by Adam Muir.
Festival Hall, Brisbane, QLD, Australia. February 9, 1996.
The fourth visit to these shores from the Bay-Area trio has brought the fans out of the woodwork tonight. Being a Friday night, it seems Primus have attracted quite a large gathering of people just interested in having a good 'night out'. Nevertheless, a huge line had formed around the side of the venue a good hour prior to the doors opening. Judging by the vast number of Pantera and Sepultura T-shirts in the crowd, I was beginning to wonder if I'd come to the right show.
By the time we got inside, the first act was well underway. Emporium are a Brisbane-based band who have had some success in the club scene. Their brand of heavy grove-oriented metal was not entirely lost on the crowd. However, this band was missing a vital element that would make their music more memorable. The drummer, although good at what he was playing, seemed naked behind a single bass-drum, a snare drum and his three cymbals. The bass player chugged out a strong , driving rhythm, locking into a good groove. But where was the guitarist? Surely a band who played such strong moshable music had to have a guitarist! And what was this guy on the keyboards doing? Well, it appears that this band has replaced the guitar with a piano. A nice image thing, but ultimately a silly idea.
It seems that the band is taking its influences to the point of mimicry. The singer thrashed around the stage growling in typical Phil Anselmo style. Even the way he held the microphone up to his shaved head as he prowled around the stage was too familiar. As one fan near me shouted out, "Where's Dimebag?!!" .
The set was a bit sloppy with the crowd heckling the band more and more with each passing tune. As if the band were not content to look and sound like their idols, they finished with two Slayer covers, the first of which I can't remember, the second was Circle of Beliefs. Have you ever heard the guitar solos of that being played on a keyboard? Tragic stuff. During the second solo, the keyboard was starting to break up, with keys going everywhere, to the point where they abruptly ended the set, with an ominous, "Thanks a lot guys, you were a killer audience!" Indeed.
Next up was Spiderbait, an Aussie band from Melbourne who have achieved much success here in the Alternative/Grunge industry. The band play pop/punk/rock fused with a hyperactive drummer and a fuzz tone that shreds the speakers. The radio-friendly tunes were flying thick and fast as the band ran through all the faves. They even stop in between songs for a few improv jams, using them to link the songs together, but somehow, the idea of this band as an improvisational act does not sit well. The music they play is very rhythmic and as tight as a dolphin's ass.
During the set, the guitarist quips "It's nice to be out of shit-hole Sydney, but hey, we're goin there tomorrow night, so how bout we make the most of this tonight? Let's see if we can turn the heat up a bit..." The band burst into their cover of 'Run', the classic 'Goodies' tune. By the end of the set, the bass guitar sound is kicking major ass, the guitar is humming through nice and clear, and the drums are in-your-face with extra punch. It appears the Primus sound crew are using the extra time to do a sound check with the support act. Not a bad idea. As the final chords die down, so do the house lights. Apart from some spotlights on a large Primus logo, high above the stage, the place is pitch black. We can barely make out some forms moving onto the stage.
As a result of the sound-check-with-the-support-act, we didn't have to endure the long arduous torture of waiting for 20mins for the crew to pull drums apart and do instrument checks. There were a few roadies wandering around on stage. Then we hear the odd guitar chord, a snare roll here and there.... Some slap bass licks, followed by a slow four-on- the-floor groove with all three instruments.... Just some roadies having fun... they wander off stage.. we hear a guitar.. nope still a roadie... a bass fill.. yes.. another smart ass sound tech...
Then the spotlights dim slightly as the opening chords to 'Here come the bastards' are played out and Les makes his presence known on the front of the stage. As the drums and guitar kick in, the lights come on and we see that Herb and Ler have snuck on stage. The cheeky bastards!
The band went into three blocks of songs. The first block was some heavy-groovy songs; the second was a bunch of songs that Les plays on his upright and string basses. Then they got into some more normal fare.
Some highlights: Les stopped in the middle of the set, while Herb played out an intro on his ride cymbal. Immediately all the long-time fans (myself included) knew which track it was. "What's that I smell," said Mr Claypool as he sniffed the air. Ler quipped "Ooops. I had beans again, sorry!" To which, Les replied "It smells like moth balls, this must be an old, old, old, old, old song... do you guys know it?" To which the loyal Primus-heads cried out in response "Too Many Puppies!!"... And Les laughed insanely, bobbing his head up and down as he smiled from ear to ear! Other highlights include Les playing a cool jam of the intro to "Master of Puppets" (by Metallica) in the middle of 'Professor Nutbutter's House of Treats'. Unfortunately, about 6 bars into 'Over the Electric Grapevine' someone from the crowd threw a plastic-viking-type helmet onto the stage. Herb was concentrating on his drumming and had his eyes shut for a moment, so when the helmet hit the splash cymbals at the front of his kit and landed on his snare drum, he was shocked. Instead of hitting the drum with his next downstroke, he hit the helmet!
This caused Ler and Les to turn around in confusion to see what had happened. Les grabbed the helmet (an ad for a hotel printed on it as it turns out) and walked over to the mic and said in his best cracker voice "Those bastards at this motel.. they'll be hearing from us!" To which the trio started lauging. Then Les said, "Well.. I thought we were gonna finish that song for once... haha, good thing we didn't though, cos I can't play the middle bit..." [much band laughter here]. The band finished with a great encore of 'Wynona's Big Brown Beaver' (the biggest crowd response for this one), 'The Air is Getting Slippery', 'Mr Know-it-all' and 'Toys go winding down'.
The other songs they played tonight were (in no particular order, just as I can remember them): Seas of cheese, American Life, Is it luck?, Tommy the Cat, Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers, My name is mud, Mr Krinkle, Mrs Blaileen, Southbound Pachyderm, De Anza Jig, Glass Sandwich.. and probably some others, I can't remember.
Surprisingly, the sound was good tonight, not real murky like some bands I've seen in here before. After tonight's two-and-a-half hour performance, there weren't many Primus fans who didn't go home without hearing at least one of their favourites. Tonight just proved one thing in my opinion: Primus.... You well and truly suck!