Last night I attended a live performance by Primus at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan. Primus is the notorious trio whose alternative rock stylings have garnered them a widespread cult following after being in existence for more than twenty years, and I had never had an opportunity to see them live before. They’re fronted by Les Claypool, whom I had run into several times, either by himself, or attached to a number of other different projects, each one stranger than the last. Claypool is a genuine eccentric, as well as being widely heralded as one of the best bass guitar players in the world. He normally comes on stage in a bowler hat and vest, or suspenders, and during the course of the shows he periodically leaves the stage and comes back on wearing a number of grotesque animal masks. Last night’s show was an exercise in insanity. I’ve attended a number of wrestling events at the Hammerstein, and one other concert, that being Wu Tang Clan back in ’06. I’d be hesitant to say exactly how many people were inside, but I’d venture a couple of thousand, at least. I had a general admission ticket, which meant I was on the floor, a ways back from the stage, in the press of people, some of them hippies and that ilk, others having a somewhat harder edge to them. One of the things that I like about Primus is that they attract a pretty diverse following. On either side of the stage were these giant spaceman suits, each one about thirty feet high, and during the course of the show the face of an old man was superimposed over the facial part of the helmets, so that he appeared to be frowning out at us. There was also a big screen behind the instruments, on which strange film clips were shown that were meant to sync up with the music. They did, but none of them made any sense at all. At one point there was footage of people arriving at Ellis Island and taking the oath of citizenship; all of them looked terrified. At another part there was kind of a Western motif going, and the face of the actor Lee Marvin appeared, sneering and snarling. At other points geometric shapes shot through space and vortexes of lights and colors danced and gyrated. We had been given 3D glasses, so all of this appeared to be coming out of the screen and down from the stage, during which time Claypool spanked the bass and never really sang so much as muttered in a guttural voice. Seldom could you actually understand what he was saying. It was kind of like the train announcements that they make when you’re on the subway. But the lyrics aren’t exactly the point here; the atmosphere is, and this was simply a spectacle in every sense of the word. I would compare it to all the doors of a mental asylum full of deranged hippies being opened so the inmates could run around and frolic. I was only drunk, but many others were tripping. I found a guy with doses, and I briefly considered taking one, but elected not to. I’m too old for that sort of thing. I got a bootleg tee-shirt outside to commemorate the event, and I can now cross Primus off my bucket list of bands. I’m glad I saw them, since they don’t tour much any more, and, like myself, none of them are getting any younger. By all means a fun and memorable night, and just to experience something like that and savor it and drink it in, is, I think, what life is all about. The artist speaks of the necessity of “derangement of the senses” to achieve a creative or dreamlike state. That is what took place here. The music, the sights, and even the tastes and smells of being amongst the people is not something I often seek out these days, but every once in a while, is seems I have to. It’s one of those things I’m compelled to do.
I would request of you, readers, once again, that you go to the JukePop Serials website, www.jukepopserials.com, and vote for my novel The Woods, which is in the process of appearing these serially. If my book is among the top thirty, I get money. And I need money for things like Primus shows…and of course, other trifling matters like rent and bills. Hope you are enjoying the fall season, true believers. Drink a cup of cider for me.