Les Claypool’s Fearless Frog Brigade at Town Ballroom
Written by Zachary Todtenhagen and Julia Cerny
Edited by Nate Kalnitz
Local box office records were set by this Tuesday night spectacular. Les Claypool’s Fearless Frog Brigade visits less often than a blue moon, with their last tour being over twenty years ago, it was sure to sell out fast. Throughout the evening I found myself making the pun that “Les(s) is more.” Each time I repeated it, I found it even more true.
Blessed with a beautiful spring night in Buffalo, the crowd waited eagerly to fill in the sold out show. As the heat of the day began to fade, the guests arrived and began to flood the historic Town Ballroom. It may have been cooling off outside, but opening act Neal Francis and his band were doing their duties by warming up the crowd. While mixing his set of original songs with familiar covers, the energy in the ballroom was growing. Their rendition of “Strawberry Letter 23” had the entire crowd singing and swaying. Their powerful rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” riled the audience for what was to come.
How do you set the tone for a Les Claypool show? Coming out strong and starting with “Highball with the Devil” surely did the trick, energizing many a fat alley rat on a Tuesday night. The lineup for the band, like everything in life, is ever changing. We were honored that night with Sean Lennon on guitar, Harry Waters on keys, Paolo Baldi on drums, and Mike Dillon on vibraphones and percussion. Each member was given their time to shine, and their synergy was palpable.
One of the guests, a member of the local musical group Well Worn Boot, was wearing an oversized Papier-mâché head the entire show, a signature part of the local band’s stage attire. Not only did Les notice, but he even said that he was freaked out. Achievement unlocked: Freak out Les Claypool!
This tour included a full playthrough of Pink Floyd’s classic album, “Animals”. If that was not enough to satisfy the insatiable, ending the show with the high-energy thumpalong that is “Whamola” surely should have. When a song is named after an instrument of Les’ own creation, you know it’s’ going to be good. And, if Les is donning a disco ball helmet, well, what could really go wrong? That headpiece truly illuminates the importance of safety and proper lighting. The problem with trying to end on such a powerful song, is that the audience always wants more. More Les, because Les is more!
The Fearless Frog Brigade had already filled our cups, but Buffalo is a drinking town, and the audience thirsted for more. Succumbing to the chants, the band reappeared on stage and closed out with a fabulous rendition of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”. So we, the audience, did as instructed. We laid down our thoughts and surrendered to the void.
A Les Claypool performance is a difficult show to prepare to cover. After all, Les is more. More than Primus, more than 30 years of musical projects, more than just the Colonel of the Fearless Frog Brigade, Les is a unique energy and a force. Able to mix decades of original music, crowd engaging banter, all while doing justice to a timeless piece as complicated as Pink Floyd’s “Animals”. He is truly a creative talent, a masterful entertainer… and more.