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Les Claypool’s Oddity Faire – Terminal 5 – March 28, 2009

March 30th, 2009

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Les Claypool is the anti-chameleon. Everything around him—the musicians onstage with him, the other bands on the bill, the crowd—changes color to match his shade of freak. This show at Terminal 5, the Oddity Faire tour finale, was just as advertised: a mini-festival of the odd. The Secret Chiefs 3, who set the tone with a Judeo-Indo-Arabian-influenced stretch of instrumental jamming, performed first. With Mike Dillon joining in on the tabla, an effects-laden violin grasping at sounds from across the globe and Trey Spruance riffing extreme on an electric guitar-sitar combo, the freak show was on!

Next, O’Death got the crowd literally slamming with their punked-up Appalachia (Punkalachia?). This was mash-up music at its finest with banjo and fiddle head-butting rock ’n’ roll drums and bass. The final opener, poet Saul Williams, brought the freak with a side of avant-garde hip-hop. His deep lyrics were more spoken word than rapping or singing while his whacked-out band juxtaposed drum machines and guitar. Between sets, the Coney Island Circus Sideshow’s spastic ringleader pounded nails into his nose and a curvaceous daredevil swallowed several swords.

By the time Claypool took the stage, the place was packed and amped. With Dillon on percussion and vibraphones, Paulo Baldi on drums and Sam Bass on extragalactic cello, Claypool ruled supreme. The playing was superb—dark, funky and electric. Cello and vibes filled the space between bass and drums like the jelly in a cosmic doughnut. Spruance joined in on one tune and Williams came back later to join in on an already killer “Dee’s Diner.” But, of course, the hero of the night was Les Claypool, who is, plain and simple, freaky good. —A. Stein