Primus: Dark humor for dark times from Les Claypool

Tahoe Onstage
Primus shakes up Lake Tahoe on Aug. 18, at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Larry Sabo

When he says “My name is Mud,” Les Claypool is speaking for all of us.

His band Primus will release its ninth studio album next month and on Thursday, Aug. 18, it performed at an outdoor show at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe. A crowd of more than 5,000, mostly sporting black T-shirts loved the band that would have been a novelty if not for its commercial success.

A trio led by Claypool’s unique bass playing, Primus has always come from a dark place. It used to be funny, but given current events it’s become a bit scary. The band’s first album was called “Fizzle Fry” and the next will be “The Desaturating Seven.” Could the bookend titles be a reference to the ultimate chapter for the humans who dwell on the seven continents? A look at Primus’ library of songs featured during the show makes Claypool appear prescient. “Welcome to this world.”

Claypool’s bass resonated as the concert began. A large screen showed images of World War I soldiers running through trenches. Suddenly, the musicians were in the shadows onstage, silhouettes. “Too many puppies are being shot in the dark.”

During some shows, Claypool can be chatty with funny stories. He hardly addressed the audience on this night, but when he did, he was his irreverent self.

“Aloha, people of Hawaii,” he said. “It’s good to be playing the parking lot again. This is the entertainment zone of this lake. We have a beautiful view of the port o pots. Let’s all take our pants off.”

Soon thereafter, Claypool put on a pig mask and traded his bass for a one-string Whamola. He pulled a bow across it to make it snort like a swine. Greed was theme for much of the night. The video showed paper money floating down a polluted river.

Primus broke out “Candyman” and the screen displayed a black and white video of a clerk on a ladder showering children with sweets from the top shelf. “The Candyman makes the world taste better.”

Later, Primus played “My Name is Mud,” from the 1993 breakout album “Pork Soda.” Ler LaLonde’s electric guitar viscerally wailed while Herb Alexander’s drums popped like gunfire. The pachyderm in the room was orange. “Six-foot-2 and rude as hell.”

A video showed a businessman in a suit and a gas mask walking through a crowded city. Bubbles rose in another, giving you a sinking feeling.

After humans are extinct in 1,000 years, or maybe next Tuesday, aliens will see a video of this and say, “Oh. This explains it.”

Primus’ songs have anthemic marching cadence. It’s “American Bandstand” meets the apocalypse. Mankind marches like lemmings off a cliff and it’s got a beat you can dance to.

At the concert’s 99th minute, Claypool tipped his hat and walked offstage. It was still 10 minutes away from curfew. You never know when the end will come.

Clutch gears up crowd

Maryland stoner rock band Clutch played at Lake Tahoe for the first time in its 26 years, opening for Primus.

The quartet played 20 short hard rocking songs in its 75-minute set to an enthusiastic audience, many whom were there to see them.

Panting between songs, singer-rhythm guitarist said, “I didn’t realize it was so elevated. Goodness gracious!”

-Tim Parsons

Tahoe Onstage
Les Claypool looks at the dark side of life with an acerbic sense of humor.
Tahoe Onstage
Everyone remembered their black T-shirts.

Tahoe Onstage
Primus shakes up Lake Tahoe on Aug. 18, at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Larry Sabo

Click to see all of Larry Sabo’s photos.

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.


One Response

  1. I was taken aback by the parking lot stage, as was Les I would assume. This show was promoted as being held at the outdoor amphitheater… next door. You know… the nice one that doesn’t give the world a free show? If I was Les, I would not have been happy with the fact that many of the Hard Rock hotel guests were treated to a first class view of the FRONT of the stage from the comfort of their room or balcony that night. Using that temporary stage in a parking lot facing the hotel when tickets were only 40 bucks was a slap in the face to the legendary band, and I think you misinterpret Les’s reference to parking lots and porta pots… and his subsequent 10 min early departure.

    Horrible pics btw. I took better ones with my phone. Just absolutely horrible shots, poses and people. I was there too and there was much more to look at… but yeah, lets focus on the drunk mom with beer spilled down her blouse or the weird look on her face. Most camera folk will look at that as a failure of the photographer, not the muse.

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