Weary from extended holiday travel, my December 31 began with a groggy start. But while brewing my "morning" pot of coffee, a realization struck that instantly turned my jetlag into excitement: In just a few short hours, things were going to get crazy. And not just regular New Year's Eve crazy, but Primus crazy. The absolute best kind of crazy.
I joined my friends for a beer, and before I knew it, my partner in crime and I arrived at San Francisco's Warfield Theater. Eager not to miss any of the show, we grabbed our 3D glasses and made our way to the front. Seeing the stage layout, with giant inflatable Frankensteins (in place of the band's usual waving astronauts) and mad-science lab gear scattered everywhere, we knew we were in for a great night. Nothing to do but wait for the lights to dim and the madness to begin...
The anticipated moment came, and Primus took to the stage dressed in all white science lab uniforms. They opened with fan-favorite "Those Damned Blue Collar Tweekers," setting the tone for an evening of stellar drumming by Jay Lane, brain-bending guitar solos from Larry LaLonde, and of course, the monstrous alien slap-bass of one Mr. Lesley Edward Claypool.
Just as we were getting our bearings and settling into the show, 3D visuals began to appear on the large video screen behind the band. I have to admit, I was so excited to be seeing Primus play again that the 3D part not only seemed secondary to me, but I'd almost forgotten it was even going to be part of the show. However, between the bubbles, floating lobsters, and astronauts riding horses, the 3D visuals not only added a great psychedelic element, but also an injection of humor--a recurring theme for the night.
Having built up an impressive catalog of music since their first studio release in 1990, Primus set out not to repeat any songs during their two-night run at the Warfield (besides one, which the audience was tested to see if they caught). The result was a setlist that got its hooks into old-school fans as well as relative newcomers.
Weaving together classics, newer songs, covers and a few teases, the San Francisco-based trio put together a spectacle of a show that was just as virtuosic as it was bizarre. After playing the seldom-performed "Hats Off," a hilarious costume contest ensued. Ending in a close call between portrayals of an Astronaut Ape and a member of psychedelic rock pioneers The Residents, the winners were awarded a cupcake-maker and a George Forman grill respectively, both signed by the band. Changes of pace and silliness of this sort are two of the things that make Primus concerts what they are.
After the winners were declared, the first set ended with a crushing version of one of Primus' most popular songs, "My Name is Mud." The crowd was left begging for more as the band left the stage for a short break.
Set break is always a bit strange, and definitely never fun, so to quell the burning anticipation of more top-notch psychedelia, the crowd was treated to a few vintage Popeye cartoons. Before long, we were back in the thick of things.
A mosh pit formed as the band made its way through "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver," a personal favorite of mine. And this wasn't one of those, "oh my god, I'm going to die" mosh pits you find at your average death metal show--more of a fun, sloppy time as everyone bounced around together with midnight approaching.
Laughs were had, drinks were spilled, and before we knew it, everyone in the venue counted out the last ten seconds of 2012 together. Primus decided to ring in the New Year, appropriately, with a cover of Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein."
After a giant gingerbread man ran out on stage, only to be chased off by two lab technicians, the band played their one repeat song of the two shows: "Electric Funeral" by Black Sabbath. The reason soon became clear: Not only is it a great song, but their rendition was accompanied by the most impressive visuals of the 3D show, in which the camera leads the audience through a graveyard down into some kind of roller coaster maze in hell.
All in all, this was my kind of night; loud, strange and some of the finest rock musicianship around. What better way to start 2013?
Check out the full setlist here.