It wasn’t some strange hallucination; the distinctive sound of Les Claypool’s bass was drifting down the Coney Island boardwalk, several hours before the real thing would fill the salty air on Sunday night. The bars by the beach were blasting Primus songs early in the evening, adding to the pre-show excitement and raising goosebumps like the brisk weather. Of course, the windy and soon-to-be stormy conditions didn’t faze the metal fans hungry for the co-headlining performance by long-revered rockers Mastodon and Primus. The Ford Amphitheater began filling up rapidly, and arriving fans morphed into an ocean of eye-catching tour shirts – some old and carefully preserved; some scored from the bands’ enticing merch tables that same night.
Multiple mosh-pit whirlpools formed early on for Mastodon, who crushed their performance with unrestrained solo breaks and seemingly limitless energy. Tearing into a generous 17-song set that fired up the Coney Island crowd, the powerhouse of talent between the four musicians – including Brann Dailor on drums/vocals, Brent Hinds on guitar/vocals, Bill Kelliher on guitar, and Troy Sanders on bass/vocals – was insane. They grabbed everyone’s focus instantly with their wild, shifting time signatures, bloodthirsty vocal delivery, and end-of-the-world riffs that were surprisingly uplifting. Their jam-packed setlist spanned Mastodon’s full discography and honed in on last year’s Emperor of Sand, with seven songs from the new record in the mix, including their explosive closing song, “Steambreather.” At the end of their show, they teased a possible return, prompting a big swell of cheers from their fans. “Every time we come here, it’s always amazing! We love you guys very much. We’re gonna try to come back sometime soon…probably…maybe!”
Primus, on the other hand, were celebrating one of their last tours “for a bit,” as they said they “need to cool-out for awhile [and] recharge,” according to a statement released by the band just a few weeks ago. With that knowledge on their brains, the audience seemed especially passionate and open to any setlist surprises Primus might have in store. Ultimately, it was a good mindset to have, because their show was oddly paced compared to Mastodon’s set, or any rock show, for that matter – mainly due to the trippy storytelling that takes shape in their latest album, The Desaturating Seven, which they performed from beginning to end on Sunday night. The weirder the better with this crowd, though, and many embraced the chance to hear a full album live – especially the first studio album of original material since 1995 from the classic Primus lineup of Les Claypool on bass, Larry LaLonde on guitar, and Tim Alexander on drums. Satisfyingly, before the legends got to the goblins, fan favorites “Too Many Puppies,” “Sgt. Baker,” and “Golden Boy” kicked off the show, prompting singing and screaming throughout the open-air venue.
“So, what the hell is going on out there? Look atcha! A lovely chunk of humanity you are, and I say that with great sincerity,” Claypool proclaimed. After inexplicably introducing himself as Eddie Van Halen, he added mischievously, “We’re gonna play some goblin music. That peyote should kick in right about now… so, if you get scared, just head that way and buy a t-shirt. That’s my advice to you.” You could hear tripped-out laughter throughout the audience before Primus launched into “Mr. Knowitall” and “Frizzle Fry,” the last classic tunes before the promised goblin music began. Throughout its leisurely-freaky twists and turns, The Desaturating Seven – appropriately, made up of seven tracks – was a bizarre and theatrical trip in the live concert setting.
Adding vibrant visual highlights, the five screens behind the band, which had been oozing kaleidoscopic graphics all night, turned rainbow and toyed with Ul de Rico’s spooky illustrations (from the 1978 children’s book on which the album was based). And suddenly, as if the fictional goblins were thirsty for a real-life rainbow, the sky erupted in a downpour over the covered amphitheater, with sheets of rain forming veritable walls on each of its open sides. As you could tell from their untamed thrashing and wide smiles, though, Primus’ fans were more than happy to be trapped in the storm and soaked up Claypool’s gooey, intricate bass work with glee. The rock icon seemed incredibly chill as always, even though his fingers were flying and his ever-distorted voice was doing mystical things at the mic. Swerving back into familiar territory for longtime fans, Primus closed out the show with “Nature Boy,” “Welcome To This World,” “My Name Is Mud,” “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver,” and an encore of “Tommy The Cat” that prompted massive cheers from the Brooklyn crowd. The rain drenched the venue with little release through the end of the night, making the vivid tales Primus had woven together feel all the more real.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley