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    What does it mean to be relevant as an artist? Of course, one's creative motivation may be as vast as the output which we as a people judge, consume and ultimately deem relevant. But regardless of the artist, the medium or the catalyst, there must be a connection. Something to make the leap from what we consider independent or underground art to that which reveals to society at large some truth, some vision of ourselves.

    In current times, it seems we are inundated with a steady feed of propaganda. Themes of patriotism and social norms telling us which recycled form of cool has come back around to reflect upon us some warm idealism. Like the greyest of horoscopes in which we all see some positive vision of ourselves, yet fail to ask if the mirror upon the wall is merely being agreeable...or worse, manipulating us. 

    I stood Friday night asking myself these questions amidst the aural/visual concoction of melody, optimism and hypnotic candy swirls which proved more than a mere backdrop. This immersive environment became the vehicle in which Les Claypool's Priums, now in their 30th year of channeled weirdness, re-imagined the entire Willy Wonka soundtrack to a sold-out Louisville Palace. For those unfamiliar with Primus or the enigmatic Claypool, South Park is a good, if surprising, place to start. For over a decade, his trademark drawl delivers the beloved satire's theme song. And just as each episode of South Park uses a spoonful of sugar to expose the surface, or sometimes completely blow the roof off current Zeitgeist, Claypool is anything but a weirdo for the sake of being weird.

    Between these perfectly crafted song interpretations and vivid images of adventure, escape and individuality, even the dreamlike, or perhaps nightmarishly disfigured Oompa Loompas, awaits a message for those who remember how to dream. After all, Charlie's Golden Ticket was indeed an escape from the suffocating pressure he observed upon a growing lower-class. Sound familiar? 

    And in the freakishly unique Willy Wonka, we find a character that could never be mistaken for “normal”.  Upon the seemingly edible stage, amidst constant sensory overload and painstakingly wrapped ‘neath golden tin-foil, the genius of Claypool is revealed.  For, within the soundscapes and imagery of youth awaits a reminder that through individualism we find our identity. And the notion that just maybe, that reflection in the media machine isn't us at all.

    Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this was just an expertly realized celebration of excess and fantasy. If that's all one took from Friday nights performance, they still wouldn't be letdown. But, perhaps cultural relevance in art is achieved by it’s ability to provoke abstract thought and from there, conversation. And 30 years on, Primus has yet another riddle for our consumption. One which, in place of a Golden Ticket, we just might find ourselves...

    Photos by First Light Image

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    About Johnny Gutterman

    Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground. A Drop of Rain. The Doe Hoof and the Rabbit Paw. Just like you....... Louisville Born. Kentucky Proud writer/photographer. 1/2 of First Light Image Photography. www.firstlightimage.net

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