Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I Went To See The Circus In Tulsa and Covered All My Basses

Last Friday a buddy and I (the same guy who talked me into seeing Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction) road-tripped to Tulsa to see Les Claypool, bassist extroidanaire and frontman of Primus.  For many (most?) of you out there, those names might not mean much -- I only had a skin-deep knowledge of his music -- but boy, was I in for an experience.

The night began enjoyably enough.  After beers and burgers at James E. McNellie's Public House (a cool joint, if you're ever in the area), we walked over to Cain's Ballroom, a 1920s-era dance hall that's historically known as the home of Bob Wills, but today attracts some of the top musical talent anywhere.  As an aside, I've gotta say that my buddy and I were really impressed with Tulsa's downtown -- there were a ton of cool and busy neighborhoods with sidewalk cafes, bars, and a pretty respectable live music scene.  We'll definitely be back.

When we arrived at Cain's, Split Lip Rayfield, the speed-grass trio from Wichita/Kansas City/Lawrence, were in full swing.  For those not hip to the Lip, SLR's trademark is the bass player's single-string upright bass made out of a gas tank, allegedly from an old 1978 Mercury Grand Marquis.  They were a ton of fun, and a great warmup for the main event.

Claypool's band entered the stage first... three dudes, dressed up in tuxedos, all looking very, very similar (I learned later that this was because they were wearing creepy, Phantom of the Opera-style masks).  One dude sat down behind a gargantuan drum kit, another positioned himself around more percussion and an array of xylophones, and the final band member sat on a chair and began playing the cello.  Nary a guitar to be seen all night.  It was the weirdest, most head-scratchingly odd night of music I've witnessed.  Don't believe me?  Check out the video below, where Our Man Les comes out dressed in a Planet of the Apes mask wailing on some freaky-ass stick bass.

The next day, back at Casa Scampwalker, I downloaded some Les.  To put it mildly, it's a bit lost in translation when it's not live.  Is it the kind of music I'd listen to on a daily basis?  Hell no.  But it was still a great show, and one I'm glad I saw.


  1. I admit, I'm a Primus fan. Not a hard-core Deadhead-type Primus groupie, but I think Les Claypool's an amazing musician, if completely weird...

    My wife, on the other hand, hates Primus, so I have to play it when she's gone. I'm pretty sure my neighbor hates Primus, too...

    Second your comments on Tulsa. Neat city, neat art and music scene (just stay out of north Tulsa, easily the most violent place in the state...)

    I grew up in Norman, but spent a lot of time in Tulsa and my best friend has lived up there for a few years now. Great fishing and waterfowl hunting over in that area, and if the bird hunting were a little better I wouldn't mind living in the area

  2. Ted,

    I experienced one of the strangest nights of my life in '93...before, during and after a Primus show at Tipitina's in New Orleans. I've beeb a fan ever since. He's an avid Fisher guy as well.

  3. Les is awesome, but I prefer him in a more conventional format (with actual recorded songs with normal instruments). Unconventional instruments are best left to trust fund hippies aka "Trustafarians," I've found.

    For some tunes from the same cadre (LA ca. 1992) that may be a bit more appealing, try this tasty little tune from Social Distortion.