@ Jam In The Dam, Amsterdam
Les was the big draw for the Europeans at Jam In The Dam and a good exemplar for how far the festival is from the old stoner image of jam bands. Not that there weren’t a lot of stoned folks around…….
Like a man who’s spent days in the desert finding a trough of water, the first impulse of someone partying in Amsterdam is to smoke waaaay too much weed. At times you could have cut the air in the Melkweg with a knife. Fortunately the air conditioning in the place is pretty good and those not wanting to get dizzy off someone else’s smoke could be found stood under the air vents.
Les Claypool is still best known for his work with Primus but these days makes his way under his own name, creating very clever basslines. There’s something arty about Les and he’s put together a very strange band with full attention to the visuals as well as the sonics. The front of the stage is just him and a cellist. The rear of the stage is two percussionists. That’s it.
He was never going to make conventional festival music with that set up and he doesn’t disappoint that first night. There’s a surreal quality as we puzzle for a moment over whether the band are or aren’t wearing strange rubber masks (they are). Les throws out very tight and wiggly lines before switching to funky ones and back and forth. There’s a lot of Zappa to his music – careful composition, time signature shifts, arty showing off and the odd bit of comedy. Les appears in a pig mask to sing a song then, later, bounds on in a monkey mask to play a bass he’s had built that is a big stick and a lever. The funkiness of the monkey bass is fantastic till, after a few minutes, Monkey-Les throws it down and scampers offstage, leaving us for a quarter hour drum duet – not as bad as it sounds – the drums include a vibraphone and all sorts of interesting percussion instruments.
The whole set makes me smile – inventive, different and interesting. What a shame that the second night seemed so similar, with a very similar setlist, that I wandered off to the other stage. At first I though it was some clever Les Claypool arty concept but the second and third songs seemed to be repeats. Looking in on the third night I was confronted with a tune I’d heard on the first and second nights and decided to go and get a greasy snack from Febo (Amsterdam’s coin in the slot automat for late-night croquettes).
More from 2010’s Jam In The Dam on Vanguard Online:
Jam In The Dam intro - March 2010
dB 30 - March 2010
Yonder Mountain String band - March 2010
The Bridge - March 2010
New Mastersounds - March 2010
Umphrey’s McGee - March 2010