Primus at the Roseland: An '80s Guy at a '90s Show
“I’m from Transylvania!”
“Where do you work?”
“How do you pay for your apartment?”
“You don’t work?”
“The time to spend is now, my friend. Like Les says, Tragedy’s A Comin’!”
At this point, the second guy stopped listening and began talking to someone else. I heard the first guy repeat his statement followed by “2012!”
“Holy crap,” I thought to myself. “This guy is spending his life savings because he thinks the world is going to end next year.”
And so began my first experience at a Primus show.
When my good friend, Zack, asked if I wanted to go see Primus at the Roseland Ballroom last Friday, I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough. Only a few weeks prior, the two of us aurally devoured Green Naugahyde, the band’s first full-length studio effort since 1999’s Antipop. Finally, the day had come where we had the good fortune to see this incredible group live. And already I was way out of my element (I’m the '80s guy, remember?). Nonetheless, I was pumped.
After finding out, much to my and Zack’s delight, that there would be no opening act, the lights went down. On stage, an ominous face was projected onto the helmets of two enormous balloon astronauts standing on either side of the stage. On stage walked bassist Les Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Jay Lane.
Without saying a word to the audience, the band kicked in to “Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers” off of 1991’s Sailing the Seas of Cheese. When the intro had passed and they dug into the main riff everyone on the floor with us, as my friends would like to say, “went buckwild." Zack and I pushed our way forward as close as we could, and there, before us, was a group of musicians who deserve eternal respect. It was truly inspiring.
After a slew of older Primus hits ("Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver," "The Pressman," "Jerry Was A Racecar Driver," etc.), the band retired offstage for a mid-show rest, during which time the audience was played four "Popeye" cartoons. If anyone at that show can’t tell you the exact formula for every "Popeye" episode ever, then they must have been unconscious. Or buying another beer. Either way, I’ve never seen so many grown men excited by a television character eating spinach.
The band soon returned for a second set; one consisting of Green Naugahyde from start to finish (half the audience hadn’t a clue how to pronounce the title until hearing it from Claypool himself). Songs like “Last Salmon Man,” “Tragedy’s A Comin’,” and “Jilly’s on Smack” were all audience favorites (the last one featuring Les Claypool on an electric stand-up bass, just in case you weren’t already aware of what a monster of a musician he is). However, the highlight during the Naugahyde set for me was without a doubt “Eternal Consumption Engine.” Claypool uses his voice generally as another rhythm instrument, but during the B section of this particular song he sang his heart out. And it was awesome.
After the second set was over, the band allowed the outro to their album to play them out as they walked offstage. But there had to be an encore. This audience wasn’t leaving without one. After a few minutes, the band rushed back on stage and without warning slammed into Frizzle Fry’s “Mr. Knowitall,” followed by “Harold of the Rocks.” I’m not sure who was more tired, the audience or the band, but by the time the set was over everyone was leaving fully satisfied.
If you read this, and you’re toying with the idea of going to catch this band live, please do it. You’ll have yourself a buckwild evening. I can promise you that.