Les Claypool plays Sacramento 6-19-09

Early this summer I had a chance to see one of my musical heroes live. Les Claypool played live in my town of Sacramento and I was there. The show was just two days before my birthday. The following is an account of the events of the night… a night I will never forget.
So, last night I went to the Les Claypool show with my Dad. He picked me up at 4 and we had a nice dinner, then headed out to the show, which was outdoors at the Radisson Hotel in Sacramento. The show started at 6:30, doors opened at 6, we got there at about 6:10 and picked up our tickets at will- call. We got in and had a seat on the planter/garden thing, whatever it’s called.

It was all general admission, but there were supposed to be some seats on a first- come, first- serve basis. My Dad asked someone and it turned out that the contract for the show didn’t have a provision for seating, so, no seats. This was bad for my Dad (who has a bad back), but didn’t really affect me as I was going to be as close as possible in the thick of the crowd anyway. It remained to be seen what my Dad would do.

The opening act was the called the black and blue burlesque show (or something like that). They held my attention for about ten minutes, then played for about another half an hour. As soon as they stopped I told my Dad, “catch ya later” and made a bee line for the front of the stage. I was able to get about five feet from the very front rail, which was 10 feet back from the stage, with event staff and the like in between.

The road crew came out and moved out the first act’s gear and started the process of bringing in Claypool’s gear, along with that of his three band-mates. The gear was considerable. I am quite familiar with a lot of these things and as such was quite interested. I watched them bring out Claypool’s stand up bass, his one string bass (the Whamola), and finally his main four string bass, “the Carl Thompson.”
Next, I watched them carefully set up the percussion section consisting of the traditional drum set for the drummer, along with a complicated rig of drums, xylophone, and a couple of other things my Dad could probably describe better than I.

Last, I saw them bring up the cello for that musician. I quickly noticed that this thing was not only rigged up with a built in cable and electric rig, it was being run down to a pedal board (the cello had effects pedals!). I had never seen anything like this. I correctly identified the main pedal as a phase shifter, which he used at various points in the performance. As an aside, I realized that in this set up, the cello was being used as a lead guitar, pretty unconventional, but absolutely awesome.

So, Claypool comes out and the show begins. He plays his trademark bass for a few songs, playing his expected insane bass style so effortlessly that it seemed quite ‘normal’ to the untrained eye. Looking beyond this, one could tell that what he was doing was far from ordinary. As a bassist myself, I can tell you that I’ve never seen anyone play that fast on a bass with only finger plucking (that is to say, without a pick). So, they played for about an hour with no breaks. Then Claypool and the cello player went offstage as the two percussionists played a duel-solo that lasted about 10-15 minutes. Neither my Dad nor I had never seen anything like this. They arguably stole the show with this performance. How crazy and out of control did they get? Well, I have to say that in all my life I have never seen a symbol hit so hard that it first cracks, then half of it shatters, sending shards of metal flying across the stage!… can’t say I’ve ever seen that before, lol.

Claypool and the cello player come back out and play for about another hour. Absolutely awesome. Among others, he plays his stand up bass (at break neck speed), three different traditional basses, his custom built bass-jo, and his also custom built Whamola with a gigantic whammy bar (he used this one for just one song, as this instrument goes out of tune in minutes due to the stress the bar puts on it; awesome regardless and like nothing you’ve ever seen).

So, they rip it up, eventually ending the set after a solid two and a half hours of play. Awesome show, among the best I’ve ever seen.

Seeing Claypool (one of the reasons I became a musician) was obviously pretty darn sweet as well. It was a fantastic early birthday event. This was a very special night.


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