Wednesday, May 23, 2012
May 22nd was an overcast day in Pittsburgh, with rain forecast for most of the day. Luckily for the audience of the outdoor Primus show at Stage AE, the rain didn’t make an appearance, enabling the dry crowd of around 800 to enjoy the bands.
As the Pirates were gearing up for their inevitable loss to the Mets right across the parking lot, experimental funk band The Dead Kenny G’s took the stage. For those not familiar, they are a three-piece band consisting of a saxophone player, bassist, and drummer. Clad in all-white leisure suits that made the band look like they just came from Don Johnson’s yard sale, saxophone player Skerik greeted the crowd simply by stating “We’re the Dead Kenny G’s!” and kicked right into the first song. The band’s repertoire consisted of nine songs in the half-hour set, rotating between funk, jazz, and heavy metal influences. Drummer Mike Dillon amazed the crowd with his ability to play drums and marimba, mostly at the same time, as well as contributing lead vocals to about half of the set. About halfway through, the band broke into an interesting cover of “Kill The Poor” by their partial namesake, The Dead Kennedys, drawing sing-alongs and fist-pumps from about five people in the crowd. Dillon also made the announcement that the Dead Kenny G’s will be playing at the Thunderbird Café on May 30.
About 25 minutes after the completion of the Dead Kenny G’s, New York gypsy-punk band Gogol Bordello took the stage, wasting no time turning up the excitement level and playing off of the crowd’s fervor. With an LED screen looming behind the band donning their logo, the band’s lead singer, Eugene Hutz, stormed the stage. Holding his acoustic guitar and a bottle of wine, Hutz held the audience in the palm of his hand. The band’s set had all the makings of a traditional punk band: barely any breaks in between songs, even the fast ones. Percussionist Pedro Erazo and backup singer Elizabeth Sun were just as animated as Hutz, with all three jumping on the stage monitors and calling out to the crowd to get involved. There was no objection from the crowd, as the energy levels went through the roof during Gogol Bordello. The band’s set included fan favorites "My Companjera," "Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher)," "Break The Spell" and "Start Wearing Purple."
As Gogol Bordello’s set was ending, so was the daylight. This created a perfect environment for the ambience set for Primus: red and purple lighting without any spotlights on the three members of the band. With two giant inflatable spacemen on each side of the LED screen that would be implemented for each song, the band took the stage to what sounded like a pre-recorded Tim Burton song. Primus launched right into its set, jamming out at length on each song, showing the technical prowess of bassist/vocalist Les Claypool and guitarist Larry LaLonde. The LED screen projected images that were just as quirky and weird as the band itself. Among the images were clips from the Thunderbirds TV show, home movies that looked to be from the 1960s, and a mentally unstable cartoon character. The band blasted through its first four songs ("Those Damned Blue Collar Tweekers," "Moron T.V.," "American Life," and "Over The Falls") before addressing the crowd, with LaLonde ultimately professing his love for Pittsburgh. The band played through the newer track "Lee Van Cleef" before launching into fan favorite "Mr. Krinkle," which saw Claypool switching to an electric upright bass with no body, as well as donning a pig mask for the duration of the song. The rest of the 13-song set was peppered with the band’s most well-known singles: "Winona’s Big Brown Beaver," "My Name Is Mud," and closing track "Jerry Was A Racecar Driver." After returning to the stage, Claypool confessed there was only time for one more song, and slyly said, "I find Pittsburgh enjoyable and comforting. Every now and then I look up and see that giant banner telling me about colon health," in reference to the Bayer electronic billboard that could be seen from the venue. Following a survey from the crowd, the band kicked into "Too Many Puppies," sending fans into a frenzy to end the night.