Colonel Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade at The Roxy on June 1

A review of Colonel Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade at The Roxy on June 1, 2007

, Staff

& “It’s Gabby’s birthday today,” a cool, calm Les Claypool announces in the middle of his group’s first song at the Roxy on June 1st, a gig in support of their new DVD release, Fancy. Claypool insouciantly turns his attention back to his rapid, acrobatic bass riff, not surprised at all by the crowd’s crazed screams of enthusiastic approval. “But then again,” he says, angling back to the microphone, “Isn’t everyday Gabby’s birthday?” Of course it is, and the crowd screams with ecstasy once again. Gabby is the young girl standing stock still on stage with a serene smile on her face, decked out in a turquoise wig and giant sunglasses, and holding a sitar with a tiger skin body.&
This incident nearly sums up the surreal experience of witnessing Colonel Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade show at The Roxy on Friday night. The band’s first jam featured a solo by the birthday girl herself as she attempted to play through a Western scale with an Indian raga-tuned instrument. At least she was provided with the solid support of a simple Les Claypool distorted bass groove. The jam was an apt start to the offbeat chaos of Les Claypool dementia that would ensue.

The young crowd in attendance was ecstatic to be in the presence of the bass messiah, who was wearing a black top hat and suit jacket as he casually bopped around the stage to the slaps and pull-offs of his repeating bass grooves. As he was shimmying along to “Buzzard’s of Green Hill” off Purple Onion the entire audience was in motion along with him. Types of dances ranged from simple partner-to-partner grinding to an all-out, limb-flailing river-dance. The song, like almost all Claypool songs, had a highly rhythmic bass/drum tandem that laid the foundation for crazed instrumentation that was added on.

Another fan favorite “D’s Diner” incorporated a psychotic call and response chorus:& “Who wants to go to D’s Diner?” (I do!) “Who wants to go down to D’s?” (Me!). It seemed as if everyone shouted a response as Claypool raised his hand in a sinister, summoning-like manner.

“Holy Mackerel,” a song featured on Fancy, pushed the envelope of eccentricity even further, with Claypool furiously strumming chords on his bass to a rhythm that exuded reggae. The bell player was busy tapping out the rhythm on suspended symbols as the song transformed with the introduction of a thick, four note bass banter and a growling saxophone solo. Claypool, staying consistent with his love of rare and obscure instruments, violently waved his hands over a Theremin, a black, knob-ridden machine with antennae used to emit ghostly vibratos when motion is detected.&

What the crowd seemed to love the most about the performance was not Claypool’s endless display of unique instruments or rubber masks donned in various songs, but the power and thrust breakdowns between him and drummer Jay Lane. Frequently in songs such as “One Better” from Of Whales and Woe the pandemonium and deranged hoedown sound would cease, letting a tight, synchronized bass and drum jam breathe, letting the duo strut its utter control over the intricate subtleties of rhythm.

For the encore Claypool and his band unleashed the techno rock extravaganza “Whamola,” rocketing the crowd’s energy level through the roof. In it, Claypool wielded what is known as a Whamola, which looks like a long plank with one string that is struck with a bow. A lever is yanked at the top in order to conjure a fog horn-like crunch. After the show audience members were still yelling and screaming.

For those who arrived early enough, Two Gallants provided a great opening set. The folk-rock band, comprised of singer/guitarist Adam Stephens and drummer Tyson Vogel, echoed the vibes of Johnny Cash and the White Stripes in a highly original manner, manifesting a musical attitude that was all their own as they cruised through songs from their three albums. The band also has a knack for sneaking in sections of sporadic tempo and rhythm changes, usually at places with the most sentimental lyrical lines. They are certainly a group that loves to mix up the common song infrastructure, as if to say “let’s not follow the same pattern as everyone else.”

Two Gallants’ set was consistent with wrangling, folk guitar picking licks in songs such as “Las Cruces Jail” and “Long Summer Day.” They also took time to test new material from their forthcoming album, The Scenery of Farewell. Most faired well with the exception of the ballad “Seems Like Home to Me,” which was more of a slow campfire sing-along. It moved lazily and seemed to lose the interest of the audience as evidence of crowds of people turning their backs from the stage and talking with friends.& &

However, they more than redeemed themselves as they launched into a tribal garage band version of Blind Willie McTell’s “Dyin Crapshooter Blues.” It was a rendition armed with Stephens’ moaning vocal flair and Vogel’s intricate tempo fluctuations that called everyone to attention.

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