After the promise of a thunderstorm weeded out the weak, there was, at first, a surprisingly light crowd at JBL Live last night. This left more space for the diehard fans to romp around, sloshing beers and splitting pizzas as they jammed to Sean Lennon’s project, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, and gradually got pumped for Dinosaur Jr and Primus. But once the grey clouds lifted, it was like every long-haired, bearded, flannelled rocker dude in the city had strutted out to Pier 97. It was pretty damn cute.
I swear, I really tried to write about Sean Lennon’s band without comparing him to his dad. Then I heard him sing. If you can picture what a punk John Lennon would look and sound like without swooning, then you should probably be the one writing the recap. But Beatles bias aside, this band can play. The GOASTT’s hard and dreamy psychedelic rock is also fueled by Sean’s badass girlfriend, Charlotte Kemp Muhl, on keys. The couple brought a fresh edge to a style that can only be called classic Lennon, with their closing song, “Long Gone,” trailing off like a modern, grungy “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).”
For a group that has been killing it since the 80s, Dinosaur Jr seem far from slowing down. Fronted by J Mascis and his flowing white hair, the band tore it up on songs like “Bulbs of Passion,” “Start Choppin” and “Pieces” with an old school, old rocker finesse. A definite highlight was the tempo-flipping “Feel the Pain,” which they pounded out with the kind of chops that come with being a big deal for three decades.
Between sets, Primus’ sound tech cranked out weird vintage tunes like “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” and “Der Führer’s Face,” in all their goofy, tinny glory. Waiting for Primus to take the stage was sort of like waiting in line for a theme park ride, and even the orange sunset felt like a painted, plastic backdrop. Things were about to get freaky.
Primus launched into none other than “Clown Dream” from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure as their intro, which is about as freaky as it gets. Once the crowd was sufficiently tripped out, they switched to “Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers,” a spooky track that got everyone revved. Frontman/demigod Les Claypool’s vocals were clipped, choppy, and charmingly distorted, which made it feel like you were receiving a radio transmission from another dimension. As a bassist, he was beyond anything you could put into words.
A true entertainer, Claypool alternated between an unusual upright bass (which he played with a bow) and even a Whamola bass (which he played with a drumstick), as well as a pig mask and a monkey mask (because, of course). Their cult of fans lovingly chanted “PRIMUS SUCKS, PRIMUS SUCKS,” as the band slammed them with “Last Salmon Man,” “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver,” and “American Life,” while basking in the glow of a giant inflatable mushroom.
Young kids on their dads’ shoulders were completely rocking out to the acquired-taste insanity, and all but getting sucked into the videos onscreen. Spliced into the bizarre B-roll were old westerns, orange juice commercials, famous statues, holiday home videos, smiley claymation, and an elephant on a trampoline, which all exploded to mush right in time with the music. With a nod to their last tour, Primus & the Chocolate Factory, they also recreated the slightly-terrifying boat scene from the 1971 Willy Wonka. “There’s no knowing where we’re rowing, or which way the river’s flowing…” Claypool narrated with a sinister cackle.
As they surged through “Mr. Krinkle,” “Eleven,” “John The Fisherman,” “My Name Is Mud,” and “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver” with total intensity, it was hard to believe there were only three dudes onstage. Primus finished off with “Mr. Knowitall,” and “Too Many Puppies,” and from the water, the NYPD boat let out a blaring honk in applause. When Claypool tipped his hat, he somehow sent us home with the feeling that everything is okay, and nothing is real.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley