A Night of Great Interest: Primus in Rochester

On a crisp November 2 night, Primus adorned Rochester, NY – a city not unfamiliar to Primus. With the original band back together and the recent release of a new studio album, the crowd was really anticipating the night’s show. At 8PM sharp hundreds of people filled into the Main Street Armory.

Photo By: Jim Gilbert - Primus at the Palace Theatre 2014
Photo By: Jim Gilbert – Primus at the Palace Theatre 2014

The night began and proceeded in a psychedelic punk rock fashion. Highlights of the show being “Jilly is on Smack” and “American Life”. These men are professionals in the art of suspense. What made “Jilly is on Smack” so special was how the band stepped pensively into the song. The crowd was left cliff hanging on the long gut wrenching bow strokes of Les Claypool on the upright bass. With a steady progression they drove deeper. Until finally a drop in by Larry LaLonde, whose guitar riffs sounded electric elastic, reminiscent of rubber bands. When executed with as much freedom of control as it was last night, the tune ‘American Life,’ is a testament to experiencing music. As a classic and more pissed off Primus song, the reminiscence of the youth of the band showed through. The pitter-patter of a cold bass line is the cold grey fog cloaking the crowd. Through the muttered mumbles of lyrics, Claypool’s line, “It’s a cold day on Ellis Isle,” can be heard clearly lurking through the fog. When the lyrics ended, the rest of the song was delivered hard. Everyone was rocking out. A compelling victory to end set one.

Official poster by Drew Millward
Official poster by Drew Millward

To be read in the voice of Gene Wilder: “There is no earthly way of knowing which direction we are going… There’s no knowing where they’re rowing.” If you just shuttered a little, you probably had nostalgia of the Willy Wonka boat ride scene that was so creepy it scared everyone out of his or her little seven-year-old pants. As the curtains opened up to a second set, the stage had been transformed into a whole new place. The usual blowup astronauts were replaced by blowup mushrooms. A screening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was played as a backdrop. Les Claypool become none other than Willy Wonka. Primus played their version of the musical in its entirety. The audience was one cluster of genuinely happy folk. The acoustic sounds from the upright bass and cello in combination with electric guitar created a rare layering of haunting sounds perfect for a tribute to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. So much of the chilling whimsical experience can be attributed to outrageous sounds coming off of Tim Alexander, better known as Herb, who was completely caged in by a circus of different types of percussion instruments. It truly was a weird psychedelic trip down that same chocolate river on an electric wonder boat that was forcibly propelled through a current of percussion by cello and upright bass. No doubt about it, the Primus and the Chocolate Factory experience is a lot of creepy and double the amount weird, but we can handle it, we are big kids now.