with Gogol Bordello
Going into this show I had no idea what to expect. I’d already seen Primus at the Snocore Music Tour in 1998 and they put on a great show with a random line up of punk, ska, and reggae bands. Several years later they’re wrapping up a their tour with another random group whipping the ass of the mainstream scene, Gogol Bordello. Both bands seem to be composed of crazy people and attract crazy fans.
The evening was already setting off interestingly enough. Parking around The Rail Event Center wasn’t too tricky, my tickets were waiting for me with out any problems, and the pat down line was moving quickly (despite wrapping around the block). The big surprise came as I was going through security myself. Hands out full of the crap from my pockets, I wasn’t anticipating any issues until the security guy stopped me, “Hey, what’s that in your hand?” Confused, I looked dumbly at my wallet, phone, and keys, wondering what the issue could be. “There, that pen. What are you doing with it?” I had apparently overlooked something. “You can’t bring pens in.” The security guy grumbled at me. “It’s cool man, I’m reviewing this show for SLUG magazine and I use this pen to take notes.” The guard, undaunted by my plea, or my responsibility to the dedicated readers of SLUG, stuck to his guns and took my pen. Eventually, with a hot dog and a Redbull, I was able to distract myself from the mental battle I was having over all of the clever things I could have said to the pen snatcher.
Gogol Bordello was setting up and the crowd was growing more eager by the moment. (I wish I could say what their first song was, but my pen was gone…) Gogol opened and finished their set on the same energetic levels. Like a gypsy marching band on acid, they perform with a ferocity and energy that can drive the common foot-tapping fan into a fit of exhausting flailing about. Every member of the band was either banging and strumming something or going crazy all over the stage as they played most of their recent album, Trans-Continental Hustle, and some classic songs like “Start Wearing Purple.” The crowd was wrapped into a fury of dancing and singing by the band's uplifting, high spirited attitude. As they wrapped up their set, a feeling of dismay swept over the crowd as we all finally acknowledged that the party would soon end.
The sorrow was short lived and the crowd was quick to rattle back into random frenzies as two huge inflatable astronauts slowly crept to life on stage. Chants of “PRIMUS SUCKS!” filled the room in waves, as the set up was nearly complete. After the lights were cut and the visors of the astronauts were filled with projected images of different faces eating cereal and doing other random stuff in a random Primus kind of way, Les Claypool and the band stepped out in pimped out multi colored super suits (ties and nice tall hats, not rockets and stuff) and belted out a spirited “To Defy The Laws of Tradition”. Within moments I felt myself creeping back through the varied eras and faces of MTV to a time when their overall image and feel was one of creepy alternative music. To me, Primus perfectly encompassed the sound and images that gave me the hee-bee-gee-bees as a young buck watching late night music videos in between segments of Liquid Television and Beavis and Butthead. They projected the music videos from some of the songs they were playing onto the Astronaut visor screen throughout the night, and at one point played footage of G.W. Bush during “My Name is Mud” which was just as telling of Claypool’s political stances as when he made fun of Sarah Palin at one point during the set.
Primus hasn’t skipped a beat over the last couple decades as they’ve continued to parade across the globe. Drummer Jay Lane, who drummed for the band in the '80s, rejoined the group recently and threw down some incredible beats for the rhythm heavy band. “Drum and Whamola Jam” was sensational as a really long drum outlet, and highlighted Lane’s standing in the band and as a talented drummer.
Playing through their greatest hits collection, there wasn’t much to be disappointed in. However, as they wrapped up their set with “Harold of the Rocks,” the overall energy of the band seemed to slump as they fell a little too deeply into the depths of a bottomless jam session. Many of the endearing fans kept up their own pace of rocking like crazed people, but I had apparently lost sight of what I was watching as I waited for the song to end. Eventually, it did. After a minor hiatus and a drink or two, the band came back out and played a much more focused “Pudding Time” as their encore.
Primus is still as entertaining as you can tolerate, and they will continue to remind me of a better time when torn jeans didn’t cost $80, reality television used to be music television, and you could still get a pen into any venue.