Primus Returns and Jazzfest Continues
This Friday and Saturday, Primus continues its longstanding relationship with New Orleans by bringing their Primus and the Chocolate Factory tour to The Civic for two nights. This new project is a reworking of the songs and visuals from the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The only thing that one can regularly expect from Primus is the spectacular nature of their live performances, all other bets are off. I had the opportunity to speak with drummer Tim Alexander (“Herb”) about his recent return to the band and the upcoming show. We opened the conversation by discussing what the audience can expect this weekend. “The way the show is set up right now and designed we kind of separate some things. We do the whole new album The Chocolate Factory with all the stuff. We also do the old Primus stuff. So far the response seems really good…So far people seem to really dig it and I think it takes a lot of people by surprise because it is so different. I did an interview with a guy and they were like ‘if anyone else had tried this, they thought that it wouldn’t work, but the fact that Primus did it seems to make perfect sense.’ Whatever that means.”
Certainly, Primus’ new record, Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble, qualifies as a record that exists as a conceptual and well planned whole. It makes sense that the show would emulate this process. From his perspective, Alexander likes the fact that coordinating the production of the live sound requires him to rethink not just his process but the fundamentals of his instrument. “It’s really fun for us because it gives us a whole different kind of world and vibe. Especially for me, I’m not on a normal drum set, my drum rig is totally crazy for the Wonka stuff. We wanted to do something really weird and just different—I had to think about everything I was doing. You know getting stuck in patterns and routines—being a drummer—you can create these same approaches to something. It becomes automatic sometimes because of the way things are set up or your instrument is set up. Whatever you vein of music is, you can trap yourself in that and never break out. So doing this kind of record—we totally left the whole rock band thing to the side and did this soundtrack.”
We talked a bit about the rise of digital distribution and the current tendency to downplay the importance of the album as an artifact. “If you’re a band that’s kind of unknown and you’re in this huge giant sea of music that’s being created online, it’s probably pretty tough to get seen or get noticed. That’s some of the effect I’ve seen from it. People seem to think that music is supposed to be free or something. I don’t know if they understand—if it’s something people make and they offer it and they sell it— it’s so they can get money so they can make more of those things people might like.” He was especially heartened by the resurgence of vinyl sales which seems like a natural fit for a conceptual piece like this new record. “I think when you pay for something you appreciate it more. It’s a known fact, if you’re given something free it doesn’t have the same meaning. So I think when people buy it and it’s a big physical album—a big piece that you have to deal with—you have to mechanically go put it on and turn it on and flip it and clean it—that kind of makes you participate in listing to it. Vinyl sounds really really good.” This is definitely an album that was made for that format.
Finally when I asked Tim about his return to the band he replied, “It’s really good, feels like old times. Feels like home.” Which of course is exactly how we feel about their return to New Orleans.
Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble play Friday and Saturday night at The Civic. Tickets are still available for both nights.
Jeff Strout Photography
Jazzfest Weekend One
Despite the rain we saw great performances from locals and legends at Jazzfest this weekend and rolling through the early week with the annual Tipitina’s Foundation Instruments a Comin’. See below for some great shots from both the festival and the fundraiser.
To Do This Week
In addition to the Primus shows this weekend, check out the annual Jazzfest appearance of Toubab Krewe at Blue Nile tonight. Zappa Plays Zappa is at Tipitina’s on Saturday. Later that night (1:30 Sunday Morning) Marco Benevento will be doing a solo show at The Blue Nile. Marco’s Jazzfest shows are legendary. You won’t want to miss this one. On Tuesday The Pixies will take over The Civic. And finally, Wednesday night be sure to catch Tennis at Gasa Gasa.
To Listen This Week
Django Django released and excellent new track here.
The Oh Sees shared two new tracks with Pitchfork.
And Win Win shared a new track with BrooklynVegan.
Jazzfest Weekend Two Recommendations
Just like last week, you don’t need me to tell you to go see No Doubt or Elton John, since you’re going to do that anyway. It’s a good weekend to stage hop, except for Thursday. The Gentilly Stage is the place to be on Thursday.
Amanda Shaw 2:05pm Gentilly Stage
Sturgill Simpson 3:35pm Gentilly Stage
Alison Krauss 5:25pm Gentilly Stage
Meschiya Lake 3:00pm Blues Tent
Kristin Diable 11:20am Acura Stage
Voice of the Wetlands 5:35pm Blues Tent
Paloma Faith 1:45pm Acura Stage
Donald Harrison 1:50pm Congo Square
Marcia Ball 12:15pm Acura Stage
Big Freedia 4:10pm Congo Square
Astral Project 2:40pm Jazz Tent
Taj Mahal Trio 4:20pm Fais Do-Do
Kacey Musgraves 5:45pm Fais Do-Do
Wolfman Washington 12:35pm Congo Square
Bobby Lounge 5:15pm Lagniappe Stage
The Radiators 2:05om Gentilly Stage