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Colonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains, The Nation, Washington D.C.- 9/28

Imagine, Jean Luc Picard of the Star Ship Enterprise leads an away mission onto a menacing Borg cube. In its depths he encounters Les Claypool (base), capped by a helmet of golden ram horns, his second drummer from Primus (Brain), one of the engineers behind Parliament Funkadelic's own mothership (Bernie Worrell – keys) and the towering what-the-fuck known as Buckethead (guitar). That's what I imagined when the foursome of Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains advanced on Washington D.C.'s The Nation; its exposed I-beams and steel girders had me watching out for abductions all night.

Soloist Gabby LaLa opened, appearing to be a young pre-school girl with her backpack and horn-topped pink hood. Her music (she is soon to headline the first non-Claypool Prawn Song released album) was way, way out there. She played a sitar (mostly mediocre, but assimilation can bring redemption…), a very-mini piano and an accordion while cooing innocently goofy lines like, ‘Wacky, wacky, wacky about cat frisky, frisky,’ and ancient wisdoms like ‘be careful what you wish for, because it might come true,’ belying her pretend stage age. Opener’s saving grace: Claypool (I think it was him) came out in his pig mask and played his electric stand up along with LaLa to pensive crowd roars (was it really him?).

By 9PM, instruments were tuned and Worrell perched himself. Synth-woodwind spun into an echo effect and Worrell teased at the American standard "Dixie" (Daniel Emmett 1859). He crashed into a bass wall, Claypool showing up under his first of many visages of the night: 1 – golden ram’s horn headgear, 2 – an Elvis era greaser mask complete with sun glasses and a bitchin’ bandana, 3 – chimp mask. If the pig was really him earlier, up those numbers by one each. Brain and Buckethead took places next, Brain in quick procession dribbled military snare rolls for the first ("Buckethead") of many songs from their first/recent studio release (_The Big Eyeball in the Sky_ One to own). Claypool, Worell and Buckethead gashed the crowd into a slowdown and Brain forced reversal with his double kick patterns, Claypool shading perfect accents.

"Tyranny of the Hunt" buckshot Buckethead’s adeptness at playing like a cheesy blip-bleeping sci-fi computer (he does it so well) and gifted a peak drum-bass session of the night. Worrell’s screaming keys were possessing and more than hinted at a successful hunt.

Gabby LaLa re-appeared with her sitar for a personally unidentifiable instrumental (redemption) with the fellas. Claypool was funky, Brain had a party on his throbbing high hats and Buckethead was Louisiana hot, having to bass-slap his guitar to cool it down; I want to hear him pop a real bass. Worrell’s head peered over his risen keyboard village, in the back next to Brain, and he stole helm. Covering Worrell’s mothership-worthy licks, Claypool’s bass solo here was the illest tonight and LaLa’s sitar harmonized beautifully through power funk, upbeat streams and back again. What a sound and sight!

My favorite instrumental from their studio is "Elephant Ghost" and it steps heavy live. LaLa’s sitar sobbed beautifully with Claypool’s electric upright. The Pachyderm’s anger was tangible as Buckethead testified into one of his beautifully rendered melody-shreds. LaLa continued to top her opening efforts, pillared by her compadres. Claypool strummed and slapped his bass with his bow, much in the same sound fashion he does his whamola (later…). Buckethead initiated launch procedures, hit outerspace and the elephant sounded free. It was nice to hear the track stretch beyond its album form.

The stage empty, Claypool returned with his primate mask on and his whamola in hand, which sounded just like a chimp in his fists. Buckethead came out with a Michael Jackson mask to dance the robot; he always does an amazing one! Claypool finished the side show goof off and dipped out, stumbling away like a drunken monkey.

Brain and Worrell teased in ambient chunks at "Dixie," again, before Buckethead exploded into a daring shred: "The Big Eyeball in the Sky." Even better though was the Buckethead’s following rendition of Hendrix’s "Machine Gun." No one needs to cover the song again, because Buckethead annihilated the bar; he should’ve worn a Hendrix mask.

"Thai Noodles": more buckets of bleeping computer melodies and disjunction. Buckethead’s schizophrenic style is captivating, even when he’s not always in your preferred mode of play, because he makes honed skill look easy. Another tease: Buckethead played a vicious opening theme to Star Wars.

Closer: "Here we are in the national capitol," said Claypool. "So nice to be in the national capitol with you Buckethead." Stiff-as-a-Borg Buckethead can’t return sentiments through standard communicative procedures, so he picked the melody to "Junior" to pieces over Brain’s constant kickdrum. During the line, "Look at that son of a bitch go," Worrell was damn sure going at it too.

A truly beautiful hodgepodge of characters twisted the Nation’s I-beams into their own original design tonight. I have to say it…"Resistance was futile!"

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