In the run-up to Moogfest, fans wondered what-the-hell the appended “3D” would mean for the show by Les Claypool‘s sorta-prog band. Once I entered the sports arena that is the Asheville Civic Center (recently and sneakily rebranded as the Sponsor’s-name-here Arena, but they’re not paying me, so Civic Center it is), the answer was clear: volunteers handed out 3D glasses to all of us. The stage setup put the emphasis on the large projection screen behind the band: the images on it were loopy and synched to the music, and they were reasonably interesting even without the glasses. With the specs, however, some of the images were quite eye-popping. It was the sort of experience that makes one crack jokes about wishing you hadn’t given up drugs.
The band themselves were shrouded in darkness (or blacklight) nearly the entire show. Musically, I must say that Primus’s appeal eludes me entirely. Claypool is a technically impressive bassist, but the band’s music is the sort that leads a first-time listener to assert, “It’s clear which one of those guys is the band leader.” All of the songs were built around Claypool’s bass. And if rubbery bass noodling isn’t your cup of tea, you won’t find a lot to like in Primus’ music. Claypool’s vocals were subject to heavy electronic processing, and the word that best sums up his vocals is “annoying.” Imagine the least appealing qualities of The Residents, wed them to an ersatz “funky” beat mangled by a prog sensibility, and you have Primus. Some of the songs were mercifully short, giving me some small hope that I’d enjoy the next, but in every case, the song that followed was equally unappealing. A musician friend of mine who is far more charitable – he has something good to say about nearly every musical artist – summed up the entire show in two words, which I will quote here: “Primus sucked.”
The visuals were cool until they got boring, though.
Black Moth Super Rainbow
Sadly, things went downhill from there. My companion and I ventured across town (we’re talking like eight blocks; Asheville is small) to the Orange Peel. Near there we found a long line stretching along the sidewalk. People were waiting quite awhile to get through security detail and gain entrance into the venue (it holds about 1500). After a good solid half hour, we got in, just as Black Moth Super Rainbow began their set.
Now, I’m one of those people who really likes psychedelic rock. But the term has become so abused in recent years that it’s nearly meaningless. And many artists who adopt the term don’t seem to know what it really means. It does not mean “take drugs and play music.” It’s a sensibility. It also doesn’t (necessarily) mean “drone on one chord and stare at your feet,” although sometimes it actually does, and that kind of thing can in fact be done very well. Modern acts such as Black Angels and Black Mountain exhibit a clear understanding of what made 60s and 70s psych worthwhile, and they apply that frame of mind to their own modern music. Simply put, Black Moth Super Rainbow didn’t. Loud and boring were the two words that came quickly to mind.
From my point of view, the second day and night of Moogfest 2012 would offer much more in the way of entertainment.
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