Photos by Joe Stadele Photography . Published 4/12/2015 by TWTHS.
Believe it or not, Primus’ 2014 take on Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory was one of the best albums of the year; ambitious, fun, peculiar, loyal and progressively creepy. All of which are complements. Primus brought the album to Minneapolis’ State Theater as the band kicked off their 2015 tour of Primus and the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble.
With the Wonka set hidden behind curtains, the classic of Primus served as their own “opening act.” Les, Ler and Herb demonstrated lighting precision as they took the fans through a host of Primus favorites. Bassist extraordinaire led the band through an extended “Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers;” which felt sinister as the song built into what felt like car crash horn leading into the galloping bass of “Last Salmon Man.” While he wasn’t fooling even the least of fans, Claypool introduced “Winona’s Big Brown Beaver” as “Stephanie’s Big Brown Beaver.” Guitarist Ler LaLamonde channeled his “inner Gilmour” as an extended “American Life” took a decisively psychedelic Pink Floydian feel as it twisted along Claypool’s riding bassline.
After the selection of songs, Claypool took a moment to relay a positively inspiring message. “Minneapolis, are you doing great here or what?” Claypool said, “I look at all of you and hope all of you achieve of your goals. Achieve every single one of your goals.” After discussing goals with Ler, Claypool challenged Ler to use his guitar to melt the faces off the audience. With that Ler was in spotlight for a face-melting “Over the Falls.” While Ler and Herb played an extended instrumental during “Lee Von Cleef,” as Les dissapeared from the stage. Always a fan for costumes, Claypool returned to his upright bass wearing a pig mask for a creepy rendition of “Jilly’s On Smack”; then closed the first set with “Jerry Was A Racecar Driver.”
After a short intermission, fans took their seats as a chugging cello played the intro strings of “Hello Wonkites.” The curtains opened; revealing a stage decorated in giant candies, mushrooms, the image of a building and center screen projecting parts of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Primus were joined by Sam Bass (cello) and Mike Dillon (marimba/percussion); all of which donned a mix of costumes and/or creepy semi-transparent masks.
As the band progressed through the album, layers of strings, percussion and twisted vocals revealed an increasingly demented, yet faithful, take on the movie. “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…the candy man,” creeped Claypool wearing a pointy nose mask during “Candyman.” The Oompa Loompa’s made their first of 4 appearances “Oompa Augustus,” with each appearance feeling slightly more twisted than the last. Claypool’s vocals sounded downright nightmarish during “Semi-Wondrous Boat Ride.” In a rare move, Ler’s lead vocals on “I Want It Now” added another layer previously unheard in the Primus catalog. By the set closing “Farewell Wonkites,” the journey completed with a just Claypool on the upright bass playing a de-tuned psychedelic outro.
The trio returned one last time for a round of songs; pushing the night past 2.5 hours. The show was a visual and sonic delight. Primus will be taking this must-see Chocolate Factory Tour through the US and Europe through June. For dates and tickets, click here.
Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers
Last Salmon Man
Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver
Over the Falls
Lee Van Cleef
Jilly’s on Smack
Jerry Was a Race Car Driver
Set 2: Primus and the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble
The Candy Man Can
Cheer Up, Charlie
(I’ve Got a) Golden Ticket
Semi-Wondrous Boat Ride
I Want It Now
Too Many Puppies
Here Come the Bastards