Concert Sutra “Suckin’” on Primus

by terri sapp

Photographs by Leah Yetter

© Concert Sutra, All Rights Reserved

            The anticipation of a night with three original members of Primus, one of the best rock bands in this countries’ history was enough to drive a woman like me to a high-pitched giggly schoolgirl squeal fest every time it crossed my mind.  Even more, there is no better venue in at least the southeastern United States than the Tabernacle in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.

Les Claypool

click photos for photo gallery

            From the very beginning of March 8, 2004, it was obvious that Primus still has a most dedicated fan base, even after all these years!  Upon arrival, (several hours early, due to the general admission setup) we came across a solid Primus crew.  After they FINALLY let us in, we didn’t have to wait through an opening act…nothing but Primus, baby!  On one side of us was a fourteen year old that was three years old the last time I saw these three guys play together when they headlined Lollapalooza in 1993, and on the other side was a young boy who told us all just before show time, “I have waited my whole life to see Primus!”

            As soon as Larry LaLonde (on guitar) and Tim Alexander (on drums) appeared, it hit me that my favorite bass player in the WORLD was about to be within feet of the front and left of center spot I claimed just minutes earlier.

            And then there was Les…for starters, we visit the days of Frizzle Fry, “To Defy the Laws of Tradition.”  There were two big balls attached to the wall behind the stage, and as soon as the music began, there were projections on each ball.  During “Laws” they used different types of eyeballs not unlike the protruding eyes of the creature on this Les Claypool particular album cover.  Les Claypool (on bass, duh) is such an odd character, with one of the wildest imaginations I have ever come across.  I have truly never heard anyone manipulate an instrument quite like him. 

            When the first notes come racing out to “Professor Nutbutter’s House of Treats” from Tales from the Punchbowl, I was reminded of why it is that I prefer seeing Les Claypool play with this ensemble, rather than with the other projects I have witnessed.  These three really work as a team to bring the funky fly beats.  Tim Alexander thumped the Tabernacle with his hard hittin’ all night.  The drummer is our friend…

            Sticking with the Punchbowl lessons, we then learned a little about “Mrs. Baileen,” who is the teacher who ruined a little boy with her criticizing nature.  Every time I hear this song, the words remind me of a Primus-style “Jeremy.” 

            We were also graced with some new Primus material this evening.  We heard a new story about “My Friend Fats,” who I hear is a hell of a guy.  In true Primus form, the bass line and drum beats blend right on in with a distinct guitar Primus riff from Larry Lalonde.  It’s like these guys never went away.  This new two-disc set comes not only with a CD containing five new Primus songs, but also includes a 3-plus hour PRIMUS DVD spanning the entire career of the band!!!  Oh my Les, I mean God!!!  If you haven’t experienced “Animals Should Not Try To Act Like People,” then I suggest you march Sgt. Baker style (more to come from him later) right down to your local music store and pick one up!  For all that, you pay Les (less) than you would if you were buying just one CD from others.

            From new back to old, another couple from Frizzle Fry, we were treated with “The Toys Go Winding Down” straight into “Pudding Time,” which can also be found on Suck On This.  Any songs that shout out to Peter Jackson’s “Evil Dead” and make fun of money are all good with me.

            “The Last Superpower aka Rapscallion” is another new beat from Primus’s “Animals Should Not Try To Act Like People.”  Larry LaLonde really shines on this one with a very melodic guitar part.  I also enjoy the vocals, particularly the harmonic OOOOO’s.  Of course, the magic thumb is in full force, as always.  I am forever in awe of the talent that is Les Claypool.  For a moment, I even swore I was entering Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon.  Instead, we were led Primus into the tragic story of “Bob” coming from a classic Primus album, Pork Soda.  I never really thought to find out, but something tells me this tale of a friend’s suicide may not just be a tale.  Even the music that accompanies the fatal lyrics to “Bob” is dark and gloomy.  The guitar sounds like something that could be the soundtrack to a horror film.

            After a short break, the moment I waited for for over eleven years… “Seas of Cheese” starts.  Nothing but smiles out of me from the first slide on the bass to the last “Bastard!” on the album.  I LOVE when Les plays the bass with a bow!  (my enthusiasm is impossible to contain)  One of the major bonuses to catching one of the shows on the “Tour De Fromage” is the second set, consisting of one of the all time best albums ever recorded, “Sailing The Seas Of Cheese” from start to finish!  This was particularly exciting for me to find out, because “Cheese” was the first CD I ever bought with my own money back in 1992 when CDs were still kind of new.  RUN! Because “Here Come The Bastards!”  What a powerhouse song!  “Bastards” makes it apparent that part of the appeal of Primus that sets them apart from other rock bands is the fact that the Les Claypool vocals are merely backing up the instruments the members play.  The bass, drums, and guitar all sing lead vocals, and the guys are there to add words!

            “Sgt. Baker,” “Sgt. Baker,” what a dick!  I wouldn’t want to work for him, but damn his anthem kicks major military ass!  This is one of those songs that gets the pit to moshin’.  I must say, though, that the hard rock shows have mellowed throughout the years, which is good for us girls who like to be down in it!  Sounds to me like the Sgt. needs to go into the business of cloning with Dr. Strangelove!

            How fitting that “American Life” should follow.  When I hear bass lines like the one in this song, it makes me wonder how any human fingers can move that fast and sound that good!  I tell you, Tim Alexander was NOT playing around here.

            When I was growing up, my dad took a very active hobby in racecar driving, so, you can imagine my excitement when “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver” became the most played number off of this pinnacle album.  Again, the bass line, how does he do it?  Too bad Jerry “had too many cold beers one night and wrapped himself around a telephone pole.”  And you know when Les says “GO!” the crowd GOES!  Tim goes, too!!  What kind of rock show would this be without a Leah, Les, and Terrimega drum break?  Not a Primus show, that’s for sure!  Tim went off on his journey for like eighteen minutes, weaving in and out of cadences and beats that only a rhythmatic genius could produce!  Toward the end of Tim’s drum break, Les comes back out with a pig mask on, and plays his whamola, which is a very distinct instrument.  I first encountered the whamola during a Frog Brigade show last year around this time.  It is a long metal looking pole like thing with strings and a crank that distorts the sound by lengthening and shortening the strings (that’s my interpretation).  Les plays the whamola with a drumstick, utilizing the top and underneath surface of the strings.  The whamola has a voice all its own.

            “Eleven” is one of those songs that has a minimal amount of words, but says a great deal.  Who could even argue that Primus play by any rules but their own.

            Now, there is one very minor and small drawback to hearing an album front to back at a show that you know front and back…the element of surprise is not there.  HOWEVER, there is the absolute bonus of knowing that you will hear ALL of your favorites from the album, such as “Is It Luck?”  “Larry?”  I thought, “I can hear you loud and clear, but where are you?”  Maybe it was my spot directly in front of Les, but I kept wanting to watch Larry a bit, and Mr. LaLonde was shyly tucked away over there on his side of the stage.  Is it Luck?  I wish Les Claypool were MY granddad singing his little ditty in MY shower!  Is it Luck?

 Tim and Terri           Another big hit from the “Cheese” is “Tommy The Cat.”  “I remember as it were a meal ago.” What a fabulous song, with the most fun cartoon cat characters dancing to the beat on the big balls overhead!  All I can say here is, Les, I know you are spoken for, and I respect that, but, “say baby do you wanna lay down with me?” (and my friend, too)

            During the “Sathington Waltz” there was an air stimulated keyboard type thing that actually resembled a Fischer Price organ played by Larry, I believe (I really had a hard time seeing him).  “Those Damned Blue Collar Tweekers” must have been blocking my view.  Now this is a pirate song if I’ve ever heard one.  I find it oh so ironic that the U.S. Government has come full circle, along with this song’s relevance in regards to “curious George’s drug patrol” “hunting snipe” and what not.  It reminds me of Bush, Sr.’s first race for the White House when I wrote in Les Claypool for President.  We might just be full circle on many things…Les Claypool for President again?  Sounds good to me!  The chorus in “Tweekers” is explosive and so full of bass that I felt it vibrate throughout the entire venue.

            You know, I just can’t say enough good stuff about Primus.  About that, “Fish On” is one of my personal all time favorite songs from this band EVER!  I LOVE IT!  Maybe it’s the classical bass playin’ in the intro, Les singing into that second microphone he has with the vocal effects on it, Larry’s melodic guitar, Tim commanding drums, our similarities in childhood fishin’ memories with dad, OR maybe just that I wanna go fishin’ with Les and Larry (and Todd Huth, if he wants to come)!

            OK, the last song of “Cheese,” “Los Bastardos,” one with not too many words.  Well, talk about a fake out!  George Bush comes out playing a suspiciously similar bass to Les Claypool, then a serial killer looking (masked) freaky fellow playing the guitar along with Larry LaLonde (again hidden in the back right corner).  Then, much to my surprise, Les joins the four musicians on the stage with the coolest hard hat I ever saw with two lights on the front, playing a couple of portable drums.  Something changed in Les when he put on that hat!  He was suddenly as giddy as me and Leah, all smiles.  It was like he went into his happy place…

            How do you end a show full of such perfection as this?  In true Primus form, that’s how!  The boys left us on a somewhat mellow note with a ten-minute rendition of Tales From the Punchbowl’s “Southbound Pachyderm.”  Well, as mellow as these guys get.  They rock in every song, they just can’t help it.  Primus has rocked me so hard throughout my adolescent/adult life, I would recommend them to EVERYONE.

            For a link to the full coverage photo gallery from the March 8, 2004 Primus show at the Tabernacle in Atlanta, Georgia, go to: Leah’s pictures are breathtaking, as always.  For more information on Primus, their music and history, visit (no, really, par for the course with a jam up site).  You can even buy audio from the shows that you attend, how cool is that?  As far as catching the live show, it appears that your time may be limited for now.  Primus is scheduled to appear at this year’s Bonnaroo Music Festival on June 11-13, 2004 in Manchester, Tennessee.  Beyond that, you will just have to keep yourself posted on any additions to “Tour De Fromage,” and make sure you catch it.

***A very special thanks goes out to Deb Ovall, a.k.a. “nana” from the Primus Bullboard for the helpful ASNTTALP information.  Your positivity continues the circle.