For those who have never been to the corner of Santa Monica and Doheny where the borders of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills collide, you are truly missing out upon a magical spot. It is there where the world famous Troubadour is located. Most music fans instantly recognize this name as it is where the likes of Elton John, James Taylor and even Papa Roach were discovered. On a breezy Friday night in March, Primus mastermind Les Claypool snuck into the venue for the very first time With longtime musical partner in crime Bryan Kehoe by his side, the near capacity crowd was pumped for a night of finger picking fury from Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang.
The evening kicked off at 9pm sharp with a 45 minute set from New York City based country duo Reformed Whores. As the gals were quick to mention, there is no false advertising in the name of the band as they dazzled the crowd with a set of music that managed to be both charming and hilarious.
The set drew heavily from their debut album Ladies Don’t Spit. When not offering to blow select members of the audience, the gals sang plenty of songs sure to offend those of a high moral standard. Girl Crush made sure the audience knew that they had a thing for each other, but that thing ended at flashing their petite titties to each other, while Birth Control featured singer/multi-instrumentalist Katy Frame giving birth and then using the baby as a percussion instrument. Other highlights included the songs Douchebag (dedicated to Tony), Karate and of course the set closing reminder to all that Girls Poop Too. It’s a damn shame we had not heard of Reformed Whores before we made our list of 10 bands that make us laugh, as these two ladies truly deserve a spot on that list. If they ever hit your neck of the woods, make sure you spend the night with Reformed Whores.
It was just past 10pm when Claypool and Kehoe made the walk down the stairs and onto the stage of the intimate venue. The duo kicked things off with the title track from their 1996 collaboration Les Claypool and the Holy Mackerel‘s Highball With The Devil. Much like the openers, things were as advertised as the two Bay Area natives picked and plucked their acoustic instrument much to the delight of the mostly male crowd.
Speaking of the Bay Area, Kehoe set the tone for shit talking early before the duo launched into the second song of the night, Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver. Knowing he was on stage in the City of Angels, Kehoe made sure to remind everyone that the San Francisco Giants are once again World Champions. As the only member of the crowd not offended by the high praise of the City by the Bay’s baseball team, I proudly screamed for the Giants as Kehoe looked on with approval in his wild eyes. Things got even crazier as Claypool went on to share sports tales of his upcoming reality TV show co-host Dean Ween and all things Philly. But enough about sports, let’s talk about the music.
For 2.5 hours, Les and Bryan ripped through a set that featured well timed covers snuck into a smorgasbord of material from Claypool’s massive catalogue of music. Talk of Northern California continued as the duo added some twang to Booneville Stomp, while Running The Gauntlet once again brought us all back to the days of the Holy Mackerel. Further keeping the Nor Cal spirit alive, the two had a spirited discussion about Jerry Garcia and his music before sinking deep into the Jerry Reed cover Amos Moses.
While everyone in the crowd suspected something was up seeing as how the duo had four stools set up on stage, our suspicions were not confirmed until about midway through the set when Jerry Cantrell of Alice and Chains and Larry ‘Ler’ LaLonde of Primus stopped by for a visit. With Cantrell sporting a new haircut and the usually reserved LaLonde chatty as hell and armed with a banjo, the four men dove head first into the 1940’s song Battle of New Orleans. You could see how much fun each musician was having as they took turns with leads and making jokes at the expense of Van Halen.
After teasing the crowd with a quick appearance of Mr. Oysterhead, the duo paid tribute to the late Canadian country music hero Stompin’ Tom Connors with a cover of the song Bridge Came Tumblin Down. Even with Claypool and Kehoe torn as to which speed they should perform the song at, it was a sweet tribute to a man most American’s don’t know much about.
Ler eventually returned to the stage for a double shot of Primus originals. During an extended performance of Over The Falls, Claypool shared with the crowd that the banjo in Ler’s lap was the same one he used back when he was a member of the heavy metal outfit Possessed. Not to be outdone, Kehoe kept up the heavy dose of Bay Area humor by renaming Ler Hella Fleck as he picked upon his instrument. This of course came after one of Kehoe’s terrible jokes that fell flat on its face. The joke you ask?
Q: How Many East Bay Punks Does It Take To Screw In A Lightbulb?
Jerry and Ler were not the only guests to join the duo on stage on this particular Friday night. After a swampy take on The Buzzards Of Green Hill, the two musicians bust into the Ventures classic Pipeline. Unable to get the proper vocals needed for the song, Claypool welcomed Reformed Whores onto the stage for some help. As was the theme all night, hilarity ensued as Kehoe teased a few other surf classics while the Whores teased each other.
It was around midnight when the duo closed their main set with D’s Diner. By now the well sauced up crowd was eager to scream out loud the songs call and response of ‘I Do’ and ‘Me’ when asked if they were in the mood to hit the Northern California eating establishment. While the call and response didn’t really work with the songs acoustic reworking’s, it didn’t matter as the loose mood inside the Troubadour was more about having fun and looking at Claypool classics in a different light as opposed to musical mastery.
It wouldn’t be a concert without an encore and with the crowd not looking to go home yet we got exactly that. The highlight of course being the final number as Jerry and Larry once again grabbed a stool and sent us out the doors with a thunderous take on the Johnny Cash classic Cocaine Blues. Yes, there were struggles to complete solos but no one seemed to care as everyone was just excited to see Claypool, Kehoe, Cantrell and LaLonde have a playful pissing contest with acoustic instruments. For fans of Les Claypool, it was the perfect ending to a night where one of the world’s best bassist made his Troubadour debut nearly three decades into his impressive career.
Well worth the price of admission, Claypool’s Duo De Twang is a must see concert experience for anyone who considers themselves a fan of Les Claypool. To see where you can catch them back east next month, head here.