Those present in the legendary Cain’s Ballroom Friday night saw one of the most unusual, unorthodox and heavy-hitting shows that has graced the stage in the hallowed ‘Home of Bob Wills.’
A band from nearby Wichita, Kansas warmed up the crowd as the lights went down. Split Lip Rayfield showed the crowd that it is possible to get a hard rock sound from a banjo, mandolin and upright bass built from a 1978 Mercury gas tank and one single string of weed-whacker line.
Split Lip Rayfield’s 45-minute set undoubtedly shocked those unfamiliar with their work. Wayne Gottstine hammered on the mandolin harder than most metal bands grind the Axe, while Jeff Eaton slapped the gas-tank bass with hair a-flying in true head-banging fashion. Add those to the smooth banjo pickin’ of Eric Mardis and Split Lip Rayfield had the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands, particularly during the catchy "Kiss of Death" that tells the woes of how one unlucky motor vehicle owner has a knack for killing every car he drives.
Split Lip’s hard rock/ blue grass mixture gives the band a uniquely original sound that surprisingly works well played at a heavy metal pace.
After a short intermission, the crowd once rushed towards the front of the stage, beginning the chant of "Claypool, Claypool, Claypool," as the stage crew put the final touches on the set-up. Less than five minutes later, they got their wish when a funky drum beat was met with a deep bass line as Claypool appeared from behind the curtain. Claypool also brought an unusual assortment of instruments for a rock show.
Mike Dillon split duties between drums, bongos, and xylophone, sometimes playing two of the three what seemed almost simultaneously. Paulo Baldi was exclusively assigned to drums while Sam Bass handled the cello like several observers had never seen. All three were clad with masks the duration of the night.
The show opened with a few tunes that had a dark and ominous sound to them, while still funky enough to make the dance floor bounce under the weight of the crowd jumping and dancing to the beat.
Claypool never stopped moving his hands throughout the set, whether it be on his trademark Carl Thompson, the futuristic looking electric upright bass (while donning a pig mask) or on the rare whamola bass (while transformed into a primate). The longer the show went on, the faster and louder Claypool played, at one point maintaining a quick-pace bass line while using only one hand.
The tempo of the show went through the roof midway through the set during an awesome 15-minute long drummer duel between Dillon and Baldi that had each man impressively matching each other beat-for-beat. Dillon even went so far as to pound the xylophone with drumsticks in between licks on the drums.
Claypool stuck to his own songs, staying away from his Primus portfolio. Still, the sound was innovative while being presented in an exciting way that made it very entertaining. Claypool and gang played several original songs such as "Amanitis", "Red State Girl" and "Cosmic Highway" while combining all of them together into what became an hour and a half jam session.
Solos on the whamola, cello and drums seemed to fill the gap in between songs as did a short teaser of Led Zepplin’s "Kashmir". In all, it was a very entertaining evening that lovers of all musical genres would enjoy. Claypool’s energy and ability to manipulate the bass makes it a must-see affair whenever he is in town.
Photos by: Kevin Pyle
In summation- yes kids, banjo, mandolin, xylophone and cello are instruments capable of producing one hell of a rockin’ show. Especially when placed into the hands of the musical geniuses that nearly brought the house down in Tulsa on Friday night.