Primus, in your face and on your pants
By David Cotner 05/16/2013
“Is this film in 3-D?”
“No, but your face is.”
— from Valley Girl
Does every single experience in life now have to be in 3-D? While many things, such as printed guns, quite obviously do not, Primus is perhaps one thing for which 3-D is less a millstone and more a milestone. The word psychedelic comes to mind when discussing the noodly, weedly, whimsical sound of the band that’s entering its third decade of existence, and its tour to support its most recent album, Green Naugahyde (ATO / Prawn Song), is bolstered here by the augmented use of three-dimensional projection technology. It’s a technology so powerful that it necessarily carries with it a disclaimer: “Warning: Images presented here may cause symptoms of vertigo or motion sickness to those with sensitive constitutions. If feelings of dizziness or nausea become apparent, remove glasses, look away from the screen and try not to vomit on your neighbor.”
Augmented is a better word than enhanced, which brings to mind all manner of interrogation techniques, the least of which is “What am I doing here?” — but here the Primus prerogative is frontman Les Claypool, longtime guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Jay Lane, who hails from an earlier lineup of Primus. When the group’s album, Antipop, came out in 1999, it was an entirely different world, one in which 3-D was considered a quaint cinematic device, and one in which computers had begun to rule the day. In 2013, both have converged and, through Primus, the audience benefits from the passing of time and all the evolution that implies.
Years spent working in the old office of George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic were the inspirational point for the band, partnering with 3D Live Events to present its vision, a vision it’s been working on and refining for the past five years. Images are triggered via computer software to erupt from the screen when certain notes are played, themes are explored or cymbals are crashed. It’s a more organic way to tell the story of the songs, offering up a palette of evocative images meant to be experienced in tandem with the songs without wiping out the story that fans have already illustrated in their own minds, a story inspired by listening to the songs.
Even though the level of technical proficiency is paramount in the music of Primus, that isn’t to say that it is high and mighty on a mountain made entirely of odd time signatures. Primus falls somewhere between the guitar nerd and the guitar god, somehow miraculously belching out great volumes of dizzying notes while simultaneously etching a groove with pop hooks that never quite leave the frontal lobe. The group has been touring with the 3-D stagecraft for the better part of a year at this point, honing and refining its choice of imagery as it barreled along the concert trail. While it is customary to expect the unexpected with Primus, some images you may see cradling in your lap as you’re bathed in blacklight brilliance are Claypool and Co. as giant ominous astronauts, the disembodied face of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly actor Lee Van Cleef, archival ethnographical footage that may or may not be brimming with context, swimming beavers, and an intergalactic invasion by cheese. Some songs: “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver,” “The Heckler,” “Winona’s Big Brown Beaver,” “My Name is Mud” and other varying levels of sonic surprises. Just because they have new music and new technologies doesn’t mean they neglect the old ones on their way to the bank, laughing all the way.
And you can keep your glasses, too.
All dimensions of Primus appear at the Ventura Theater on Tuesday, May 21.