Gogol Bordello and Primus go together like a bonfire on the beach with a head full of mescaline (and a jug of cheap wine thrown in for good measure). Friday night, Eugene Hutz and his exuberant gypsy-punk all stars seized the stage early at the Williamsburg Waterfront, stirring up their signature sweaty frenzy in the early-evening air. After so many days of disgusting, sticky weather, it was certainly a welcome surprise to be standing outside in the sun without wilting, and Gogol Bordello seemed especially enlivened by the cool breeze and spectacular view. Their high-octane set of blistering Balkan beats served as an ideal warm-up for the somewhat downbeat Primus, who surfaced just as the day turned to dusk with Pudding Time, a sludgy creep-out off of their 1990 album Frizzle Fry.
After grinding on for probably a bit too long, Pudding Time yielded to Here Come the Bastards, one of the trio's most menacing, tension-filled numbers. This set the tone for the rest of the set, which was distinguished by flawlessly-executed renditions of many of their less-frenetic songs, including American Life and Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers. At turns fascinating and indulgent, Primus live is not quite as arresting as Primus on CD, and that's not to say that Les Claypool is not a fascinating bassist and vocalist, or Larry LaLonde (a Satriani protege) is not a talented axe-man, or Jay Lane is not a tight percussionist. But when rendered live, some of their arrangements—which bubble out rich and dense as dark chocolate from your stereo speakers—meander on a tad too long, at times languishing in repetitive West Coast white boy funk jam territory.
Live Primus really grabs you by the throat on their up-tempo songs; Jerry Was a Race Car Driver and Tommy the Cat shot out from the stage like human cannonballs as kids crowd-surfed, the '90s reeled back from our subconscious, and the inevitable, ironic cries of "Primus Sucks" filled the air. Looking over your shoulder, the view of Manhattan sucked too, and the band's Weill-esque cabaret metal was thick as smoke wafting off a Ganges ghat, so who could complain? By the time Claypool and his psychedelic carnival shambled off stage at 9:45, the only thing missing was Too Many Puppies. We can complain about that, especially since they still had 15 minutes left before curfew. Time for pudding but no puppies? That literally sucks. Setlist below:
Here Come the Bastards
Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers
Over the Falls
Jerry Was a Race Car Driver
Les solo/Possessed Days(?)
Harold of the Rocks
Tommy the Cat