Claypool Lennon Delirium
A cult phenomenon occurred at the Observatory last night when the hybrid of psychedelic indie pop songwriter Sean Lennon and funk metal legend Les Claypool performed with their band Claypool Lennon Delirium. The lineage and respective talents of the personnel summoned a cross-section of audience members who ranged from young hippies to middle-aged rockers to elderly folks, who likely came to pay homage to John Lennon’s son. While the venue was not uncomfortably packed, there was a very good turnout, and those who witnessed the show experienced quite a trip.
Opening band Jjuujjuu [no my finger is not spasming on the keyboard] got the psychedelia swirling in the air with the flick of a few switches. As the three piece band noodled with their instruments, the insta-psychedelic environment was created by their delay, backwards reverb, and other effects. Once they kicked into their first song, their songs ranged from rocking psychedelic garage band dirges to ethereal atmospheric pieces. Most of the vocals were unintelligible, but it is likely that the intention of guitarist / singer Phil Pirrone was to use his voice more for the purpose of a texture than for conveying lyrics, as most of what he sang sounded like a droning mantra.
Claypool Lennon Delirium began their set at around 9:30 p.m., and that’s when the psychedelia got serious. Those familiar with the work of Les Claypool know that his projects (Primus, Sausage, Colonel Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, etc.) are typically as zany in their conceptions as they are mind-blowing in their demonstrations of Claypool’s virtuoso bass guitar playing. Claypool Lennon Delirium was no exception. Lennon’s body of work, while also distinct, has been more reminiscent of '60s psychedelia; with his high and wispy voice, he conjures something of a Syd Barrett feeling, and with his guitar playing, he keeps the rest of '60s psychedelic blues alive with aplomb. Together, garbed in costumes that might have been plucked from John Lennon’s Sgt. Pepper wardrobe, the duo and their supporting band members launched into a series of far-out stomps and grooves that resonated with traces from various '60s tunes like Hendrix’s “1983 A Merman I Should Turn To Be” and The Monkees’ “Porpoise Song.”
While each of their new songs [their album premiered a few months ago] was captivating from the first few notes, the energy of the venue increased a level when the band played an outstanding cover of King Crimson’s “The Court of the Crimson King.” On this song, the duo traded off singing verses. For their original material, they alternated per song, and some songs were clearly more Lennon-based and others were more Claypool-based. Their tune “Oxycontin Girl,” as an example, typifies the balance; while the bassline recalls that of Primus’s “Here Come the Bastards,” the rest of the music enters the psychedelic realm of the aforementioned Monkees tune.
After playing “Oxycontin Girl,” Lennon announced, “Our last song was about staying away from drugs. This song is about doing them.” Following this announcement, they played Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine.” The playing of this (and every tune) provided the house with great energy, melodies and performances — Lennon can definitely hold his own in the arena with Claypool — but with the Floyd song, a wave of nostalgia surely swept over every Beatles fan worth their weight, as they no doubt know that that song (as well as the rest of Pink Floyd’s first album) was recorded at the same time at Abbey Road Studios, just down the hallway from where The Beatles were recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The feather in the cap of their homage to their 60’s influences came at the end of their set, when they played “Tomorrow Never Knows” from The Beatles’ first truly psychedelic album, Revolver. After a short break, Claypool came back on stage and played a solo version of the early Primus song “Too Many Puppies,” and then he was joined by the rest of the band for a performance of the song that started it all, “Southbound Pachyderm.” Last summer, while opening for Primus with his band Ghost of a Sabertooth Tiger, Lennon first joined Claypool onstage to jam with this tune. [During this set, they also played a cover of "Animals” by Ghost of a Sabertooth.]
There is really nothing else around in the domain of the eclecticism of these guys. They are a formidable songwriting team, and they took their enthusiastic audience on a great trip. If this project does not wind up being a one-off, then their act is highly recommended. Oh, and any readers who enjoy unique psychedelic acts with powerful musical chops (especially those who love progressive and experimental British 60’s rock), should definitely buy their album Monolith of Phobos.