The 2018 summer concert season was afforded a grand kickoff at Artpark on Wednesday night, as perfect weather, a pair of spectacular stoner-metal bands and a headlining set from one of the most wonderfully weird rock bands in history conspired to form an experience that will be tough to top in the coming months.
The only thing missing was… well, you, perhaps.
The crowd was surprisingly light. However, it did seem that everyone who did made the journey to Lewiston was there for the right reason – that being, to respond with the same urgency that came blasting forth from the stage with such bombastic force and focus.
Solid opener: Nashville's psychedelic stoner-metal merchants All Them Witches last played the area as headliners in the intimate Mohawk Place, but the quartet seemed to be an unknown quantity to most of the assembled. That did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm with which they were received, however. Imagine Black Sabbath played with a Southern soul swagger, and you'll get the general idea.
Bombast and chops galore: Mastodon, two members of which grew up in Rochester and spent time in Buffalo, is one of the more intriguing collectives in modern heavy music.
The band's Artpark set was both bone-rattling and deeply musical, a crash-course in the modern metal epic punctuated by strident gallops, dazzling fretwork, and a delightful grandiosity powered by the boundless energy and dizzying chops of drummer Brann Dailor.
Their name is Mud: Primus' Artpark set came crashing through the gate loaded for bear with a ferocious mashup of "Too Many Puppies" and "Sgt. Baker," and a contained and happily polite mosh-pit immediately broke out in front of the stage.
Bassist/vocalist Les Claypool led the brigade ably assisted by the thrillingly strange asides of guitarist Larry LaLonde and the nonchalant brilliance of drummer Tim Alexander.
It's a rare and special band that can perform the entirety of its latest album 30 years into the game and hold an entire crowd spellbound, but Primus did exactly that, offering a torrid and fascinating run-through of "The Desaturating Seven."
Wednesday is Opposite Day: The uninitiated might have been a bit confused by the chant that greeted Primus as it took the stage, and erupted again at various points thereafter: "Primus sucks!" No, the crowd had not been over-run by trolls. This was an expression of affection, a longstanding inside joke shared among fans.
Indeed, Primus decidedly does not suck.
Related: Smiles from Primus and Mastodon