14 November 2009
On Tour With Puscifer
Portland, Roseland Ballroom
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Drunk With Power
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The Humbling River
Review by postymcposterton at Mainly Music Meanderings
Wine followed by Maynard’s blasphemous vaudeville show… Wow.
So, I’ve been a fan of Maynard James Keenan’s vocal since the first utterances I heard from his “main band” TOOL. I loved his work with his first side-project, A Perfect Circle, especially the first album Mer de Noms. I was aware of Puscifer a while ago, as it started out as a “joke band” that debuted on a skit on Bob Odenkirk and David Cross’s Mr. Show on HBO (Maynard and Tool’s Adam Jones show up in a short clip). Never did I think that joke band name would turn into a real alter ego for Maynard himself, he’d release an album and a batch of remix EPs, and then hit the road!
So, for this 1st Portland show, I bought the VIP ticket which included a meet & greet and wine tasting (I didn’t do that for Portland show #2 as I didn’t know I was going to be able to go until a few days ago). For those not in the know, Maynard has gotten into wine making the past few years. Back in Ohio, I could order the wine to be shipped to me, and I still have a couple bottles of the 2005 Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra sitting in my utility closet… um… I mean in my “wine cellar.” I haven’t been able to taste any of Maynard’s recent Caduceus wines, as unfortunately, they don’t have the ability to ship to Oregon (argh, free the grapes!).
The meet & greet and wine tasting started a little after 5pm. We got shuffled into the back room of Roseland’s downstairs bar. Todd (I didn’t catch his last name) is Maynard’s wine guy, or at least he’s a touring member of Maynard’s crew who knows a lot about the wine. He mentioned several times about being involved in the last A Perfect Circle tour right around the time Maynard was getting started with vineyard purchases / development. Todd talked for about an hour and fifteen about the various wines, including the one we were tasting the 2006 Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra (limited to 5,000 cases). The Chupacabra vintages are designed to be different, similar to the folk legend of the chupacabra. The 2006 is a blend of 36% cabernet sauvignon, 13% petite verdot, 22% syrah, 14% petite sirah (all sourced from Paso Robles), and 15% of an unknown grape (yeah, I’m an accountant and noticed the missing % on their info sheet).
The Chupacabra is Maynard’s most “mass produced” wine, and current batches are in the 10,000 case range. We obviously didn’t get to try any of Maynard’s 20 case batch of very special Judith wines (grown at 5,000+ feet altitude with land spread with his mother’s ashes). Todd also spoke a little bit about current discussions with Whole Foods to get the wines distributed into Portland. He also mentioned a documentary, Blood Into Wine, about Arizona wines with a little bit of Maynard, Fairuza Balk, Milla Jovavich, Patton Oswalt, Bob Odenkirk, and others in the footage. It is expected to hit the Sundance Festival and some select theatres in Feb 2010.
After Todd’s info and Q&A session, he went to go get Maynard, who had just finished sound check. Maynard came down and walked around the room and individually handed each one of us a signed copy of the Puscifer debut album (V is for Vagina). He only very briefly chatted with folks. He asked me if I learned anything from the wine talk, to which I replied “yes, thank you.” That’s about the extent of my interaction with Maynard, but I thought it was wicked cool to receive a signed copy of the album directly from his hands. Since he’s a busy guy, he took off shortly after making his tour around the room.
I had to leave after the meet & greet to get some grub; so I walked over to my favorite, close-by vegan restaurant (represent!) until show time.
When I got back to the venue, I went over to get my photo pass. I had free reign for the opener’s set, but only allowed to snap photos for the first two songs of Puscifer’s set (more on that later)…
Sweethead was the opener. Sweethead is guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen (Queens of the Stone Age, Failure, A Perfect Circle) and lead vocalist Serrina Sims with Norm Block and Eddie Nappi from the Mark Lanegan Band. They were a good rock group and played about a half of an hour. I was in a place in the venue (front / center) where the sound usually isn’t the best. My spot will be likely different for Monday’s show.
I think every time I’ve seen a Maynard band (three times for Tool and A Perfect Circle each), the opener has either been a Mike Patton-related band (Tomahawk, or on his label Ipecac Isis & The Melvins) or a Ken Andrews-related band (Year of the Rabbit and now Sweethead is connected to Ken via one step with Troy and Failure). I’m not complaining, as I love Patton and Failure-related projects. I dug Sweethead… hopefully I’ll get a better feel for their sound on Monday.
Puscifer’s set started with a video Maynard’s Major Douché character barking orders at us. Shortly thereafter, with band in place, Maynard wheeled out on a Segway in his horrible comb-overed, bedazzled sweat pants wearing preacher and kicked into “Sour Grapes.” This kick-off was a not-so-subtle hint that it was going to be a crude, blasphemous vaudeville experience not your typical rock show.
As I only had photo privileges for the first two songs, I snapped away. Unfortunately, Maynard was off changing during the second song, “Rev 22:20″ so I resorted to snapping away at the band. I’m hoping Monday’s set, I get some more non-be-sweatpants‘ed Maynard. The security guards were quite adamant and nabbing people’s cellphones; so I’m definitely grateful to Monica, Maynard’s publicist, for getting me the hook-up for these Portland shows.
Thanks again, Monica!
I didn’t catch all of the band members’ names… but I do know that Carina Round covered the female vocals, and did a smash up job on “The Mission,” which model/actress Milla Jovavich sang on the studio version. Primus drummer Tim Alexander handled drums. Also in the band were two guitarists, an electronic & keyboards guy, and a percussionist. During the songs, if any individual band members wasn’t performing, they’d sit on the sofas or wander around and drink wine (which was laid out all over the stage) and munch on fruit, cheese and crackers. Also roaming around the stage was a cameraman dressed up as a ninja which was later announced to be the one and only Meats Meier, Puscifer’s official CGI music video madman.
I had heard some rumblings of people being disappointed in the past Puscifer shows. I think if you go in thinking it’s going to be a rock show (or a Tool show), you’re in it for the wrong reasons. I got to hear an hour and half of fun music and crazy ramblings, and I was thoroughly entertained. Monday promises to be different… I expect some country hee-haw may be on order…