Pixel Tracker

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

Cosmic Egg
New Moon Rising
White Unicorn / Riders On the Storm (The Doors cover)
California Queen
Apple Tree
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


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.

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.