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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 9:22 pm | Fair 50º

 
 
 
 

Jeff Moehlis: Primus ‘Sucks’ at Santa Barbara Bowl

Hard-rocking Wolfmother opens for the alt-funk-progressive-metal band

Normally when you say something “sucks,” it’s a rather impolite way of saying that it’s not so good. But for the band Primus, the phrase “Primus sucks” — usually yelled as loudly as possible — is a high compliment. Welcome to the twisted world of Primus.

(In case you’re curious, the origin of the meaning of this phrase goes back to the band’s first album, Suck on This.)

Primus was showered with calls of “Primus sucks” throughout their concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Sunday night, an indication of fans’ appreciation for their quirky alt-funk-progressive-metal music, which frontman/bassist extraordinaire/singer Les Claypool once described as “psychedelic polka” and has, perhaps more fittingly, also been described as “(Canadian progressive rock band) Rush on crack.”

The band — Claypool plus Larry LeLonde on guitar and Jay Lane on drums — is back together playing songs from their 1990s heyday, reportedly in preparation for a new album. Lane has rejoined Primus after, until recently, a stint with Further, the Grateful Dead spin-off that will play at the Santa Barbara Bowl in September.

Highlights for me included the jam in which Claypool wore a monkey mask as he thrashed away on a whamola, the early single “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver,” the hypnotic encore-starting “Southbound Pachyderm” with a trippy video of an elephant on a trampoline projected onto the masks of the giant blow-up astronauts onstage — as I said above, welcome to the twisted world of Primus — and a rather surprising cover of Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh?” from The Wall.

Wolfmother played an energetic hour-long opening set Sunday night
Wolfmother played an energetic hour-long opening set Sunday night. Click here for more photos of the band. (L. Paul Mann photo)

You can see the full setlist below, but frankly, all of the songs kind of blended together. It wasn’t a bad thing, as it provided a continuous soundtrack for the mosh pits that formed in defiance of the “No Moshing” signs at the venue. (On the other hand, the “No Crowd-Surfing” signs were more strictly enforced, particularly when a crowd-surfer got into range of a security guard in front of the stage.)

Openers Wolfmother played an awesome hour-long set that showcased their riff-based hard-rocking sound, which reminds one of early Black Sabbath with a bit of Deep Purple-ish organ thrown in for good measure.

Their set started off strong with “Dimension,” the lead track from their 2006 self-titled debut album, and it didn’t slow down. Next up, after an intro from J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor played by bassist/keyboardist Ian Peres, was “Cosmic Egg,” the stomping title track from their 2009 sophomore album.

An early highlight was the ultra-catchy “Woman,” which won a Grammy in 2007 for Best Hard Rock Performance and is well known to players of Guitar Hero II. It was followed by “White Unicorn,” which in the middle broke into a cool cover of “Riders On the Storm” by The Doors. Another well-chosen cover song — “Baba O’Riley” by The Who — was totally nailed by the band, to a huge audience response.

The stage setlist for the Primus concert, including art by Les Claypool
The stage setlist for the Primus concert, including art by Les Claypool. (John Koons photo)

Throughout Wolfmother’s show, Australian frontman Andrew Stockdale hammed it up, bringing a good-time energy to the band’s hard-rockin’ music. Indeed, energy and good times were the order of the day, thanks both to Wolfmother and Primus.

By the way, did I mention that Primus sucks?

Wolfmother Setlist

Dimension
Cosmic Egg
New Moon Rising
Woman
White Unicorn / Riders On the Storm (The Doors cover)
California Queen
Apple Tree
Vagabond
Baba O’Riley (The Who cover)
Joker & The Thief

Primus Setlist

Pudding Time
Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers
Duchess and the Proverbial Mind Spread
American Life
Golden Boy
Big in Japan (Tom Waits cover)
Over the Falls
The Toys Go Winding Down
Drum and Whamola Jam
Groundhog’s Day
Mrs. Blaileen
Jerry Was a Race Car Driver
In the Flesh? (Pink Floyd cover)
Harold of the Rocks

Encore

Southbound Pachyderm
Too Many Puppies

Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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