Show Recap: Mastodon and Primus at The Greek Theater, Berkeley CA

Funk metal prodigies Primus from El Sobrante, California, are on tour with their prolific lineup of bass virtuoso Les Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander. They are joined by Mastodon from Atlanta, Georgia. Mastodon is a four-piece prog-metal band made up of three axe-men and four unique vocalists.  Brent Hinds on guitar laughed with the audience of The Greek Theater in Berkeley, California.

“Can everyone put up their hands,” Hinds said. “You in the yellow aren’t doing it. It takes but a second. Jesus Christ!” Metal bands always get free reign to be a little biting. The band is fronted by bassist Troy Sanders.  His screams like a Viking before battle and sounds closest to the recorded versions. Hinds’ voice adds to spacey interludes and is a touch more timid than album cuts. Guitarist Bill Kelliher sings backup vocals and drummer Brann Dailor has one of the hardest jobs in music. He powers through forever-changing and inconceivably difficult drum beats while occasionally singing harmony or lead on tracks like “Oblivion” and new one “Show Yourself.” His voice is crisp and clean. Each members adds a layer to the complex band. Mastodon combine jam-band tendencies with metal. They’re also the closest a metal band has come to Rush, even when considering the falsetto of Claudio Sanchez from Coheed and Cambria.

“You know we love you right?” Hinds asked the crowd. “I know we don’t know all of you, but we know most of you. I’m gonna dedicated this song to the guy in the brown shirt.” They ripped into “Toe to Toes” from their most recent EP Cold Dark Place. Mastodon played in front of a digital backdrop of spiraling psychedelic colors like Alex Grey’s art. It themed around an octopus with evil eyes and a purple-bearded character meeting skeletal Mayan Gods. “I wanna thank all the Greek gods that built this place,” Hinds said to the audience staring up at the metal gods playing between coliseum pillars.

They played a headliner’s amount of music and the crowd moshed continuously. I watched two dudes in the pit pull up the floor liner under their feet, take armfuls of it up to the seated section near a trash, hug each other and then proudly display the devil horns like they accomplished something great. They walked back down to the pit and felt like modern-day heroes. After Mastodon left the stage, Dailor came back to address the audience. He said his plan was to get naked, take a shower, get a red cup of his favorite liquor and then come out and watch Primus with the crowd. He thanked them and their new friends in Primus. “This is a dream for a band like us,” Dailor said. “Thanks for 20 years of this. From the bottom of my cold black drum heart.”

Swinging jazz music like “The Toy Trumpet” and “Tobacco Auctioneer” by Raymond Scott took over the airwaves during the break. The latter was recorded in 1937 and features experimental trumpet sounds like headliner Primus’ Les Claypool achieves on his bass.

Primus started their set with a medley of “Too Many Puppies” and “Sgt. Baker.” They hit a few more hits like “Wynonna’s Big Brown Beaver” and “Southbound Pachyderm” (with an intro teaser of Rush’s Cygnus X-1) before Dead Kennedys’ former singer Jello Biafra came out to play “Holiday in Cambodia” with the band. Claypool called Biafra a San Francisco legend and wished him a happy birthday. Biarfa was all smiles in his “Trump hates me” t-shirt. The show took a turn when Primus played their newest album The Desaturating Seven in its entirety. Guitarist Larry LaLonde showed classical guitar chops during an elaborate intro. Claypool plopped on his horse mask and carved his upright bass. Stagehands dressed up like death and slowly entered the stage with new instruments for the Bay Area legends. Dailor and Sanders of Mastodon came back out to jam on a Peter Gabriel cover, “Intruder” off their Miscellaneous Debris EP.

They treated long-time and fare-weather fans with “Welcome to This World” and “My Name Is Mud” followed by a piece of “Jerry Was a Racecar Driver” before closing with “Tommy the Cat.” Claypool said this is the longest tour they’ve been on in 20 years. They show no signs of slowing down.

Check out the highlights below: 

photo by: Tony Contini