PRIMUS and Gogol Power Through the Heat in KC

I hope people weren’t expecting relief from the heat at Tuesday’s Primus show, because it was just as hot in the Uptown Theatre last night as it was outside, all day.  In fact, had they not opened up air-conditioned resting areas, they would probably have just been rescuing people from total heat exhaustion all night, and at a completely sold-out show like this one, I’m sure it would have been a big issue.  I’ve been to some hot concerts before, but at this one, I think the Uptown could have made a run for the record for the world’s largest sauna.  However, even with the air conditioned cool-down areas, the heat was difficult to escape because the bands were on fire and the crowd ate up and expended every bit of energy they could muster and every bit the band’s exuded.

In order to get the crowd ready for a band like Primus, you’ve got to have a fantastic band or two and The Dead Kenny G’s and Gogol Bordello fit the bill perfectly.  It was almost as if the three band’s sounds and stage presences were meant to go together and complement each other.
Being an up-and-coming band out of the new Seattle scene, I had never heard or witnessed The Dead Kenny G’s special blend of Psychedelic Blast-Punk, Reggae-Breakdown, Electronic Circus-Jazz, but I can certainly see why they were booked to open this tour.  Honestly, I was pretty blown away by the energy and sheer amount of sound that flew from the stage.  They consisted of two to three extremely talented sax players (who played a variety of different horns), a bassist (no Claypool, but still very good), and a hurricane for a drummer who played the trap-set, double-sticked a double decker xylophone, and sang – all flawlessly and in perfect time.  I couldn’t even catch him switching from drumsticks to xylophone mallets and could barely see him as he flashed from his drum-kit to the bells and back.

The Dead Kenny G’s are definitely a band that any fan of music needs to see or at the very least check out.  I know this is a big statement for them to live up to and a risk for me to put out there, but I think this band could easily reach the highest heights and change the way many people think about music – at least people who truly appreciate it.  I will definitely be listening to more of them.  For a good example of what I enjoyed the most about this band, check out the tune, “Yeah, Cat.”  It’s on their Myspace.

Now for Gogol.  I know there were a lot of people who wanted desperately to get into this show – I mean, at this point, who hasn’t heard that Gogol Bordello puts on one of the wildest, most engaging live shows in the business right now, possibly even ever – so who wouldn’t want to see it?  I was fortunate enough to witness it first-hand and certainly won’t forget it.  I’ve never seen a band seem more naturally at home on a stage and accustomed to making their fans go as insane and get as excited to be in the crowd as the band is.

Gogol is headed up by front-man Eugene Hutz, who serves as the heart of the band.  The rest of the members are truly a melting-pot of musicians from different backgrounds and nationalities, however, they function with such synchronicity, they could easily be seen as the arms, legs, and muscles supporting the heart and causing the band to function and interact with each other like the body parts of a fine-tuned professional athlete.  They seemed to have almost streamlined the perfect live show through their relentless touring.

They stuck to mostly crowd favorites like, “Never Young,” “Immigrant Punk,” “Not A Crime,” and “Start Wearing Purple,” but in the middle of the set, it was like they knew the crowd needed a rest, so Hutz and the accordion player, Yuri Lemeshev, slowed everything down with a passionate duet Hutz explained was, “about some of the shit they see on the road that is not so pretty.”  After that little break, they ripped into the crowd for about three or four more songs and, holding hands across the front of the stage, did sort of a traditional Vaudville/Broadway-style bow to the crowd.  I think it just shows how much they appreciate being in the position they are.  Gogol Bordello didn’t exist a few years ago, and now the regular people they used to be are rock stars who enjoy worldwide fame, but they still believe in creating a loving community through music – whatever it takes.

O.K.  PRIMUS.  What else can I say?  What else needs to be said?
I’ve been listening to Primus since I was thirteen.  They are one of the three bands that inspired me to pursue Art and to play music – to think differently.  That being said, please do not expect any criticism in this segment.

Primus set their stage with a standard three-man set up, but the band was flanked on the back left and right by two fifteen foot-tall inflated astronauts, complete with a psychedelic multimedia show projected onto the astronauts’ over-sized face shields.  They also set themselves up with the best sound system I’ve ever heard at a show at the Uptown.  It was absolutely as loud as it could’ve been, but I could hear every subtle note and tone from the guitar, the drums, and Les Claypool’s bass.

Les and the boys played for a solid hour-and-a-half, tearing through a set that included songs from almost all of their albums – they were certainly determined to please the sold-out house of die-hard fans.  Their set included songs such as, “Pudding Time,” “Those Damn Blue Collar Tweakers,” “DMV,”  “Harold of the Rocks” and “Jerry Was a Racecar Driver,” – all of which were extended by a five to ten minute improvisational jam.

Then (talk about a jam), about halfway through, to the amazement and extreme pleasure of the audience, Eugene Hutz and other members of Gogol Bordello joined Primus on-stage for nearly ten minutes of pure improvised insanity.  It was truly a sight to behold.

After Gogol left the stage and some semblance of order was restored to the stage, Claypool stepped back into the spotlight wearing a monkey mask and playing some sort of upright instrument that can really only be described as some industrial implement of destruction made out of steel or aluminum, strung up, and amplified to make sound when Claypool struck it with a drumstick and/or pulled a lever on the back of the contraption.  It’s difficult to describe the sound it created with much accuracy, but I would say that it was somewhere between an elephant’s blaring trunk and the noises one might hear during Walrus mating season.  The band improvised around Claypool as he played this strange, surely home-made, instrument for something like five to seven minutes and then returned to classics like, “American Life,” (one of my personal favorites), and “Eleven,” before they finally left the stage, only to return in something like forty-five seconds for a neatly ten-minute long version of “My Name is Mud.”

Despite the absolutely oppressive heat, I give this show a strong 5 “monkey masks” out of 5.

By Ian O. Fordyce

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