March 3, 2008
Who would have thought that Les Claypool would have sold out one of Nashville’s premiere music venues on a stormy cold Monday night? The pioneer bassist had not been to the music city in such a long time it was uncertain when, and with who he had last blown through with.
There is no doubt that Claypool will always have a strong fanbase. He spawned a movement with his groundbreaking group, Primus. Then after gaining a devoted fan base with Primus punk, he joined the legions of jamband/festival freaks with groups like Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade and Col. Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains. There is no shortage of musicians that enjoy playing with him (he’s sat in with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Gov’t Mule, Ratdog and countless others), and his ever-changing bands always have fresh top shelf talent.
One variable that has not changed from Frog Brigade to the Fancy Band to now just "Les Claypool" is the presence of Mike Dillon and Skerik. Mike D. and Skerik are complete freaks – masters of their trade, who by all accounts are a little "off center." Mike D. rocks the Vibes, tablas and other various percussion instruments with a heavy metal guitarist’s attitude. On this stormy night his aggressive play and schizophrenic energy seemed to be calling the weather looming outside to rage harder.
Skerik is an amazing sax player, yet mastering the instrument did not seem to be good enough for him. He has created a sound of his very own thru manipulation with pedals and distortion. For many he may be just a little over the top, but it was apparent for Les’ crowd he was right on the money.
Rounding out the band on the drum kit was Paulo Baldi. Paulo has played with a great number of musicians as well. Most notably Cake, Eric McFadden Trio and George Clinton. He, Mike D. and Skerik were all dressed in matching red and white polka dot outfits (with Skerik going one step further with his red devil horns). Maybe they all should have been devils because they certainly raised a hellish sound.
Les gave the mixed swollen crowd of moshing, crowd surfing and somewhat fearful attendees his all. Halfway thru the performance he disappeared for what would be the beginning of a parade of characters. During his disappearance Mike D. and Paulo worked the crowd into frenzy with an enormous display of drums. Then Les reappeared with his upright bass and his signature pig facemask. Then after a few numbers he disappeared once again, this time returning with what appeared to be a variation of an Elvis mask and the whamola, an instrument that only Claypool could utilize. The astounding bassist played this construction, which looks like a broomstick with a whammy bar at the top and one string, with precision.
As the night raged on the security and venue staff became a little more hostile toward the rowdy crowd. They began to pull crowd surfers down, tossing them from the venue. It seemed to be a slight overreaction, but no one likes getting kicked in the head, and pushing people around in place of dancing has always seemed a little ignorant. In the end no one was hurt, and all enjoyed a good night of music. Hopefully Les will not forget that Nashville appreciates him and his music enough to pay for what he called “an inflated, overpriced concert ticket.”