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Sessanta with Primus, Puscifer and A Perfect Circle at Talking Stick Resort Amphitheatre

April 16 @ 7:30 pm - April 17 @ 11:30 pm

A post-punk Rush spiked with the sensibility and humor of Frank Zappa, Primus’ songs are often secondary to showcasing their instrumental prowess. Led by elastic bassist and sole constant member Les Claypool, their music is willfully weird and experimental, but it’s not alienating; the band was able to turn its goofy weirdness into pop stardom. At first, Primus were strictly an underground phenomenon, but in the years between their third and fourth albums, their cult snowballed. Released in 1991, Sailing the Seas of Cheese found mainstream success and spawned the alt-rock hit “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver.” Pork Soda (1993) and Tales from the Punchbowl (1995) received platinum and gold certification, respectively. Citing creative stagnation, the band ceased operations after the release of 1999’s Antipop but re-formed as a touring entity in 2010. Since then, Primus has remained active, releasing idiosyncratic efforts like Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble (2014), The Desaturating Seven (2017), and the EP Conspiranoia (2022), with the core trio of Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde, and drummer Tim Alexander.

Primus is all about Les Claypool; there isn’t a moment on any of their records where his bass isn’t the main focal point of the music, with his vocals acting as a bizarre sideshow. Which isn’t to deny guitarist Larry LaLonde or drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander any credit; no drummer could weave in and around Claypool‘s complicated patterns as effortlessly as Alexander, and few guitarists would willingly push the spotlight away like LaLonde does just to produce a never-ending spiral of avant noise. This means that they are miles away from being another punk-funk combo like the Red Hot Chili PeppersClaypool may slap and pop his bass, but there is little funk in the rhythm he and Alexander lay down. Formed in El Sobrante, California, in 1984, the band saw multiple lineup changes before releasing their 1989 live LP, Suck on This, and 1990 debut studio album, Frizzle Fry. Their heady blend of art-rock, funk, and heavy metal found favor with the masses the following year with the release of the gold-selling Sailing the Seas of Cheese. 2003’s Pork Soda fared even better, earning the band their first platinum certification.

After touring for a year — including a headlining spot on Lollapalooza 1993 — Claypool revived his Prawn Song record label in 1994 and released a reunion record by Primus’ original lineup under the name Sausage. In the summer of 1995, Primus released their fifth album, Tales from the Punchbowl. It was another success, going gold before the end of the year. In the summer of 1996, Primus announced they were parting ways with their drummer, Tim Alexander. He was replaced by Brian “Brain” Mantia, who made his debut on The Brown Album, was released in the summer of 1997. The covers EP Rhinoplasty followed in 1998, and a year later, Primus returned with Antipop. Antipop was a departure from previous Primus albums, as different producers were used on almost every track (including such notables as Rage Against the Machine‘s Tom MorelloLimp Bizkit‘s Fred DurstTom Waits, South Park creator Matt Stone, and former Police drummer Stewart Copeland), and it featured such guest artists as Metallica‘s James Hetfield and former Faith No More guitarist Jim Martin. After a supporting tour wrapped up in 2000, Mantia left the band to join Guns N’ RosesClaypool talked about reuniting with former drummer Tim Alexander in the press, but shortly afterward announced that Primus was going on indefinite hiatus. During the ensuing break, Claypool focused on recording the debut album by his side project, Oysterhead (who also included Copeland and Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio), as well as releasing his two-part solo outing, Live Frogs: Set 1 and Set 2.

The band focused on touring in 2010, when Alexander once again left the band. Claypool and LaLonde turned to former drummer Jay Lane; the band went back into the studio to work on a new full-length. In 2011, Primus released their seventh album, Green Naugahyde. Three years later, the band followed up with Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble, an album that found the band reuniting with drummer Alexander to cover the iconic soundtrack to the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. In 2017 they returned with yet another literary-influenced album, The Desaturating Seven, which was inspired by Italian author Ul de Rico’s children’s book The Rainbow Goblins. Included on the album was the single “The Seven.”

In 2022, the band issued their first new music in five years with the politically charged three-song EP Conspiranoia, which featured the 11-minute title track. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & James Christopher Monger, Rovi




Photo By Adam Messler

When he’s not fronting Tool and A Perfect Circle, Midwest-bred singer/songwriter Maynard James Keenan exorcises his solo demons with a third project dubbed Puscifer. As an outlet for the darker and more personal musings that don’t quite fit into the Tool and APC molds, Puscifer blends introspective reflection and sophomoric humor in a way that is distinctly Keenan, apparent in the titles of releases such as the 2007 debut V Is for Vagina, 2013’s Donkey Punch the Night, and 2015’s Money $hot. By 2020, in light of world events, Keenan and company buckled down and got a little more serious for their fourth set, Existential Reckoning.

While one might imagine Keenan would have enough going on to keep him busy as vocalist for Tool and A Perfect Circle, in 2007 he decided to branch out with a project called Puscifer. Described by Keenan as “the space where my Id, Ego, and Anima all come together to exchange cookie recipes,” Puscifer first appeared as the name of a fictional band Keenan fronted in a cameo on the HBO sketch comedy series Mr. Show in 1995. It wasn’t until 2003 that Keenan actually recorded under the name, when he teamed up with Danny Lohner for a track called “Rev 22:20” for the Underworld soundtrack. Four years later, he set to work on an entire Puscifer album. Organized less as a traditional “rock band” and more as a musical collective in which Keenan could work with a rotating lineup of like-minded artists, Puscifer’s early recording projects featured a large cast of noted musicians, including Tim Alexander from Primus, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk from Audioslave and Rage Against the Machine, former King Crimson member Trey Gunn, violinist Lisa Germano, pop singer/songwriter Jonny Polonsky, and actress and vocalist Milla Jovovich.

The first product of Puscifer’s new life was a single issued in early October 2007; the A-side was “Cuntry Boner,” a gleefully offensive song originally recorded by Electric Sheep (a short-lived punk band featuring Adam Jones and Tom Morello years before they would respectively join Tool and Rage Against the Machine), while the flipside was a cover of the Circle Jerks‘ “World Up My Ass.” Later the same month, Puscifer’s debut album, V Is for Vagina, was released; like the single, it was issued in the United States by Keenan’s own Puscifer label, and it featured ten original songs, many of which were dominated by slow but potent dance grooves rather than Tool‘s prog metal textures. Keenan said the group had no immediate plans to tour, but he was collaborating with several filmmakers on short movies based on the songs, which could be shown at live performances. In April 2008, a remix album titled V Is for Viagra: The Remixes was released and featured contributions from members of Nine Inch NailsTelefon Tel AvivMinistry, and Slipknot, among others.

Keenan returned the following year with the EP “C” Is For (Please Insert Sophomoric Genitalia Reference Here) before releasing the full-length Conditions of My Parole in 2011. The EP Donkey Punch in the Night arrived in 2013 with a pair of new tracks, as well as covers of Queen‘s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Accept‘s “Balls to the Wall.” Money $hot, the band’s third studio LP, followed in 2015 and featured the single “Grand Canyon.” A remix collection, Money $hot Your Re-Load, arrived the next year. To close out the decade, Keenan revived both A Perfect Circle and Tool, which kept him busy into 2020. That year, along with longtime collaborators Carina Round and Mat Mitchell, Puscifer issued their fourth long-player, Existential Reckoning. More subdued and with fewer jokes than usual, the album took aim at American society in a year consumed by pandemic and political turmoil, which could be heard on the singles “Apocalyptical” and “The Underwhelming.” It reached number seven on Billboard’s Top Alternative Albums chart and was followed by the 2021 concert recording Existential Reckoning: Live at Arcosanti. A third set from the era, Existential Reckoning: Re-Wired, was released in 2023 and featured reimagined versions of album tracks from the likes of Trent ReznorAtticus RossPhantogram, Justin Chancellor (Tool), Scott Kirkland (the Crystal Method), and many more. ~ Mark Deming & Neil Z. Yeung, Rovi

American rock supergroup A Perfect Circle was formed in the late ’90s by Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan and former Tool guitar tech Billy Howerdel. On their debut, Mer de Noms, A Perfect Circle were seen as an extension of the alt-metal-fused-with-art-rock style popularized by Tool in the early to mid-’90s. Despite comparisons, however, A Perfect Circle quickly developed into its own entity, focusing on lighter and more melodic sounds that were combined with a theatrical, ambient quality incorporating occasional strings and unconventional instrumentation on later albums like Thirteenth Step and Eat the Elephant. Over the decades, members of Nine Inch NailsMarilyn MansonSmashing Pumpkins, and Queens of the Stone Age have played a role in the band’s revolving lineup under the core songwriting duo of Keenan and Howerdel.

After the release of Ænima in 1996, Tool found themselves in the midst of an extended legal battle with former label Freeworld Entertainment. When the dust settled two years later, the band reached a 50-50 joint venture agreement for future recordings and, feeling a little burned out, decided to take some time off. It was at this point that Keenan joined up with Howerdel and Paz Lenchantin to form A Perfect Circle. Keenan had met Howerdel in 1992 when Tool opened for FishboneHowerdel had been Fishbone‘s tech at the time and he played Keenan a few of his songs. Keenan was impressed and the two talked of collaborating in the future. However, the opportunity wouldn’t present itself until the end of the decade. With Keenan on vocals, Howerdel on guitar, and Lenchantin on bass, the trio recruited ex-Failure and Enemy member Troy Van Leeuwen on guitar and ex-Vandals and Guns N’ Roses member Josh Freese on drums.

The quintet rehearsed together but didn’t announce the formation of a new band until performing for the first time on August 15, 1999, at a benefit concert at the Viper Room in Los Angeles. Howerdel, who had been composing songs for years, as well as working with bands such as the Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails, became the band’s chief songwriter and producer. A Perfect Circle released their debut album, Mer de Noms, in 2000. Featuring the hit singles “Judith” and “3 Libras,” Mer de Noms debuted in the Top Five of the Billboard 200 and eventually went platinum. The band opened Nine Inch Nails‘ Fragility Tour in 2000, but soon attracted their own headlining audience. The band took a short break between albums, allowing Keenan to hop back to Tool for the release and promotion of 2001’s Lateralus.

In the meantime, preparation for A Perfect Circle’s sophomore effort continued. Lenchantin and Van Leeuwen — both involved with other projects at the time — were swapped out for Jeordie White (Marilyn Manson) and Danny Lohner (Nine Inch Nails), respectively. Keenan returned to the fold in early 2003. Months later, Thirteenth Step arrived, debuting at number two on the Billboard 200. Moodier and more expansive, the set included Top Five rock chart singles “Weak and Powerless” and “The Outsider.” Lohner made way for James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins) as the band embarked on an international tour.

Concluding the trek, A Perfect Circle issued the covers album eMOTIVe in 2004. The politically charged, anti-war collection featured interpretations of songs like John Lennon‘s “Imagine,” Marvin Gaye‘s “What’s Going On,” and Depeche Mode‘s “People Are People.” The album was also notable for the inclusion of new track “Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drum” and “Passive,” a holy grail for fans written by Keenan, Howerdel, Lohner, and Trent Reznor for their scrapped Tapeworm project.

Shortly after the release of eMOTIVe’s companion DVD set aMOTION — which bundled the band’s music videos along with a remix CD — A Perfect Circle went on a hiatus that would last over a decade. During their downtime, Keenan recorded albums with Tool and his solo project, Puscifer, while Howerdel started a new band, Ashes Divide. While rumors of the band writing songs cropped up now and again, A Perfect Circle returned (to the stage, at least) in 2010, and released a new song, “By and Down,” on their 2013 greatest-hits compilation Three Sixty. However, it would be another half-decade before an official return.

In late 2017, the group reunited for a tour of the United States, teasing fans with the possibility of a trek to the studio. They issued the single “The Doomed,” their first new song in over a decade. “Disillusioned” and “TalkTalk” followed in early 2018. That April, A Perfect Circle released their fourth LP, Eat the Elephant, with another revamped lineup that added Matt McJunkins (Eagles of Death Metal) and Jeff Friedl (Puscifer) to the Keenan/Howerdel/Iha trio. As political as eMOTIVe and even more melodic than Thirteenth Step, Eat the Elephant also marked the first time the band recruited an outside producer; namely, Dave Sardy. ~ Neil Z. Yeung & Tracy Frey, Rovi


Talking Stick Resort Amphitheatre
2121 N 83rd Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85035 United States
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