiasm and bliss.

After an intermission that doubled as a Max Fleischer showing on the video screens inside and a delightfully messy hippie party on the streets, Primus came onstage for the second set and performed their newest album, Green Naugahyde, in its entirety. The new tunes resembled Claypool’s solo work more than Primus material, yet they still brought the signature dark quirkiness that’s defined the band since their early beginnings. Although Les Claypool and guitarist Larry Lalonde are the permanent mainstays, drummer Jay Lane stole the show.

Lane’s earliest successes came through his brief stint with Primus in the late 80s. Afterwards, he became a jam percussionist for hire, touring with Claypool’s solo projects, Ratdog, and Furthur. The journey has now come full circle with his reemergence as the man behind the Primus kit, looking more comfortable and in control of his playing than ever before. Throughout the night, the band continually walked down the filthiest of paths together as combination of Claypool’s rubber band bass, Lalondes’s atonal guitar bombs, and Lane’s tightly wound hi-hat work melted into horrifyingly enjoyable experience for those in attendance.

The encore offered us a two more classic tunes, the first being Claypool’s ode to smoking crack, “Harold of the Rocks”, and the second, “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver”, which was dedicated to a youngster in the crowd that braved the psychedelically tuned concert with the rest of us weirdos. With a fiery old school attitude, both songs were masterfully done and driven home with more than enough power to quiet the loudest of doubters and most skeptical of nonbelievers. It was a contained riot of a show that’ll resonate with me for many years to come, and as I crept onto Liberty Street with the rest of the crowd, the after show environment seemed to glow a bit brighter than usual. From all indications, everyone else was feeling it too.

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