Run Devil Run
Once Biohazard finally started playing after a long wait, the band quickly united the sparse crowd at the Odeon into a veritable sea of pushing and shoving. Surprisingly, only one fight broke out, and the loser was headbutted so hard, he fell to the floor. Bystanders simply stepped away from the injured man's writhing body and directed their attention toward the mayhem onstage. But then, that's about what you'd expect at a Biohazard show. The band is, after all, one of the first acts to combine hip-hop and metal.
Highlights in the Brooklyn band's set included new songs such as "Resist" and older standards like "Shades of Gray" and "Five Blocks to the Subway." Ex-Helmet guitarist Rob Echevarria added some harmony to the mix, as singer Evan Seinfeld even got touchy-feely and encouraged the crowd to sing defiant choruses like "I resist the pressure to be who you want me to be." At these moments, Seinfeld came off as a tougher version of Al Franken's "Stuart" character and provided a much-needed change of pace.
Munster, Germany's H-Blockx conjured up a range of comparisons as disparate as Hüsker Dü and Rage Against the Machine. The first song recalled the Beastie Boys' "No Sleep 'til Brooklyn." Singers David Gappa and Henning Wehland traded vocal duties and harmonized competently, but their faster songs deservedly won more audience support than the slow arrangements.
Primer 55 was less spectacular. The band's "D" tuned guitars, half-step progressions, and throaty rap vocals amounted to little more than bombast. Its songs ultimately blurred and became a lot of cymbal-heavy, chugga-chugga monotony. Locals Run Devil Run, who had recently returned from a tour of Europe, opened the hardcore fest with a spirited and enjoyable set. The band's music was old-school hardcore (it had more in common with Token Entry than Sick of It All) and was powered by catchy, sometimes melodramatic power chord arrangements. Sounding like a cross between a deranged Muppet and Ray Cappo of the now defunct Youth of Today, shirtless lead singer Don Foose added plenty of acrobatics to the mix. -- Matt Trahan
Primus sucks. Or so its fans have been chanting for almost a decade. Don't be fooled, though. The keen marketing ploy is actually a compliment, tantamount to punk fans spitting at bands as a sign of adulation. The San Francisco-based group, which played on two of 1999's biggest tours (Ozzfest and Family Values), has pretty broad appeal for a band that "sucks." Its show at the Agora (the opening night of its own tour) was even sold out.
Singer-bassist Les Claypool, the visionary behind the quirky, bass-heavy group, has a diehard collection of fans who admire his talents as if he were some sort of honcho of eccentricity. Wearing an army helmet, flip-up sunglasses, and a sleeveless army fatigue jacket, Claypool, who looked prepared for the worst Y2K scenario, shared his unique vision with his followers as he bounced his knee waist-high to the odd, bass-driven structures and occasionally absurd lyrics. His appearance was eye-catching, especially when he walked awkwardly, as if mimicking some inbred combination of Chuck Berry's infamous duck walk and Groucho Marx's leap-walking. Add his pseudo country drawl to the mix, and it appeared as though Claypool was both mocking rock and roll clichés and creating his own distinct character. Despite his stage antics, Claypool couldn't make up for the fact that Primus's music is essentially repetitive. His slapping bass set the tone for a cavalcade of crashing drums and the occasional caustic guitar lick. All three elements were prevalent on songs like "Anti-Pop," "Lacquer Head," and "On the Tweek Again." Exceptions included the ska/reggae driven "Duchess and the Proverbial Mind Spread," the psychedelic "The Final Voyage of Liquid Sky," and the grungy "Too Many Puppies" (on which a snippet of "Crazy Train" put the crowd over the edge). Fans joined their cult-like leader in singing along to Primus favorites "My Name Is Mud" and "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver."
If bizarre opener Buckethead had played a 10-minute set, he would have been fine, as the crowd was initially mesmerized by the old-school metal he played over a preprogrammed rhythm section. Instead, the KFC-bucket-on-head, orange-raincoat-clad, Halloween-mask-wearing, robot-dancing curiosity wore out his welcome about 25 minutes into his fake-guitar-playing histrionics.
Incubus followed with the current flavor of the week -- neo-metal meets rap. While not as angry as most bands and occasionally dabbling in funk and world beats, the California group succeeded in striking a chord with the crowd with its huge grooves and novel melodies. -- John Benson
The Bop Stop
A student of John Abercrombie, Rez Abbasi deployed much of the icy, impressionistic playing and subtle, wailing dolphin electronics characteristic of Abercrombie and a few of his contemporaries. Obviously the jazzman wanted to showcase himself as player and composer. In the latter, Abbasi came out ahead, while his ax work didn't quite make the cut. But unlike his seasoned mentors, Abbasi never quite went anywhere with his somewhat introverted playing. He seemed more interested in working within the architecture of his tunes, only sounding engaged when comping for others or dueling with tenor/soprano saxophone player Adam Kolker.
His writing is another matter entirely. Abbasi has written some great tunes, and his youngish quintet handled a few with sensitivity and gusto. Abbasi has moved away from a brainy yet disconcertingly smooth sound to a lyrical post-bop that flirts with moments of free improvisation. He has also dropped the piano to let his tunes rest on the bass, drums, and his guitar, as was the case in concert. Beautiful, mannered tunes such as "Pakistan" -- a dedication to Abbasi's birthland -- and "Every Sunday," with Abbasi's arpeggiated chords, stood out among their respective sets.
Deserving more of the spotlight was violinist and Columbus native Chris Hovan, who upstaged his mates by absolutely refusing to sound indifferent all night. In fact, his early solos were responsible for winning the crowd over to Abbasi's music. -- Aaron Steinberg