May 12 was something of a personality test for Boise music fans. Did you go to Knitting Factory to see The Shins or to Revolution Concert House to see Primus?
This salty old fart chose fast hands over lower legs and went to see some psychedelic shred-funk. In 3D, no less. And I'm glad I did because I've never seen anything quite like it.
When James Cameron made Avatar, he was largely mocked for shooting it in 3D. But it ended up redefining action cinema. I'm fairly sure Primus may be doing the same thing with its current 3D tour.
Video projections and light shows have long been commonplace at larger venues. But through 3D glasses, Primus' synched video projections appeared to extend out beyond the edge of the stage, enveloping the band and members of the audience in swirling bubbles, psychedelic textures and wormholes to the seas of cheese. Combined with Primus' steady circus funk beats—and two giant inflatable astronauts with faces projected inside their helmets so they looked like Vigo from Ghostbusters 2—the show was hypnotic.
But it wasn't just the band's visual presence. Primus is the rarest of groups; its style is so based on its members' specific skills that it is nearly inimitable. The Primus of 2011's Green Naugahyde isn't that far removed from its Frizzle Fry, Antipop or Pork Soda days. And being so divorced from sonic trends, the band has aged well and remains just as challenging and bizarre as it did playing during the battle of the bands scene in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey.
Frontman Les Claypool's thumb still slaps gunfighter-quick, and his runs of notes seem to defy scales or standard phrasing, while Ler LaLonde's guitar lines somehow found space for their own equally impressive riffs and textures.
The band played two sets separated by four Popeye cartoons shown during intermission.
Before playing a song from Suck on This, one of the band's earliest recordings, Claypool gave a shout-out to his father, who was watching from the Revolution balcony. Claypool said his dad lent the band $3,000 to press Suck on This to vinyl, which they then sold by hand.
"Just shows what can happen if you're willing to take a chance," Claypool said. "And my dad was taking a chance, too. He was a mechanic in a transmission shop, it's not like he had an extra three grand laying around."
But chances are, any musicians in the audience hearing Claypool's thoughts were not thinking about hitting up pops for $3,000 to press their music on vinyl. That money would go directly to a 3D projector.