May 11, 2015 Primus & The Chocolate Factory bring glorious adventure to The Paramount Huntington, NY 4-25-15
There is no one in music today that has taken more chances and continues to take the kind of chances that Les Claypool takes. He is a gambler, who rarely loses. A pioneer who constantly pushes the limits of convention. Some may speculate as to the reason behind his seemingly risky musical behavior is that he does not care what happens. It is most likely the exact opposite. Claypool cares deeply for music and for his audience. He is a genius bored with the confines of the current musical landscape, so he expands it himself. Claypool has collaborated with the likes of Phish’s Trey Anistacio, Stewart Copeland, Buckethead, and Bernie Worrell. Forming Primus nearly three decades ago along with guitarist Todd Huth, and a LinnDrum drum machine, the band has gone on to develop a cult-like following. Changing up the lineup a year prior to their 1990 debut Frizzle Fry, Claypool, along with guitarist Larry “Ler” LaLonde and drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander, has released a load of intriguing material through the years including their 2014 efforts, Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble.
In 2013, it became apparent that Claypool could no longer contain his love of the 1971 classic film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, thus his deep run obsession with the film provoked the band to make it a theme for the annual New Year’s Eve Primus show in San Francisco. Having spent the last twenty years on stage for New Year’s Eve, Claypool, with the help of friends and frequent collaborators, percussionist Mike Dillon and Cellist Sam Bass, as well as LaLonde and Alexander, unleashed his vision upon the world in Oakland CA at the Fox Theater. Dillon and Bass would later be dubbed, The Fungi Ensemble. The show was a huge success, tapping the imaginations of fans and inspiring an incredible costume party. The show also marked the return of long time drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander to the mix. With all the pieces in place, Claypool entered the studio with Primus and the Fungi Ensemble in tow, and began recording a tribute to the classic film in the form of the above mentioned. On tour in support of the material, the run featured a stripped down first set of classic Primus selections and a complete second set of Primus and the Chocolate Factory Featuring The Fungi Ensemble in its entirety. Began on October 22nd 2014 with dates across the U.S., another round of dates began April 8th 2015 and ran through May 7th. Midway through the tour, Primus’ insane Chocolate Factory made a stop in Huntington, New York, at The Paramount, on Saturday April 25th.
The Paramount was filled to capacity, much like an unsupervised Augustus Gloop. Wacky music, seemingly from a 1940s carnival, played as fans anxiously awaited their favorite mad genius for an evening of music and mayhem. Claypool appeared amid chants of, “Primus sucks !” Goateed, with bowler hat and round glasses, adorned with a bow tie and vest, he took his place alongside LaLonde and Alexander, who appeared to be trapped inside a “pile of things you could hit.” Simple curtains and lights provided the backdrop as LaLonde scratched the intro of “Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweakers” before being joined by the rest. Claypool layered bass lines and looped riffs during his bass solo as the audience watched intently. “Moron TV” from Green Naugahyde featured an extended jam, with LaLonde taking the spotlight. It did not take long for the crowd to recognize the subtle intro of “Sgt. Baker” before they were bouncing up and down, chanting “Yessir!” and “Right, Left, Right, Left!” Primus continued with an “American Life” jam in which Alexander began to hit many things very fast, delivering a short, but impressive drum lead. Alexander was in top form despite the layoff. The slightest of theatrics ensued as Claypool appeared in a Cyrano mask holding an upright electric bass for “Jilly’s on Smack.” Following a quick exit, Claypool returned wearing a Pork Soda mask, now pig headed, he began sliding a bow across the strings, creating an array of moans and groans, beginning “Mr Krinkle.” The crowd roared with approval. It was time to once again spotlight Alexander, whose percussive prowess has become clear from the back of the stage. Using nearly everything in his arsenal, he pounded out an amazing drum solo that led into “Eleven” from Sailing the Seas of Cheese (1991). The classic “My Name Is Mud” and “Over the Electric Grapevine” closed out the first part of the evening’s festivities.
After a brief intermission, the curtain parted once again to reveal enormous mushrooms, giant swirly pops, umbrellas, and assorted whimsey. A huge video screen was now suspended behind the band. Also added, was the Fungi Ensemble; Bass and Dillon had joined the show wearing false faces to add to the weirdness. Fog crept along the bottom of the stage and the lighting took a psychedelic, psychotic hue. Alexander had more stuff to hit and was now completely surrounded, maybe even encased., and made use of it all. Claypool had channeled the mad chocolatier, with a crazy red wig, a top hat, and acoustic bass, but something else was different; something inside. The band began “Hello Wonkites” a dark, haunting tune with a thread of “Pure Imagination” running through it. Alexander began “Candy Man” as twisted clips from the original film played on the large screen, adding to the trippy nature of the experience. The strangely catchy, sideways version gave way to the equally sideways but sweet version of “Cheer up Charlie.” Videos of a young Peter Ostrum mushed in on itself and stretched to a nearly unrecognizable Charlie Bucket.
“Golden Ticket” was a highlight, in that it conveyed the hope, and sense that anything can happen. Dillon impressed with a xylo lead break using multiple mallets in each hand. There are some golden tickets included in the limited release vinyl press of the record. Next, it was on to the Chocolate room, and “Pure Imagination” as we saw the lucky winners discover their own greed and gluttony. “Oompa Augustus” addressed this, as orange faced, green haired, Oompa Loompas appeared on screen, then on stage, their giant heads bobbing up and down before disappearing to opposite sides of the stage. “Semi-Wondrous Boat Ride” displayed a kaleidoscope of colors and sounds until we saw the return of the Oompa Loompas for “Oompa Violet” into “I Want It Now” with a bouncy, ostinato feel. Claypool’s vocals sat perfectly in the mix, delivered with the type of animation that only he can. “Oompa Veruca” brought about the return of the Giant headed Oompas into “Wonkmobile” synced with footage of Charlie, Gramps, and Wonka flying high above the city; another highlight filled with wonder. “Oompa TV” would be the final, live appearance of the oversized Oompas followed by the closer “Farewell Wonkites.” Primus left the stage to a tremendous cacophony of gratitude from the audience.
Primus returned to perform “Too Many Puppies,” “Pudding Time,” and “Here Come the Bastards.” The finale saw video footage of the giant Oompas walking the streets of Huntington, New York, arriving on the train, visiting local parks, bars, and restaurants. This received huge applause from the crowd as they watched local landmarks appear on the screen as an homage to the town they had come to visit.
Claypool and company did not just perform a concert, they delivered an experience; one that none in attendance had ever had before. Adding even more fun to the adventure, Primus was selling candy bars, including Mr. Krinkle (crisped rice), Professor Nutbutter (peanuts), Bastard Bar (dark chocolate), and the Jerry Was a Race Car Driver bar (dark chocolate and espresso beans). Claypool describes it this way, “The tour and the album are solely a marketing tool just so we can sell candy bars.” He jokes, “That’s the whole impetus of this entire project. Because the fucking recording industry rolled over and let this Internet shit all over us. So we had to come up with another income stream, so we’re making chocolate bars because you can’t digitize a chocolate bar — yet;” some truth, but also the wonderful tongue-in-cheek humor that is Primus. This band continues to evolve and expand their universe by taking chances, pushing their own limits, and thoroughly enjoying every moment. The ones that choose to take this ride were rewarded with unique and unprecedented musical experiences, now be sure to get out and see Primus as they continue to tour with The Chocolate Factory in Europe and Canada.