M.I.R.V. almost stole the show at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC, as the first opening act for Les Claypool and Holy Mackerel. Their set was tight, energetic, and most importantly, fun to watch. The band was highly entertaining, and their thrashy-surf-funk-jazz-rock sound really went well with the crowd.
At the time M.I.R.V. opened there weren't too many people, which was a bit of a shame, since this band really rocked. Mark "Mirv" Haggard is highly amusing and engaging as a frontman, and this was evident both in M.I.R.V.'s set and during the Mackerel set. And the opera-singing, fire-breathing Kehoe Skinflute delighted the audience with this antics as well. Highlights of their show included the songs Surfin' Soviet and Hocus Pocus Ding Dong. About half their set consisted of material from their first album Cosmodrome, and about half of it was new material.
Vernon Reid's Masque, the second opening act, was once again in fine form. I had had the opportunity to witness them when they opened for King Crimson and I enjoyed the performance better this time since I was more familiar with the tunes. The set was basically the same, which consisted of songs from his latest effort, Mistaken Identity. The mix here was a lot better than the one at Merriweather Post Pavillion, and I was able to appreciate the intricacies of the band better. In particular, while the clarinet and guitar impressed me like before, I hadn't appreciated the degree to which the person scratching the records added to the whole sound. While I was a bit more receptive to the rapper in the comfy chair, I still think he is highly expendable. The crowd didn't get into them much, and I figure it's their loss.
Gregorian chants heralded the opening of the Holy Mackerel set, and Adam "Bobus Cockus" Gates ("another Internet Loser like me") and Mark "Mirv" Haggard, dressed up as monks, led a prayer to their shepherd, Les. After the initial jam, they went on to play a stunning set from Highball with the Devil that included Holy Mackerel, Precipitation, Hendershot, Highball with the Devil, El Sobrante Fortnight, Running the Gauntlet, Cohibas Esplenditos, Rancor, and Calling Kyle (George E. Porge was cut out of the set list due to time constraints). The encore showcased Les at his best on The Awakening. I don't think I've ever seen him play the bass like that, and that holds true for most of the show. There is something to be said for self-indulgence, which Les himself alluded to about his solo-effort. While Les was entertaining on stage, Mirv was equally funny, and his amazing guitar work and saw playing (unlike any I've ever seen) constantly stole the spotlight.
Brain, the new drummer for Primus, is definitely no slouch at the drums (as if). Having admired his drumming with Praxis, it was great to see him shred with Les. It'll certainly be interesting to see how he fits in Primus, but with Mackerel, I preferred his drumming over Les'. I suspect there are will be a lot of "who's better Herb or Brain" discussions in the future.
The band was having a lot of fun on stage, an an aspect that was missing in all but the first Primus shows I've seen. There was little moshing. One of the things that would've been real interesting would've been to see Les take turns on the various instruments, but that wasn't meant to be.
All in all, it was a great show---a bargain for the price. The Mackerel and M.I.R.V. t-shirts were also really cool (and cheap---$15 and $12)! I can't wait to hear what M.I.R.V.'s new album will be like and see what Primus will put out next.