Primus Landmark Theater – Syracuse, NY 5/20/12

Does anybody not like Primus? I mean, I know “Primus Sucks” and all, but are there people out there who don’t get at least a chuckle when they hear Les Claypool’s voice on record? He may not be the most charismatic, exuberant, or athletic frontman in the world, but he is definitely one of the most unique and talented.

So it was a blast getting to watch the outlandish trio at Landmark Theater in Syracuse, NY again after a long absence. Their “Evening with” performance featured 2 sets of music like only Primus can make… Quirky, catchy, and abnormally poppy. Les Claypool, Larry LeLonde, and new (old) drummer Jay Lane putting their expansive output on display is a great way to end a weekend.

As I waited patiently for a chance to grab one of their limited edition, city specific posters, the crowd outside, a mix of hippies and rockers, discussed any number of Primus related topics ranging. There was a strong focus on past shows, marijuana, and (again) absent drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander, who opted out of Primus for other musical output. Needless to say, once the doors popped open, fans flooded the merchandise stand and bar area, ravenous for mementos and venue concessions.

Onward showtime! The crowd burst to life as the bass clicked in for opener “Here Come The Bastards,” a sure-fire way to get people out of their chairs.  The energy remained high for “Eyes of the Squirrel” and “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver,” the latter a runaway MTV video hit that had everyone talking.  Following “The Pressman,” “Tragedy’s A-Comin’” and “Over The Falls,” the intensity of the show peaked when Les, after paying homage to Jerry Garcia, laid into the signature bass line from “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver.” With “Over The Electric Grapevine” finishing off set one, the crowd once again flooded the merch booth for memorabilia, and the bar to maintain/increase their collective buzz.

Intermission was accompanied by a very old school Popeye cartoon… Fucking awesome idea! I’ve been to many a concert in my day, and I am fairly certain this was a first in my book.

The second set was a bit different. Though full of great songs, I found myself at a loss of excitement, and it wasn’t at all what I was expecting from the group. It seems Primus has found their inner-jam in recent years, as a great deal of time was spent, in my opinion, noodling around and through tracks. Opening with “Southbound Pachyderm,” I feel they could have played a punchier track to get the momentum up. “Fisticuffs,” “Jilly’s on Smack,” “Mr. Krinkle,” “Lee Van Cleef,” and “The Toys Go Winding Down” followed the same pattern.

Perhaps I’m just getting old and attempting to hold onto my youth a bit too hard, but I don’t want to see Primus jam out… I want to hear the tracks as they are on the record. Don’t get me wrong… I like jam based music just fine. But a band like Primus really has no reason to embellish live, aside from their own amusement. With such a strong catalogue, I hoped to hear a wider range of tracks from the group. Crowd favorites like “John The Fisherman” were noticeably missing from the performance, and that’s a bummer.

But I digress… The always amusing and fun “Tommy the Cat” ended their second set, and the group joined us one last time for a two-song encore of “Moron TV” and “Too Many Puppies.” When it was all said and done, the crowd funneled onto Salina Street… Proof of life in an otherwise dead downtown. Overall, it was a great show. Primus is one of those acts everyone should get a chance to see, because there is no one who does what they do onstage.

As any true fan would do, I will pay money to see Primus again. You never know what to expect from the eccentric three piece, and that will always keep me coming back for more.

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