Les Claypool, The NorVa Theatre, Norfolk, VA 7/9
Claypools bands and the musical focus of his tours tend to change dramatically from year to year, but Ive yet to be disappointed by any of his rare blends. In recent years, Ive seen Claypool with the Primus crew, and Ive seen him with a range of players, including Mike Dillon, Skerik, Gabby La La, Bernie Worrell, and Buckethead. Through all of these expressions of music and visual oddity, audiences return regularly to see the captain and gawk at the creative juices his mind seems to spill so effortlessly.
Claypool came through Norfolk, VA, touring in support of his latest album, Of Fungi and Foe. But, before speaking on Claypools contributions, his opening band deserves recognition. Odeath, based out of New York, has a sound that blends the excitement of a blazing punk show with the down-home goodness that is born from a moonshine-fueled hoedown. Electric banjo and ukulele clashes with drum flurries and the mix is surprisingly enticing. Many opening acts are fine as simple appetizers, filling space while latecomers are still trying to find parking spots before the headliners take to the stage. Odeath has the musical skill and creativity necessary to feed a focused fan base, and Im hoping to catch these guys again, somewhere down the road.
Still, we all came to see Claypool and his recent family. Creating a wake of cheers and yells, his band members (cellist Sam Bass, drummer Paulo Baldi, percussionist Mike Dillon) came on stage wearing masks that represented the characters on the Of Fungi and Foe album cover. Its evident that the cartoon characters on the front of the album are actually offbeat caricatures of the band members. This release contains tracks written for two of Claypools side projects, a video game entitled Mushroom Men and a film entitled Pig Hunt. While I cannot speak to the worth of either of these products, Of Fungi and Foe is worth a grab, especially for the discerning Claypool aficionado.
The set pulled various songs from this recent album, including Amanitas and the Sarah Palin-referencing Red State Gal, which seems to be the first single from the album. Claypool and crew have been playing Red State Gal all around, and I first heard it on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Many blasts from past albums were thoughtfully interpreted by the foursome, incorporating Hindershot, American Life, and a requisite Whamola session into the set, complete with Claypool in the guise of a monkey.
Once the show was over, I was left to yearn for more, yet not lucky enough to make it to the All Good Music Festival this year. Claypools ship was headed in that direction, and all I could do was to bid them a bon voyage. But, I rest easy, confident in the knowledge that Claypool will return. While I cannot predict who might be accompanying him, I do know that as long as he is in the captains chair, Ill be back for the ride.