Part of JBL Live’s Summer concert series, alt-rock trios Primus and Dinosaur Jr played Hudson River Park’s Pier 97. With support from The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger featuring Sean Lennon on guitar and vocals, the evening made for an indie rock-centric lineup.
Returning to their hometown of NYC, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger casually sauntered onto the stage dressed to the teeth in a random smattering of vintage clothing which seemed appropriate considering their new age interpretation of psychedelia made for some Tame Impala-esque soundscapes. However, the true appeal of the group was their bluesy, heavier riffs that seemed more akin to Jimmy Page at their better moments. As well as, the vocal harmony of Lennon and girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl that made them much stronger sonically. Overall, the group showed some potential but was inhibited by the lack of vocal ability presented by Lennon’s use of effects on his voice and lack of originality in composition.
90s indie favorites Dinosaur Jr played an impeccable, if abbreviated set due to the venue’s strict curfew, cutting out fan favorites like “The Wagon”, “Budge”, and “Training Ground” from their setlist. The dynamic of singer/guitarist J Mascis, bassist Lou Barlow, and Murph on drums is inevitably what makes the group successful as a trio, having reunited back in 2005. Handling solos and complex riffs with finesse and a visual presence that shows the guitarist’s reverence for both the craft and execution of live performance, while Barlow and Murph anchor the rhythm section with passion and grace, contrasted by their grungy, thrashing sonics. The only true disappointment in the set was the lack of audience engagement, probably on the fact that the majority of the crowd consisted of Primus fans who made a vague, drug-induced effort to show their interest in the band. While the band definitely gained some new fans out of one-time or casual listeners, the energy of the band wasn’t nearly as reciprocated from the audience as they had at smaller, headlining shows or festivals where Dinosaur Jr was presented as the main act.
Bulbs of Passion
Back to Your Heart
Watch the Corners
Feel the Pain
Just Like Heaven (The Cure cover)
“PRIMUS SUCKS” chanted a crowd of diehard Primus fans using their self-initiated and self-deprecating slogan to express their true dedication to the band. As musicians, everything was executed flawlessly from Les Claypool’s transition from electric bass, to upright, resonator bass, whamola, to Tim “Herb” Alexander’s polyrhythmic drumming, and Larry “Ler” Lalonde’s guitar fitting neatly in it’s place. Loaded with avant-garde lyricism and ever-stunning visuals, Primus’ set consisted of some deeper tracks, bigger hits(?), and even songs from their recent cover album of the soundtrack from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. With a legion of fans, the atmosphere from the audience was electrifying with rowdy sections of crowdsurfers, mosh pits, and the sing-alongs to which Claypool even pointed out members in the front row (like yours truly) who knew some of their idiosyncratic lyrics to an extent. For the majority of the night, the band let the music speak for itself, with Claypool speaking only twice between sets and before the encore, crediting their Grammy-nominated track “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” to U2 singer Bono. “I’ve met Bono he’s a hell of a guy”, the Primus vocalist remarked about the track they allegedly attribute to the Irish rockers. In spite of all of this, Primus leaves something to be desired from their live shows. With the band masked as silhouettes and minimal front-lighting, the band exhumes very little in stage presence. Everything about the group is calculated and performed with precision, but to an outsider or non-musician there’s very little to appreciate about their show. While amusing to watch Claypool adorn a pig mask and roam about with his electric upright bass as he does in the video for “Mr. Krinkle” there is very little energy or visually the band puts into in live shows.
Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers
Last Salmon Man
Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver
Semi-Wondrous Boat Ride
Lee Van Cleef
Jilly’s on Smack
Drum and Whamola Jam
(With Cygnus X-1 Snippet)
(I Am On My Way tease on rainbow bass)
My Name Is Mud
Jerry Was a Race Car Driver
Too Many Puppies
The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger