22 June 2009

I went to an actual concert!

A rare event for me, I might add. I actually spent money, too. Les Claypool of Primus fame was the headliner. I was familiar with him mostly by reputation, so it was exciting to hear and see him perform live. Supposedly he plays the bass guitar, but this show featured a variety of strange-looking versions of the instrument that one would not know, at first glance, were bass guitars. Mr. Claypool also liked to wear weird outfits (including doing one number in a monkey suit) and sing strange songs while playing his instruments. His distinguishing mark seemed to be the use of a bow, like a cellist, but he would also whack the strings with quick, short blows and create some remarkable percussive effects. He was one of those fellows that did everything effortlessly, not appearing to break a sweat or having to concentrate. The music was in the rock genre, but lacked much of the traditional song structures, involving a lot of meandering jams and jumbled melodies. I must admit I liked it. The rhythms were brisk and danceable, the crowd was on its feet most of the show, and the thumping, driving, thundering rock sensibility of the band was much in evidence. The band consisted of a cellist--weird, considering the lead instrument was the electric bass--a drummer, and another percussionist who's main piece was the vibraphone. The vibes have a long history in jazz, and this outfit had the jazz band's free-wheeling attitude and superb musicianship. Claypool is a wizard, conjuring up some fantastic stuff from the bass, really stretching the boundaries of the instrument. I was remimded a bit of Belá Fleck's genre-bending mastery of the banjo. Despite the differences in style, both men have a playful mien on stage and infect the audience with their sense of fun. Claypool showed a bit of his darker side, savaging a drunk in the front row--who was apprently hassling a woman--with some choice epithets. I can't imagine that from the soft-spoken Mr. Fleck. The opening act was Yard Dogs Road Show, a unique combination of music and performance that included dancing girls and sword-swallowing. Imagine the mistreated, bastard offspring of The Tubes and Frank Zappa and you'll get some idea. They were actually quite impressive musicians and singers, featuring the usual rock lineup of guitar, bass, and drums, but rounded out with an accordion, trombone and trumpet. The dancing girls were a true burlesque act, channeling the Old West and vaudeville quite nicely, and showing a lot of lovely flesh as well. All in all, it was a good pairing. The gorgeous setting in Jacksonville and beautiful weather (as well as a great dinner with my bestest pals) made it a first-rate evening's entertainment.

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