Tour By Tour Analysis


In its early years, Primus went through a number of lineup changes. While the exact setlists and shows are probably lost in the mists of mid-80s Bay Area lore, at least the family tree of band members is well covered under Ram Samudrala's Cheesy Home Page. Probably the first stable lineup was with Todd Huth and drummer Tim "Curveball" Wright, who lasted from '86 until early '88. The songs from this time period already have Les' well-known and beloved bass lines and lyrics, but the guitar parts and faster tempos make the band sound much more poppy in a early Chili Peppers/Fishbone sort of way. These shows also give insight into the earliest songs written by Les (and Huth), e.g. a significant amount of the material released on Seas Of Cheese existed in 1987, albeit with different drum parts, guitar licks and tempos.

Primus: Eleven, Is It Luck?, Jellikit, John, Pudding Time, Sgt Baker, To Defy, Tommy, Too Many Puppies
Sausage: Prelude To Fear, Shattering Song, Temporary Phase
Covers: Train Kept A Rollin'
Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour: 14?

Late 1988-1989

Jay Lane replaced Tim Wright, Ler replaced Todd; then Alexander took over from Jay. Rumors abound that Primus briefly played live as a five piece, with both guitarists and both drummers (Lane and Herb), but until tapes from this period can prove it, it remains rather doubtful. '88 footage exists of Les, Ler and Lane, which is probably the same lineup that recorded the SAUSAGE studio demo. During these lineup changes, the band's sound became tighter and darker, more Frizzle Fry era material appeared in shows, and the early Primus songs that we think of as Sausage material (the 1994 album and band) disappeared from the live repertoire.

Regular new material added in late 1988: Frizzle Fry, Groundhog's; In the Flesh
Regular new material added in 1989: Harold, Heckler, Here Come the Bastards, Mr. Know It All, Pressman, Spaghetti, Toys Go Winding Down; She Watches Channel Zero, The Jam
Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour: 20?

1990 - college / euro tour

By now the 'official' lineup was well cemented, the material consisted of Frizzle Fry and Seas of Cheese songs, as well as a number of covers (enough for 90 minute sets). The band still had a raw, loose sound, with creative medleys and teases. Primus also debuted their alter-ego band, Bob Cock and Yellow Sock. Although many shows are still centered on the band's home base in California, they played Europe for the first time.

Regular new material added: Jerry, Tweekers; Constantinople, Hello Skinny, Master Of Puppets, Timebomb
Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour: 20?

1991 - Anthrax, Public Enemy joint tour

The band's sound had become tighter and cleaner, with Tim playing larger, more orchestrated kits. The set list material incorporated even more Seas of Cheese songs. The band played some more shows in Europe, as well as graduating on to bigger theaters in the U.S.

Regular new material added: American Life, Fish On, (Grandad's Little Ditty), Sathington Waltz, Seas Of Cheese; Sinister Exaggerator, Thieves
Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour: 25?

1992 - Rush Roll the Bones Tour (opening slot), U2 (opening slot)

Primus played 30-40 min slots opening for Rush from 01-03/92, and then for U2 from 04-09/92 (Bono told Les that Primus reminded him of early XTC, which Les took as a huge compliment). Several of the Pork Soda songs were premiered on the latter tour. While this was an important year for the band in terms of gaining legitimacy by opening for early heroes Rush, as well as nationwide and even international public exposure from both mammoth tours, the short, repetitive sets from the big tours made this a largely formulaic touring year.

Regular new material added: Bob, Nature Boy; Bed's Too Big, Cygnus X-1, Intruder, Kashmir, Smoke On the Water
Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour: 25?

1993 - Lollapalooza (co-headliner), Liquid Pig

The band played Lollapalooza festival from 06-08/93, playing one hour sets, followed by theater headlining tour in 10-11/93, playing 90 min shows. In 1993, the band's sets became much more straightforward, without as many of teases or medleys. With the exposure from Lollapalooza and the success of Pork Soda on the charts, 1993 probably represents the band's commercial peak in terms of mass recognition and concert draw. By now Primus as a headliner was selling out theaters nightly.

Regular new material added: Air Is Getting Slippery, DMV, Hamburger Train, Mr. Krinkle, Mud, Ol' Diamondback Sturgeon, Pork Soda
Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour: 30?

1994 - Rush Counterparts Tour (opening slot)

The band played only a few shows this year, what with all three band members involved in side projects (Les also toured with Sausage) and the writing and recording of Punchbowl.

Regular new material added: (Professor Nutbutter, On the Tweek Again), Wynona's Big Brown Beaver (different Lyrics), Year of the Parrot
Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour: ? probably same material as Liquid Pig tour

1995 - Punchbowl Tour US (summer and fall legs), Europe

The band played three full tours with 80-100 min shows, rolling out essentially all of the Punchbowl material. Sets become even more regimented that the Liquid Pig tour.

Regular new material added: De Anza, Del Davis, Glass Sandwich, Hellbound, Mrs. Blaileen, On the Tweek Again, Over the Electric Grapevine, Prof Nutbutter, Southbound Pachyderms, Wynona, Year of the Parrot
Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour: 36

1996 - Southbound Pachyderms Tour

A short year of touring, with a few Australia and Japan shows, and the third US leg of the Punchbowl tour in 04-05/96. The year was book-ended by key shows - the only all banjo show in Jan, and NYE as Brain's first official show with Primus. Apparently, the band had wanted to record the US tour to release a full length official live album, but those plans were put aside as band tension led to Tim's departure.
Regular new material added: none

Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour: probably same material as fall 1995

1997 - Europe, HORDE, Brown Tour

Primus played several weeks of warm up shows at European festivals, followed by the HORDE festival in 07-08/97, playing roughly 60 min sets. Primus then headlined its own fall tour from 09-11/97, playing 80-100 min shows. Most of the Brown album material was introduced during these tours. While the Europe and HORDE shows were fairly routine festival appearances, by the fall tour the band sounded energized, comfortable and willing to stretch. Although the Brown album lacked a clear single and did not sell as strongly as its predecessors, due to the band's artistic integrity, extensive archive of material and live reputation, concert draw remained stable.

Regular new material added: Bob's Party Time Lounge, Coddingtown, Duchess, Golden Boy, Fisticuffs, Kalamazoo, Over the Falls, Puddin' Taine, Shake Hands With Beef; Highball With the Devil, Awakening
Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour: 30

1998 - Sno Core, Europe

Band headlined Sno Core Tour in 02-03/98, playing 75 min sets and dropping several of the Brown songs featured in 1997. Several Rhinoplasty covers were premiered, and DJ Disk became a semi-regular contributor at shows. There were some Australia shows in 4/98, followed by a full Europe tour in 05-06/98. The band then went back into the studio, playing only the Videoplasty show in 10/98 and the two night Freakout. Although there was little in terms of new material, the quality of the shows and the energy of the performances remained high.

Regular new material added: Chastizing of Renegade; Scissor Man, Silly Putty
Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour: 30

1999 - Ozzfest, Family Values, Antipop

The band played a grueling summer schedule on the Ozzfest tour (05-07/99), with 40 minute long, very repetitive shows making for a rather boring tour. The only highlights were the addition of Antipop and the nightly appearance of Buckethead. After a second similar festival tour, the 10/99 Family Values, the band embarked on a headlining tour in 11/99, playing 80 min shows. Over the two fall tours, the remaining songs from the Antipop album that the band would end up playing live made their appearances. Major highlights included the reintroduction of Sgt. Baker and the Groundhog's Day jams by Ler. However, despite a few set additions, this was a repetitive tour and the band continued to underutilize Buckethead's potential, keeping his participation limited to the same two songs nightly.

Regular new material added: Antipop, Electric Uncle Sam, Final Voyage, Greet the Sacred Cow, Laquer Head; Ballad Of Buckethead, Crazy Train
Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour: 21

2000 - Antipop Tour Leg 2, Australia

The 02/2000 shows, meant to cover secondary US cities missed on the prior tour, had even more restricted setlists and lacked the extra punch of a Buckethead appearance. While sets did have a few extras, including the reincarnation of In the Flesh, most shows clocked it at just 60-70 minutes and sounded tired. An exception must be made for the handful of 4/00 Australia shows, when the band played loose, interesting sets and was clearly enjoying themselves once more.

Regular new material added: Heart of the Sunrise
Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour: 21

2003 - Tour de Fromage Leg 1

When Primus went on hiatus, in a 2001 interview (One Of those Peniuses - can be found on Les lamented what Primus had become circa Antipop and vowed that a reunited Primus would have to be the trio with Ler and Tim. He cited the Seas of Cheese album as Primus at its most unique and focused, and stated that Primus had the material and hardcore crowd for two set shows (i.e. without an opening band), but that the record label had not supported his interest. Claypool went on to form the Frog Brigade, became accepted in the jam band community, and subsequently formed other improvisation oriented bands. When Alexander joined the Frog Brigade for their summer 2002 tour, the atmosphere was set for a Primus reunion.

In the fall of 2003, the trio of Les, Ler and Tim released the Animals Should Not Try To Act Like People EP/DVD and engaged upon the groundbreaking Tour de Fromage. Claypool made good on every statement he had made nearly 3 years earlier. For the first time in their long career, Primus played two full sets every night, with the first set and encore changing nightly. The second set was a complete rendition of the Sailing the Seas of Cheese album! Besides the fact that some of these songs were being dusted off for the first time in a decade, there were new extended arrangements (Cheese, Sathington Waltz, Los Bastardos) and many songs became major jam vehicles for the first time (Toys, American Life, Los Bastardos, Sturgeon, Nature Boy, Pressman, Grapevine). Nightly guests included Bob Cock on Sathington Waltz and multiple musicians on Los Bastardos. Tim got into the act and for the first time incorporated a massive drum solo into each show, with a segue into his famous Eleven intro. Even though the band stuck to Alexander era material (Frizzle Fry through Punchbowl plus new songs), overall this tour witnessed a more variegated setlist than any prior tours. Claypool's participation in the jam band scene spilled over into Primus, with the band reinventing itself into a long playing (first sets ranged from 50-75 minutes, the Seas of Cheese set ran 80-100), improv oriented act. In another nod to the jam band ethos, this landmark tour was documented via the opening of, an official live show download site, allowing fans to buy complete shows for the entire tour. In 2006, a tour documentary DVD, Blame It On the Fish, was also released. To date, Primus' best tour!

Regular new material added: Carpenter and the Dainty Bride, Drum/Whamola Jam, Last Superpower, Los Bastardos, Mary the Ice Cube, My Friend Fats, Pilcher's Squad

Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour: 48

2004 - Tour de Fromage Leg 2, Hallucino Genetics

The second leg of Tour de Fromage saw minor set list changes (DMV and Del Davis disappeared, Pilcher's Squad was only played once) but essentially continued the Seas Of Cheese onslaught in cities that had been missed on the first tour.

The summer 2004 Hallucino Genetics tour saw Primus sticking with the same formula, but switching gears to play the entire Frizzle Fry album as their second set. Even though the ten major album numbers had already been heavily rotated on the two prior tours, Sathington Willoughby and To Defy were both fleshed out and debuted for their one tour performance. You Can't Kill Michael Malloy was extended to provide a 3 minute break for the band mid-set. The massive Drum/Whamola jams found a new home before Spegetti, and often incorporated Tim's signature groove into the beginning of the drum solos. With all these changes, the Frizzle Fry set grew to roughly 90 minutes in length!

The two set format also carried over, although the by now heavily overplayed Cheese material dominated (if Tour de Fromage was Seas Of Cheese nightly with a heavy dose of Frizzle Fry, this tour was nightly Frizzle with a whole lot of Cheese). Luckily, there were some nice surprise covers: the premiere of two classic Rush instrumentals (the first ever complete YYZ and the lengthy La Villa Strangiato), presumably Primus' way of celebrating Rush's 30th anniversary, and one time performances of Lone Rhinoceros and Thela (with Adrian Belew!) and Zappa's Dumb All Over. Compared to the Tour de Fromage, this was a worthy follow up, albeit more repetitive from a bootlegging/show attendance standpoint, as only 3 of the 13 Frizzle Fry album numbers actually included jams.

This tour was commemorated with Primus' first live DVD, the eponymously titled Hallucino Genetics Live 2004, which captured the entire tour closing 6/26/04 show (unfortunately not one of the best shows of the tour). Just like the previous tour, all shows were also made available on for download.

Regular new material added: Sathington Willoughby, To Defy; La Villa Strangiato, YYZ (complete)
Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour: 42

2006 - Beat A Dead Horse Tour

Compared to the monstrous tours of 2003-4, this was a more modest affair. There was no new album of material to support, although ostensibly this tour followed the They Can't All Be Zingers greatest hits CD. The shows were scaled back to one set ranging from 10-13 songs (75 to 100 minutes, depending on the jams). None of the 2003 material was played (barring one off the cuff instrumental performance of Mary), and Drum/Whamola Jams were sporadic. Sets continued to feature 1989-96 material, with a heavy emphasis once again on Frizzle Fry and Seas of Cheese songs. There were some nice surprises however: Tim for the first time played a Brain era song (3 performances of Shake Hands With Beef) and both Wynona and De Anza Jig terrorized setlists for the first time in a decade. Although Primus continued the improv oriented format, unfortunately they decided not to make shows available for download on Overall, one of the band's better tours, but one that pales in comparison to the potential exhibited in 2003-4.

Regular new material added: none
Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour: 30

Summer-Fall 2010

Hailed as the return of Jay Lane to the lineup (he had been in the band for perhaps 6-12 months in 1988), Les commented in interviews that he had wanted to play again with Lane (see drummers' part of website; Lane was also in Sausage, the 2000-winter 2001 first incarnation of the Frog Brigade, and the 2005 first incarnation of the Fancy Band). The incorporation of Lane into the Primus lineup had not been previously possible due to his commitments as an integral member of Bob Weir’s Ratdog since the mid 90s. When Ratdog announced a summer lineup with Joe Russo on drums (from Russo-Benevento Duo) and Lane relegated to recreating Mickey Hart’s role as percussionist, the stage was set to abscond Lane into Primus. The introduction of a third drummer (since Primus became a known act) confirmed that Les considers Primus the unique chemistry between himself and Ler Lalonde. 

The majority of the shows consisted of the standard single set and encore format, although there were two shows (styled ‘an evening with Primus’) consisting of 2 variegated sets each, a first ever for Primus (the 2 set arrangement of the 2003-4 shows always featured an album cover set). In keeping with latter day, post hiatus Primus format, most of the songs featured significant improvisations. In fact, the amount and quality of the improv put this tour on a par with the 2003-4 Alexander reunion tours. The tour material consisted predominantly of Primus originals from Frizzle through Brown albums, leaning more heavily on Frizzle Fry and Seas Of Cheese (they played one song off Antipop; the Animals 2003 EP was not touched). Jay Lane proved himself capable of faithfully reproducing Tim’s unique and complex parts (which Brain had at times simplified), while demonstrating his own unique grooves, fills and hi hat playing during nightly Drum/Whamola jams. Typically known as a groove oriented small kit player, he expanded his arsenal with Octobans and splash cymbals (to recreate some of Tim’s classic parts), as well as a percussion tray. The band premiered Coattails (as Primus; Les had played it solo rarely in 2008; the Brain era Primus had never performed it) and several covers (Behind My Camel and Big In Japan). This lineup also resurrected several Brown album songs not played since 1998-2000, as well as several rare Cheese and Frizzle tracks last heard in 2004, as the band performed Frizzle Fry in full twice, as well as one complete rendition of Seas of Cheese.

This lineup/tour introduced the following complete songs: ~ 40

·        Claypool originals: Coattails Of A Dead Man

·        Covers: Behind My Camel, Big In Japan

·        Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour:  

NYE 2010 and Spring-Summer 2011

The band continued to play Primus material from the Frizzle-Brown eras, while introducing 9 new original compositions off the upcoming Green Naugahyde album. As the tour wound down, Primus also started playing Les’ Frog Brigade composition Whamola. Following on the heels of the Fungi band playing Europe and Australia in 2010, Les also took Primus to Europe (first time since 1998) and Australia (first time since 2000).

This lineup/tour introduced the following complete songs:

·        Claypool originals: Eyes Of the Squirrel, Green Ranger, Prelude to a Crawl > Hennepin Crawler, Jilly’s On Smack, Last Salmon Man, Lee Van Cleef, Moron TV, Tragedy’s A Comin, Whamola

·        Covers: Tomorrow Never Knows

Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour:  ~ 45

Fall 2011

The band returned to the US to promote its new album with a full tour. While the first set and encore featured rotating material nightly, the second set consisted of the Green Naugahyde album in its entirety (some fans started calling it Tour de Naugahyde), with the last 3 proper songs off the album making their debut. Les raved in reviews about Lane's role in the compositions, the reinvigorated interest in the band, and how much they enjoyed playing the new material. Unlike the heavily improvised Cheese and even Frizzle Fry album rendition tours, most of the Naugahyde material was played like the studio versions, so that with various intros, instrument changeovers and banter, the 50 minute studio album became a consistent 65 minute set. This tour also saw the return of Wynona (first time since fall 2006) and allowed the relatively rare Mrs Blaileen and Pressman to terrorize setlists. 

·        Claypool originals: Eternal Combustion Engine, HOINFODAMAN, Extinction Burst

·        Covers: Hawaii 5-0 Theme, Hukilau Song

·        Total # Complete Songs Played On Tour:   46

Special Shows

Historically Important Shows

New Year’s Eve

TV/Radio/Movie Appearances

Classic Shows

Bob Cock and the Yellow Sock

There are just a handful of these shows. This can only be described as lounge-jazz Primus with Bob Cock on vocals. Les is on upright bass (the big acoustic jazz type), Ler plays jazzy electric, and Tim is on a tiny jazz kit playing brushes. Les has mentioned in interviews that he would love to do MTV Unplugged, but that they always turned Primus down. All performances are must hear, as all Primus songs are featured in radically different arrangements.