Show Review : Primus / Mastodon / JJUUJJUU at Express Live! June 5th

Show Review: Primus / Mastodon / JJUUJJUU
Express Live! – Columbus, OH – June 5, 2018
By Doug Esper / photos by Doug Esper

I don’t attend many big budget concerts, but after spending the night at Express Live! in Columbus last Tuesday, I’ve realized things have changed.

Bands, tours, clubs, and even the fans have changed. This isn’t some old man, ‘get off my lawn’-type rant. In fact, a lot of the change is welcome.

Take the venue as an example. Event Live! is clean, the staff was not only pleasant, but helpful, and parking wasn’t awful, even with the downtown location. Long gone were the long lines, too few bathrooms, and overbearing security. This helped create a laid back, fun environment. The stage and sound were set up logically, rather than as cheap as possible, making the outdoor sound still shine.

The tour features three bands, two of which were co-headlining. All three bands brought a positive message and tried to bring the crowd together rather than segregate each group of fans and pit them against each other, which I have seen on many occasion.

JJUUJJUU, a psychedelic-groove collective, opened the show with atmospheric loops, rock beats, and delay-effected vocals. By the set’s end, the crowd had the spaced-out expressions that I think JJUUJJUU shoots for each time they play.

Making my way around the club I heard a lot of chatter from concert goers suggestion they each wanted to check out the band’s new record. That chatter didn’t last long, however, as the set change and subsequent start of the next band happened in the blink of an eye.

The trippy buzz permeating the crowd came to a crashing, maybe thrashing is a better word, halt as a rapidly pinging cymbal announced the mighty Mastodon had arrived.

They quickly drowned the entire area in thick guitars and driving beats. Over the years Mastodon has diversified their sound, especially regarding their vocal styles and patterns, but they’ve lost none of the creative edge that brought them to the forefront of the metal scene years ago.

These guys are on the road constantly, but you wouldn’t know by their take no prisoners assault, delivered with smiles and genuine interaction with the crowd. When they took the stage, ominous clouds hovered above threatening rain, but soon after the sun peeked through as the band blasted selections from one of their newer releases, Emperor of Sand.

A light show, and contact-high-inducing screen display lost some of it’s effect in the daylight, but their enthusiasm, tight playing, and impeccable sound made it impossible to abstain from headbanging. Older selections, like, “Megalodon” offered new ears a chance to enjoy the band’s more prog/thrash origins.

As we got about a dozen songs deep into the set, I started to wonder how long they would get as an opener, even if it was a co-headlining tour. Most outdoor venues, including this one, have a hard curfew, and it was a Tuesday night, after all.

Another five or six songs later, though, the band kept going strong. It truly was a headlining set from an “opener”. After the set, drummer/vocalist Brann Dailor came up front to the microphone to humorously give a blow by blow account of his after set routine and encouraged fans to enjoy Primus with him.

By the time I grabbed a bathroom break and a drink, the headliners began. No egos, no long waits, no fanfare kept the crowd from enjoying their night out.

Primus, as they have been doing on recent tours, structured their set with older, well known songs at the beginning, a medley at the end, and in the middle they played their latest disc. Die hard fans appreciated the balance, but it felt like the casual fan allowed the excitement to dip during the heavy dose of songs they didn’t recognize. Not that Primus allowed this to dull their performance. Their technical play shined as darkness descended and allowed the music and the light show to interact properly. As Les, Tim, and Ler performed snippets of, “Welcome to this World”, “My Name is Mud”, and “Jerry was a Race Car Driver” curfew drew close. Les offered an unnecessary apology for running out of time, before the band rushed through one last song.

Looking at the stumbling, euphoric, fans yell and celebrate a great show, I realize that maybe they have changed the least in this modern era of concerts.

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