Tuesday 30 June 2015

Live Review: Primus & The Chocalate Factory @ Tivoli, Utrecht (NL) 16 June 2015

I’m not a fan of Primus. I don’t mean I don’t like the band, I mean I don’t know the band. Primus has been an enigma for me. On the one hand, they have been associated with a lot of bands I listened to while growing up, I’ve always wanted to check them out, but nothing ever came of it. So when my buddies asked if I’d be interested in joining them on a Tuesday night for a Primus show, I jumped in head first knowing that this would be my opportunity to check one more thing off of my bucket list.  Primus took the stage in Utrecht’s brand spankin’ new Tivoli on Tuesday June 16th. The venue spilled over with people, all of whom wanted to be up front. So it was hot, crowded, cramped, and most of all, fun. Shortly after the clock struck 8.30pm, Les Claypool and his two friends came out on stage. Not a word was said, the crowd went apeshit.

A trilogy of songs that flowed nicely into one another was what got things underway. Les’ bass was high up in the mix, where it should be, overshadowing his secret weapons; Larry Lalonde on guitar and Tim Alexander on drums. This wasn’t to do with an ego trip or anything, as it turned out the guys were having a blast, but Primus is a bass-driven rock band as opposed to many of their contemporaries who fill the mix with blasting guitars. Primus doesn’t make ‘guitar rock,’ though, its bass driven. I suppose that makes it ‘bass rock?’ Whatever their sonic delivery is called, it was something that I got used to quickly and it certainly wasn’t the strangest thing to witness during the three hour set.

Les Claypool’s voice was in form but not in any sort of traditional sense. His stoner mumble oozed out of the side of his mouth, as he went on about some girl’s beaver, his name being Mud, and Jerry, a friend of his who is a race car driver. (Well look at that, I guess in passing I did pick up a few Primus songs in my time). Claypool flapped, tapped, swigged, strummed, and picked his bass, moving his fingers along both meticulously and effortlessly, which somehow transformed into a precise melody. My mouth hit the floor, as did those of the bassist friends I was with. This wasn’t particularly heavy music but it’s not necessarily music for the light of heart. This wasn’t stoner rock, either, but the guy behind us gobbling up truffles didn’t come across as too out of place. This was mellow, well executed, music for the music lover.

And then the band left the stage, prematurely. The curtain was closed, house lights went up, and life returned to normal. This wasn’t the end of the show; however, this was merely the intermission. A short thirty minutes later, the curtain was opened, revealing a stage that was decorated with props that were one part twisted, one part industrial, and two parts sexual. The occasion, of course, was the Primus and the Chocolate Factory Show! And what a show it was! Electric stand up basses were played by bows, xylophones were being hit with frantic passion by a man whose grey hair did not match his vivaciousness or talent. “The Candyman” started things off hauntingly, the rest of the set followed suit, and Primus spiralled out of control one song at a time. All of a sudden, this innocent movie that I loved as a child was put through a filter for adults, which added a whole new layer to each character. And then real life Oompa-Loompa’s with over sized heads came out for what at first served as comic relief but later came across as a judgmental parent. Oh boy, did Primus know how to twist this well-known story around and do a fantastic job of it.

Once the Oompa-Loompa’s left the stage for the last time, the band followed. The ridiculous roller coaster that the audience had been through was docked, it was time to put our feet back on the ground. Or so we thought. Primus returned to the stage again for a double whammy of “Here Come the Bastards” and “Too Many Puppies,” which since I recognized these songs not only was proof that somehow Primus had seeped their way into my life, but that they have a following who eat this bass-crazed-post-polka-rock up. A quick look at their tour dates shows me that they’re playing Las Vegas in September with Clutch, so I’m going to sign off now and figure out how to get my ass out there.

Words by: Victor van Ommen