If you’re not familiar with the culture of Primus fandom, fear not. Shindigmusic has not descended into derisive music commentary, nor will we. “Primus sucks” was at one point essentially the official slogan of the band. Their first recording was live album “Suck On This” and they even had Primus socks (obvious and awesome pun) at the merch booth Saturday night. I know at least one person who bought a pair. Supposedly the joke has worn a little thin on the band as the years have passed, but that didn’t stop the crowd at the AMP from lovingly chanting it at them several times throughout the evening. More on that in a minute.
Nashville’s All Them Witches kicked off the rock at 7:00 PM sharp and they were serious business from start to finish, with little stage banter separating the songs. Although their debut album released in 2012 and they are currently on the road to promote their fourth record, 2017’s “Sleeping Through The War”, I was not familiar with the band at all prior to this show and I’m reasonably confident that was the case for the lion’s share of the show’s attendees. However, I was highly impressed and again I’m reasonably confident that was also the case for most folks who saw their set. The whole band was insanely tight and talented, but I thought the rhythm section of bassist/singer Charles Michael Parks, Jr., and drummer Ronny Staebler was mind-blowing, and that’s saying a lot considering they were opening for a band whose own bassist front man is widely regarded as one of the absolute greatest players of all time. Chances are if you really like Mastodon, you’ll probably also like All Them Witches, so check them out. They have a unique sound and generally employ cleaner vocals than most Mastodon songs, but it absolutely makes sense that they’re touring together.
Mastodon released their seventh studio album, “Emperor of Sand”, almost a year ago and naturally it featured heavily in their AMP set, although they also played a healthy cross section of their previous six records, performing at least one some from each. They were probably the most talkative band of the night, but like All Them Witches before and Primus after, they mostly let the music speak for itself. However, all three lead singers, guitarist Brent Hinds, bassist Troy Sanders, and drummer Brann Dailor did comment on how they’d never been to NWA before but were greatly enjoying the reception from the crowd. Dailor actually gave a monlogue after their set about how he was going to get “naked and get soapy… then come join the crowd” and that Rogers was now “on the list”, ostensibly of places for them to play again.
The AMP crowd had excellent justification for the warm reception to Mastodon, because they ripped a near flawless set from start to finish, seamlessly banging through their catalog with the fervor and enthusiasm of a teenage garage band playing its first gig. They’re one of those bands whose older fans sometimes dismiss the newer material, so if anyone was there to here nothing but “Remission” and “Leviathan” they might have been disappointed by the song selection, but I honestly don’t see how any reasonable fan could say anything negative about the performance itself. It was readily apparent that even 17 years into their career, they’re definitely still feeling it and not at the “phone it in for a paycheck” point some highly successful bands get to after a decade or so in the limelight. And although it’s not exactly the return to their origins that same would like, “Emperor of Sand” is a fine record that’s worthy to be among the catalog of modern metal classics preceding it.
Mastodon’s set was as follows…
Toe to Toes
Ghost of Karelia
Primus’s set was by far the most theatrical of the evening, though like their predecessors they didn’t offer much small talk. Sandwiched in between a handful of early classics, they did last year’s “The Desaturating Seven” from start to finish. It’s a concept album based on Italian children’s book “The Rainbow Goblins” by Ul de Rico, and lends itself to a bit of theatrical production, complete with wizard-like black robes for drummer Tim Alexander and a ram’s horn hat for Claypool. Tool bassist Justin Chancellor performs narration for the opener on the LP, and he was featured in a backing video reciting this same during the show. It was obvious that after the high-octane spectacle put on by Mastodon, the dirges that dominated Primus’s set took the crowd down a notch, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Business certainly picked up later in the set when they started blazing through some of their biggest hits like “My Name Is Mud” and “Jerry Was A Racecar Driver”.
Noticeably absent from Primus’s set was any material from the late ‘90s era when now ex Guns ‘N’ Roses drummer Bryan “Brain” Mantia manned the drumkit, namely the “Brown Album” and “Antipop” which are personally my two favorite Primus records, so that was a little disappointing. Still, one must give the band their due. Like Mastodon, Primus could have easily taken the unambitious path and played nothing but early career hits and staples and pleased everyone and challenged no one, but as true artists they chose to experiment and continue pushing their craft forward. And I say “bravo” for that. The crowd still happily shouted “Primus sucks!”
Primus’s set was as follows…
Too Many Puppies
Here Come the Bastards
Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver
Welcome to This World
My Name is Mud
Jerry Was a Race Car Driver
Harold of the Rocks
Concert season has only begun at the AMP. There’s a slew of incredible shows to come, and Shindigmusic will be there covering a great deal of them, so be sure to check back with us for all the best coverage on the AMP and anything else involving music in Arkansas!
Photo Credit: Randi Cruz