The Shows We’ll Never See

The Younger J and I are true believers in the live show—when it is possible nothing matches the experience of seeing a band perform. Now, while at times the experience is sublime, at other times, it can also have a deleterious effect on your view of a band. Despite the outcome, however, the experience of witnessing a musical performance and, more importantly, absorbing the reaction of other audience members as well, alters your relationship with the music irrevocably.

(I was not a Bare Naked Ladies fan (back in the Gordon days) until I saw them live; their energy and improvisation made me respect a band I would have otherwise ignored. Conversely, my heart was broken at a Dandy Warhols show, but that is a story for another time…)

These days, I leave most of the concert going to my brother. I am old an ornery: most good shows start after my bedtime . (Old, Old Man.) But I do have some experience to draw on: my first show ever was Jerry Garcia; my last concert was the Austin City Limits. There are many and varied acts between.

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Waylon Speed: Country Licks Hard and Fast

Now for something completely different.

I’ve been going to see  Waylon Speed since their inception in  Burlington, Vermont a few years ago. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been specific in where I went to college so let’s be very specific and say I went to the University of Vermont in Burlington to get some very expensive liberal arts degrees that are just starting to do something for me. The best thing about the city, besides the small size and cacophony of food, is the music scene.  Many of them are jam bands, funk bands, or bluegrass bands which can get tiring.  But that’s not what this is about, this is about the ass-kicking tunes of the awesome and incredibly unique band Waylon Speed.

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Should Zeppelin Re-Unite?

This was probably my first exposure to delta blues and I remember being transfixed by the sound of the slide. Strangely enough, the father of the girl whom I’d lose my virginity to burned me the BBC sessions the summer prior to the big event. 

My brother sent me an article last week about Robert Plant saying he’d be open to to doing something with his former band, the mightiest rock quartet ever, Led Zeppelin. I am sure it’s obvious from my love of 70’s rock that they are in fact one of my favorite bands. In fact, along with the Beatles, I think Zep is a band that almost everyone likes to some degree.  They did so much for popular music that I don’t think it can be written about enough. I’ve read at least three books on the band and I learn more every time. The question is, should they re-unite?

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Channel Surfing: Sir Paul and “Let me Roll it”

I have never been a huge fan of solo Beatles stuff, with the exception of a lot of what George Harrison did in the early 70’s. I  am in love with the All things Must Pass album and the title track is slowly becoming one of my favorite songs…or least the top twenty. The version I included above is one I had only heard on the Scorsese’s movie about Harrison called Living in the Material World so I thought it would be good to include a different take on an awesome song.

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American Beauty: Best Studio Dead Album

The underrated but awesome show Freaks and Geeks is what really introduced my brother to the Grateful Dead, even if he was lucky enough to see Jerry Dawg himself with our dad  back in the early 1990’s. I have talked before about my love for the band and why they represent some of my happier years in life, those hazy days of college. But my brother has long maligned it as “stupid stoner music” if I remember his words correctly. He has maintained this position in our years-running argument on the band with almost no give. This is not true brother and I hope I can open your eyes as to why or at least explain why I so love the band.

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Prime Cuts of Primus

Prime Cuts of Primus

I don t believe in Pinochle

And I don’t believe I’ll try

I do believe in Captain Crunch

For I am the Frizzle Fry”

Primus has been one of my favorite bands since I was a kid and I try to expose everyone I know to their music. The majority of people cannot handle it for more than a couple songs saying it’s too intense or busy or even just lying to me and saying they just want to hear something else.  I feel bad for these people as I think everyone could like them if they put in the time. Or not. Ultimately, I don’t care who likes them as they are one of the most unique bands to exist and we are all lucky to have them here on Earth. Their funky style of heavy rock draws from countless sources and sounds like nothing else out there. Their fans are diehard and some of them are scarily dedicated to a truly cult band. People love them or hate them. Primus sucks and this is why.

As a side note, many people yell “Primus Sucks” at shows because they very much do not suck. This is what I assume anyway but I read on the Primus blog recently that Les wants this to end so we will see how far that goes. It’s the thing to do, like yelling “Hot Fuckin Tuna” or “Freebird”. If this entry elicits any interest in the band, please take  some time getting to know the band as I am sure you will at least come to admire them. Also, I intend to give a synopsis of the band in four lines or less to fill in your own gaps. Primus has been around over twenty years and is headed by the mammoth bass player Les Claypool and  Larry Lalonde as the guitarist from the beginning. The drummers have changed continually with Jay Lane now in the line up. Their music is hard to identify genre wise but it’s all based around Claypool’s unreal bass playing and eclectic lyrics. Ok I lied, it was five lines.

My first memory of Primus is vague. My sister’s friend Carl, who actually was my brother’s friend first and who apparently wanted my sister but was significantly and creepily older than her, brought over a Primus VHS that started with “John the Fisherman”.  I think it wad that song anyway and there was a boat. I must have been 7 or so as I look at the dates and I remember instantly loving the bass heavy music. It was unlike anything I had ever heard and I remember bobbing my head along with the music. It didn’t have the typical guitar lines with a bass line that followed with root notes and the occasional flourish. The bass was out front and the drums were going apeshit while the guitar made various cool noises. I didn’t know any of this jargon at the time but as I look back, these are the things that draw me to the band. It must have been a collection of videos taped off TV because I just watched the video for the above mentioned song and that’s definitely what I saw. It’s still cool almost twenty years later and I see why I still love the band from that first vague glimmer.

I vividly remember hearing “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” on my sister’s boom box from the new “alternative” radio station from the city not too far from our rural home. This station was sick at the beginning: they didn’t play any commercials and it was music you would no hear anywhere else at the time. This is way before iTunes and YouTube and I didn’t get to hear this song again until my sister bought the album, the one and only Primus album any of my siblings ever owned. Maybe that’s another reason I liked them so much, albeit subconsciously. I always took my brother’s cds and this was one I took from my sister when she realized she hated every other song on the disc. Her loss and my gain as this the song is one of all choice cuts. The high pitched noise reminds me now of pigs squealing and the guitar solos are clearly Jerryesque. Nothing I love more than some farm animals and Dead homage’s. That sounds a lot weird written out then it did in my head. As a final note, I am still not sure if this song is a euphemism for female genitalia or an actual reference to a beaver.

I didn’t get to really like Primus, like super fan style, until towards the end of high school. A good friend at that time, who later ended up spending some time in a federal penitentiary, had been going to Ozzfest since it’s inception. I went to ’03 with him and and still have the scars on my knees to prove it.  He had caught Primus in 1999 and been a diehard fan ever since . he would always play the Brown Album over and over in his piece of shit Oldsmobile that he always drove at the top speed it could handle without rattling apart.  Specifically, he dug on “Shake Hands with Beef” and would always yell the lyrics along with Les and pound his fist on the crumbling dashboard.The whole album is good, albeit different than other Primus albums in content and sound.  But every Primus album is different and that’s another reason I really like them. My friend is still in trouble with the law and I rarely see him but I hope he still likes Primus.

College was really when I became the super fan. Even more so than high school, I think college is really where you become who you are and discover your true tastes. I also met Adam sophomore year and he was a huge Primus fan. The fall we became friends, we drank a lot of beer and talked a lot about music. One weekend, we ended up going back to his apartment after a party and alienating all the people who we were with by putting on a DVD of the 2003 Tour De Fromage.  . Primus’s music can be very abrasive and dissonant, coupled with some downright scary lyrics like the tale of killing a man with an aluminum baseball bat for having bad breath in “My Name is Mud”.  It just isn’t for some people and I think this is one of the many reasons I like the band. It would become a regular thing throughout college to listen to Primus after drinking all night and once I found my girlfriend that I with for 75% of college, she also became a Primus fan. This only fueled my growing fandom of the band.  Adam has turned out to be one of my best friends and rarely does us hanging out not result in some Primus being played or at least discussed. More on him next paragraph.

So I didn’t get to see Primus until 2010 but I got to see them twice, once in Vermont and again in Boston. They are now in a permanent position in my top five favorite bands. I’ve seen Les Claypool five times and he has some various extremely talented musicians back him up on his solo material on instruments ranging from the cello to the vibraphones. Perhaps I’ll write about Les solo in the future, but now I want to focus on Primus. All the Les shows were precursors to the truly soul shaking experience of seeing Primus. Both shows were seen with Adam and we were like two little boys jumping up and down for two hours, completely ignoring the multiple friends who joined us in Vermont and full on converting the one friend in Boston. Les commands your attention without being obnoxious, literally making your chest and head pound with his funky and thunderous bass lines. Larry’s guitar playing, coupled with Jay’s frenetic drum beats, leaves a deep grove that you can’t kick post show. Some day I will write about my top five favorite live shows and I can assure you Primus will be near the top. Word is a new album is coming out and they are touring everywhere except the Northeast this summer, a total bummer, But I’ll see them again, that is for sure.

I like Primus for a variety of reason. First, not a single other band sounds like them. That means more than anything to me in this world of listening to top 40 hits and not knowing when the songs start or end. I look for truly unique music and love when I can find it. Their funky and heavy mix of sound appeals to me because it has a way of getting into you and making you move. I was literally jumping around my office area two minutes ago while listening to a live cut of “Tommy the Cat”. Second, not a lot of people like them. Is this one of those I like them because I want to separate myself from the popular pack? No, it’s because it takes time and can be difficult to listen to this band and other true fans have put in the same amount of time as I have. Whenever you meet a fan, it’s like you’re instantly friends and I find that to be a great honest feeling. Third, I love the bass and have been playing one for the past year pretty much so I can try and be like Les, some day anyway. I can play two Les riffs and counting. Fourth, I find Les ’s lyrics to be very funny and at times, very identifiable to me and my own life. I mean the fishing, redneck, and car references. I also mean the song about the Department of Motor Vehicles and the endless other idiosyncratic lyrics. A lot of people refer to them as nonsensical but I doubt they know enough to really make a viable comment on the matter. Lastly, their live show is amazing, absolutely riveting and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I probably seem like a semi obsessed freak at this point but I don’t care. Everyone has a band like this, just look at my brother and They Might Be Giants,a similar band and motive in why he likes them so much. I end this post with one of their trippier cuts that kills it live and the message that if you like a weird band, embrace them and spread the word.