Saturday night, deep into their hallucinogenic set, leadman Les Claypool of Primus noticed his fingers magnified on the big screen. He stared in awe for the final 30 seconds of “My Name is Mud” as they muted and fluttered across the frets to create his signature bass sounds. Immediately after the song, he yelped to guitarist Larry “Ler” LaLonde, “All the kids from Berklee (if any of them are here) are stealing our licks!” He encouraged this, going on to say, “Do it the way I do it. It’s the right way. It’s very traditional, it’s in text books. All your teachers are wrong.” As Claypool lectured in his stovepipe hat and scholarly facial hair, I couldn’t help but believe him, I was under his musical trance with everyone else at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion.
Primus are a band that remain unabashedly odd, playing shows and creating music in its own genre. Famous for massive twangy songs like “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” and “Winona Had a Big Brown Beaver,” these songs follow Claypool’s robust babbling on both mouth hole and bass. He could provide the Micro Machines Man to speedy dialogue at his finest hour. His method of bass-slapping and flapping seems untrackable and in a pace all its own, but drummer Tim Alexander plays so tight that the two synch up like peanut butter and Fluff. It’s quite tasty.
While this tour is largely covering a collection of their career hits, Primus brought the stage aesthetics to resemble their newest album Primus and the Chocolate Factory. Giant inflatable mushrooms framed the stage resembling Willy Wonka’s factory floor. As Claypool led the band into “Oompus Augustus” he donned a pig’s mask and theatrically strummed a slender, upright bass. He switched between playing it as a bass and as a cello, and it got me wondering, “What if they brought in Yo-Yo Ma collaborated here—would either be shunned by their peers for the unlikely collaboration?” I like to believe it would make no difference and everyone would merrily dance to the odd offerings regardless. [PHOTOS BELOW!]
Alt. rock pioneers of Western Mass, Dinosaur Jr., opened with J. Mascis grumbling into the mic, surrounded by a mix of speakers that seemed to tell the band’s legacy—Marshalls tattered and stacked in abstract behind him. The shadow of Mascis loomed against these, creating an aura similar to Gandolf the White. His guitar solos and scarring lyrics cut through the heavy feedback so mystically, they too could rescue Frodo. Lou Barlow then, would be Aragorn, with his pure grit and strength commanding graceful authority. He pounds into his bass guitar catching chords as crisply on the upstroke as the down. It’s mesmerizing to watch his entire body sway through the music like a jangly seesaw.
Prior to both bands was The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl lead the band, which has prompted comparison to his parents John Lennon and Yoko Ono. They performed as the sun was setting, but with a plethora of psychadelic echoes and dreamy four part harmonies, they would be better situated with a starry night sky. A set drifting in wailing solos that harkened classic rock—they wrapped up with a climactic dose of feedback that expertly rose like a spaceship launch. They were a great introduction to the varied evening.