PRIMUS with VIO-LENCE, DEATH ANGEL, & FORBIDDEN, The Omni, Oakland, April 20, 1990
PRIMUS, The Haight Street Fair, San Francisco, June 10, 1990
Everything changed the day I heard Primus. Alex came home one night with a tape of their first album, “Suck On This”, the live album they recorded at Berkeley Square, which recorded off of a copy from a friend of his. I was immediately awestruck and made copies for all my friends who were likewise as impressed. None of us had heard anything quite like it before and we were fortunate to have them in our area. We were young, but they weren’t that much older than us, so we felt a certain sense of pride of ownership as most feel about talented bands from their area.
After hearing that tape, Hefe and I were eager to see them for the first time, but didn’t get our chance until after the second album, “Fizzle Fry” was released that February. As luck would have it, the first show available to us was an awards show at the Omni in Oakland. The Omni was a great club, one of only a few we could attend, being underage, but Oakland was a little scary for us suburban spoiled kids. It was also treacherous to park around there leaving you with a fair chance of being broken into or towed or ticketed if we were not careful.
But this night went without incident and I would call it unique in my experience. I’d go on to see a few awards shows in my future, but this was indeed “Informant Magazine’s… First… Thrash Awards Show”. Yes, the MC of the evening would go on to repeat that phrase the entire night ad neauseum until we would repeat the words along with him in that stilted, self-important tone and then bust up laughing. To my recollection, I never heard of another awards show from that magazine since that night.
So, they would give out a couple awards, best album, best drummer, and so forth, while the bands would play a few songs between them. Vio-lence, Death Angel, and Forbidden were respected thrash metal bands and we enjoyed what we heard. Thankfully, Death Angel would continue to play for decades, occasionally being joined on stage or at least watched by their former guitarist, Kirk Hammett, who went on to join Metallica, when they played gigs in the bay area.
But we were there to see Primus. Though they did only play three songs, we felt it was well worth it. Les Claypool, even back then, played flawlessly. He could prance around the stage, bouncing his knees up waist level and still make it look easy. I remember he had a braided Mohawk then, was shirtless and wore sweatpants. That would be the first of many encounters with Les and he seemed to alter his appearance almost every time I’d see him thereafter, be it a new hairstyle, facial hair, hair color, favorite hat, or outfit.
Two months later, Hefe and I would have the pleasure of seeing Primus again, but this time accidentally. My friends and I had been venturing past Berkeley to visit San Francisco more frequently, especially Haight street. My brother Alex had been living in the neighborhood there for over a year by then. The time came for the annual Haight Street Fair and we decided to check it out. We urged my friend Jeff to join us, but it being the last week before graduation, he had to study for finals. Hefe and I did too, but that didn’t stop us.
We got to the Fair and it was in full swing, the streets closed off to cars, and every block teeming with people. As we passed Masonic, heading towards to park, we started to hear the tell tale rumbling of Les Claypool’s bass. I glanced over to Hefe and said, “Is… Is that ‘Tommy The Cat’?” We instantly bolted down the street, weaving through the crowd until we got to the stage. Hefe brought his Djembe drum with him, carrying it with a strap over his shoulder, but that didn’t slow him down.
I managed to get to the front of the stage by the time the song ended, but Hefe chose to duke it out in the mosh pit behind me, still carrying that drum of his. Like so many others up front, I was wedged in tightly, but I’d learned by then to keep my arms up in front, elbows down, to allow enough room to breathe and to keep at least one arm loose enough to put up above my head to deflect anybody crowd surfing or stage diving. That being said, there was one fellow behind me who was holding a shopping bag and the front corner of it was jammed precisely up my butt crack for the entire set. Suffice to say, the front of a mosh pit will test your devotion to the bands you like.
Their set was only eight songs long, but it was the longest I had seen them up to that point and it was free, so I wasn’t complaining. Elated, we went home and immediate called Jeff to taunt him for not coming along with us. We felt that we were even with him, since he had the good sense to see Eric Clapton at Shoreline that May, while we went to our Senior Ball instead, which sucked big time. Though Jeff was mortified by his choice that day, he would get plenty of opportunities to see Primus again.
Primus was really the first band, the first of many, that I would see and become attached to, making their name, Latin for “the first of many”, to be apt. This band, more than any will have a place in my heart until I die. I did, however, learn years later, that I wasn’t the greatest Primus fan that ever lived and obviously not the only one. Even my friend Hefe wrote, “It’s pudding time, children” as his senior quote in our high school yearbook that year.