Les Claypool's Oddity Faire: A Mutated Mini-Fest With Saul Williams, Yard Dog Road Show plays Showbox SoDo. $32 adv./$35 DOS. All Ages. 7 p.m. Wed.,


Reverb Interview: Les Claypool Of Primus


Les Claypool's Oddity Faire: A Mutated Mini-Fest With Saul Williams, Yard Dog Road Show plays Showbox SoDo. $32 adv./$35 DOS. All Ages. 7 p.m. Wed., Mar. 11.

Les Claypool is weird for the sake of being weird. He's also weird because, for him, it's been lucrative. Save for Frank Zappa, no other popular musician has been so successful at turning his strange obsessions into profit. Since oozing onto the scene as the wildly original bassist/frontman for 90s rockers Primus, Claypool has become the go-to guy for all-things-quirky. Need a soundtrack for a movie about a pig hunt gone wrong? Give Claypool a ring. What about music for a video game in which space dust falls to Earth and turns mushrooms into sentient beings? Claypool's your man. Or, how about a theme song for a cartoon about a bunch of foul-mouthed grade schoolers living in a Podunk Colorado town? Again, Claypool.

A champion of the strange and hero to outcasts everywhere, Claypool has gathered together a handful of his favorite category-resistant acts for what he calls "a mutated mini-fest", The Oddity Faire, which celebrates acts that operate on the fringes of their respective genres. Here, Claypool has lined up psychedelic performance troupe Mutaytor, gypsy punks Devotchka, Mr. Bungle offshoot Secret Chiefs 3, hip-hop spoken word artist Saul Williams, and traveling cabaret group Yard Dog Road Show (the latter two will be the only ones joining Claypool in Seattle). Headlining the shows will be Claypool himself. By arranging such a tour, Claypool is effectively positioning himself as an Ozzy-like figurehead for a potentially wacked-out new genre that has yet to be defined.

"It's been an idea of mine since the early 90s," says Claypool, his speaking voice bearing the same nasal-twang as his singing voice. "The notion was just to assemble all the freaks and oddballs out there on the fringes and come together and celebrate under one big tent."

It's only fair that Claypool assemble a touring festival of his own. In the 90s, it seemed that Primus was the de facto group capable of fitting into any package tour. They emerged from the Bay Area playing a bizarro mutant funk driven by Claypool's dark sense of humor and propulsive bass playing, which combined finger-tapping, flamenco strumming, thumb-slapping, and an overall love for Geddy Lee of Rush. As if the music was wonky enough, Claypool paired it with cartoonish lyrics about deranged hillbillies, child molesters, dead fish, and racecar drivers. For being so damned weird, though, Claypool's band was somehow able to blend right in with such disparate festivals as Lollapalooza, H.O.R.D.E., and Family Values. Ever since, Claypool has been courting a fanbase that includes punks, metalheads, jam-banders, funkophiles, and whomever else might be touched by songs about women showing off their pet beavers.

But his Oddity Faire has less to do with those corporate-sponsored behemoth tours and more in common with another one he was a part of--1991's Bring the Noise tour, in which Anthrax, Public Enemy, and Primus shattered preconceived notions about the rap and heavy metal crowds.

Compared with the lineups Claypool was part of in the past, there's something inherently safe and cautious about the programming at today's festivals--Bonnaroo, Coachella, etc. being nothing more than Lollapalooza's progeny. Having Erykah Badu follow Fleet Foxes at this year's Sasquatch is cool, sure, but hardly a flirt with edginess considering those artists already share some listenership. The Oddity Faire, however, will likely be the first time hip-hop fans have interacted with cabaret enthusiasts. This is the kind of mixed chemistry Claypool thrives on.

"It'll be an interesting experience," says Williams, the only artist booked for the entirety of the tour. "I have no idea what to expect."

Each night Williams takes the stage, he'll be performing his frenzied avant-industrial hip-hop in front of god-knows-who. Staring back at him could be a cabaret buff dressed in a corset (there to see Yard Dog) or some jam-bander in corduroys and dreads who was turned onto Claypool via Oysterhead (his side project featuring Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio).

Williams is prepared though, and says it shouldn't be much different than his opening gigs for Nine Inch Nails. "I remember thinking 'Mmm, I don't know how this is gonna go'," he says. "But it ended up being a great experience."

Claypool says he had the same reservations when he signed on for Bring the Noise.

"It was like 'Oh my God, what are you thinking? Heavy metal and rap together? You'll have people getting stabbed in the parking lot before the show!'" he chuckles. "I think it goes to show you just how far we've come. Prior to [Bring the Noise] the festivals were very much segregated."

Obviously, the music-listening public has evolved (thanks in no small part to the Internet). It makes you wonder if Primus--with its ability and willingness to fit in and play with whatever, wherever--inadvertently pioneered the cross-pollination of genres and fanbases we now take for granted.

Says Claypool: "I don't know if it's necessarily a sign that we were ahead of the curve, or just a sign of how far off road we were the entire time."

comments powered by Disqus