Primus Sucks!

By on November 20, 2014
(photo by Frank Colucci)

LES CLAYPOOL (photo by Frank Colucci)

Primus & The Chocolate Factory with The Fungi Ensemble – November 9th Hard Rock, Orlando FL and November 12th Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater FL.

Take a journey into the minds of Les Claypool, Larry “Ler” LaLond and Tim “Herb” Alexander and their take on the 1971 soundtrack to everybody’s favorite movie about candy, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. I didn’t need a golden ticket to get in and I was definitely taken down a road of Pure Imagination. Primus hit the road this fall supporting their latest release which is a remake of the entire Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory movie soundtrack. Making three stops in Florida (Orlando, Miami & Clearwater) and I was fortunate enough to catch them twice this week.

The basic foundation to writing hard and heavy music usually starts with a guitar riff, and then come the drums and the bass guitar. Primus, on the other hand, has a funk/metal sound that not only starts with the bass guitar, but takes it to a whole new level. Les Claypool has several different styles of playing the bass and using a pick doesn’t seem to be one of them. He slaps, taps and often strums just like a regular guitar. Les also plays a stand up version of the instrument that he alternates between playing with his fingers and a bow. In a nutshell, Primus sounds like a band of three talented bass players all playing at the same time. Plain and simple, Les is to the bass as Eddie Van Halen is to the guitar; simply the best.

Primus formed in the mid 80’s in Northern California.  After a change in drummers and only performing together for a few months they released their debut album which was a live recording in 1989 titled Suck on This and have since released eight studio albums. In the early days of touring, long before they had a real fan base and probably never thinking they would become the band that they are today, Primus would actually say during shows “We’re Primus and we suck” and to this day the die hard, old school Primus fans scream “PRIMUS SUCKS!” in between songs. What a nice way to show your love for a band. It wasn’t until the mid 90’s when people started to realize that this trio was the real deal that their cult following began; releasing the albums Frizzle Fry, Sailing the Seas of Cheese, Pork Soda and Tales from the Punchbowl.  Primus’ fan base began to grow even more popular through their outrageous videos on MTV, and in 1996 they were asked to compose the theme song for the TV show South Park. 1996 was also the end of the road for drummer Tim Alexander, who left the band prior to the South Park recording. Primus then went on to record two more albums with a new drummer (Bryan “Brain” Mantia) before declaring a hiatus in 2000. ( Brown Album (1997) and Antipop (1999)). Les then went on to form many side projects which he still dabbles in from time to time (Sausage, Holy Mackerel, Frog Brigade, and Duo Twang, just to name a few.) In 2011, Primus released their eighth album featuring yet another drummer (Jay Lane), Green Naugahyde and in 2013 Tim Alexander rejoined the band.

I recently saw Les Claypool in an interview and he said that the original plan before deciding on Willy Wonka was to do the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. WHAT!? How super bad ass would that have been? Amazing, I’m sure, but with that being said, let’s get into just how super bad ass Primus and the Chocolate Factory was.


(photo by Frank Colucci)

(photo by Frank Colucci)

First off, I have to admit that as much as I love Primus, originally I could have cared less about the whole Willy Wonka thing. I watched their New Year’s performance of it on Youtube and it was just okay to me; but if Primus is touring and coming to my town, I’m going regardless, plus I knew I was going to get at least ten original songs. One of the great things about seeing Primus live is that they actually change the set list every night. So there are always surprises. I mean most bands do the same exact set night after night and only change songs from one tour to the next. This is why I really wanted to see them twice. See full set lists below.

Both nights started off with eight Primus originals featuring the pioneer lineup with Les, Larry & Tim. (Tim almost had to postpone his return after suffering from a heart attack earlier in the year and having to undergo heart surgery). The first set was performed on a stripped down stage with very little lights. Similar to their previous tour Primus 3D which had everyone in the audience wearing 3D glasses while a movie played above the band. The darkness added visual effects to what was going on up on the screen. At first it didn’t make sense to me as to why they were practically playing in the dark this time around until the second set started. After a short fifteen minute break the band returned as Primus and the Chocolate Factory With The Fungi Ensemble ( Mike Dillon on the vibraphone and Sam Bass on the cello). The stage was decorated with colorful lights, mushrooms, lollypops and other candy themed stage props. All that mixed in with psychedelically altered scenes from the actual movie playing behind the band.(Orlando show only) Half way through the set just before performing “Pure Imagination,”  Les stepped off the stage and returned dressed like Willy Wonka himself with a purple suit and top hat. This is, of course, the part in the film where Willy Wonka greets the five lucky golden ticket winners at the main entrance of the Chocolate Factory. There are three songs about the Oompa Loompas on the movie soundtrack, and we were visited by two of them during those three songs. (Oompa Augustus, Oompa Violet & Oompa Veruca).

(photo by Frank Colucci)

(photo by Frank Colucci)

After finishing up with the Chocolate Factory set, and numerous chants of “PRIMUS SUCKS! PRIMUS SUCKS!” The band, along with the Fungi Ensemble, returned for an encore of some of Primus’ biggest songs. Both of the shows I attended ended with Here Come the Bastards. During the closing song Primus had videos of the Oompa Loompas walking around town. In Orlando they were walking around Universal Studios and Citiwalk. One of them even went inside the NBA City restaurant located right next door to the Hard Rock Cafe and walked out wearing an Orlando Magic jersey, which, of course, got the crowd excited. In Clearwater, the Oompa Loompas were out strolling the beach. What a very cool way to end the show and say thanks for having us in your town.

This was another great concert (or two) added to the books for me. The one thing I cannot seem to figure out between these two shows is the lack of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory movie clips in Clearwater. Having seen it just three nights prior in Orlando, did sort of take away from the concert in Clearwater. I honestly cannot recall any of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory movie clips being shown in Clearwater. There were candy-themed videos playing, but nothing from the actual movie. I checked with a friend who caught theshow in Atlanta, and their show was similar to the show that I saw in Orlando. So why not in Clearwater? If anyone knows or has an idea, please leave a comment.


Set list, Hard Rock Live – Orlando FL

Set 1 – Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers – Last Salmon Man – Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver – The Pressman – Over the Falls  – Lee Van Cleef – Eleven – Harold of the Rocks

Set 2 – Hello Wonkites – Candy Man – Cheer Up Charlie – Golden Ticket – Pure Imagination – Oompa Augustus – Semi-Wondrous Boat Ride – Oompa Violet – I Want It Now – Oompa Veruca – Wonkmobile – Oompa TV – Farewell Wonkites

Encore – My Name Is Mud – Jerry Was a Race Car Driver – The Heckler – Here Come the Bastards


Set list, Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater FL

Set 1 – Groundhog’s Day – Last Salmon Man – The Toys Go Winding Down – Over the Falls – Lee Van Cleef – Eleven – My Name Is Mud – Jerry Was a Race Car Driver

Set 2 – Hello Wonkites – Candy Man – Cheer Up Charlie – Golden Ticket – Pure Imagination – Oompa Augustus – Semi-Wondrous Boat Ride – Oompa Violet – I Want It Now – Oompa Veruca – Wonkmobile – Oompa TV – Farewell Wonkites

Encore – Mr. Knowitall – Southbound Pachyderm – Here Come the Bastards

(photo by Frank Colucci)

(photo by Frank Colucci)

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