Primus with Buckethead and Incubus

by John Heyer.

Eagle's Ballroom, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, CA, USA. November 19, 1999.

The venue

The Eagles Ballroom was an interesting venue - built around the turn of the century as (you guess it) a ballroom, the oval-shaped, pastel colored building had gone through periods of being a boxing ring and gymnasium before doing concerts (lines for a basketball court were still painted on the floor). Like the Modjeska theater were Primus had played 2 years ago, the Eagles was an old, decaying building in a bad area of town, but with something lacking in most - good acoustics.

The openers

I made it up to the ballroom at about 7:10, just in time to see Buckethead a few minutes into his performance. Right away, this looked strange. Buckethead's show was primarily a series of solos, using pre-recorded accompaniment on occassion. He did do a 5 minute duet with a DJ, then showed off his nunchucks for a while. I had bought "Monsters and Robots" a few weeks earlier a loved it, but without a live band behind him, Buckethead's performance wasn't much more than a light show. The crowd's reception was lukewarm with a few laughs, and he walked off the stage after only 25 minutes. I grabbed a beer and waited for Incubus, a band I had heard lots of people walked about.

Incubus took the stage shortly before 8 and immediately whipped the metal-loving Milwaukee crowd into a frenzy. The hard trashing sound made them look like another Korn clone at first, but the smooth vocals really helped them stand out - probably the only band to sound like Tool and do it well. After the first few songs the singer ended up half naked and banging on a pair on bongos, clearly energized by the Milwaukee crowd who had obviously heard their music before. The went the maximum 45 minutes and seemed very happy with the crowd's appreciation. Their songs were excellent and I made a mental note to pick up their new album.

The show

Primus hit the stage around 9 and started out with a familiar tune - "To Defy the Laws of Tradition". The moshing at the front of the crowd was even more extreme than I had expected, and I decided to drop about 10 rows back to just take in the music. That still wasn't enough as there were occasion mosh pits developing and a couple fights, but for the most part I was able to jump, cheer, and scream with the rest of the crowd as we took in the music. During my two years of finally being able to see Primus live, I noticed they've sounded better every time, and that trend continued. Les and Ler both sounded great, and any doubt regarding Brain's ability was chased off. There was rarely a dull moment in the show but there was a downer - somebody threw some ice up at Les while he was gearing up for solo. Les started with the standard "small genitalia" lecture, then got a bit more creative, offering to refund the offender's money if he'd leave. Les also took a minute to admire the architecture of the venue, taking time to make fun of the people hiding up in the balcony and noticing a couple guys sticking out of the movie projector windows, asking "Who'd ya have to blow to get up there?"

So with the exception of one idiot throwing some ice and a bit too much pushing for my taste, Primus's performance combined with good opening acts made the $20 admission and 2 hour drive from Madison well worth it. I noted the setlist included no Punchbowl or Brown songs, but was glad to hear 4 AntiPop songs and hope they make their way into the "standard" setlist in the long run. Les wore two different pig masks - a half mask in the style of a classic "Twilight Zone" episode for the first couple songs combined with his metallic blue CHiPs helmet, then for the encore his full length pig mask from the "Mr Krinkle" video. I'm not exactly sure the reason for wearing them, but they both looked cool. Buckethead was a nice addition for a couple songs and really increased the energy level - for his solo in "The Ballad of Buckethead", Les stood facing him inches away, seemingly tawnting him to play faster. Les offered the audience a vote for the last song of the night between "Pudding Time", 'Frizzle Fry", and "Here Come the Bastards". It was no surprise the mosh-happy crowd selected the last.

The set list:

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