Saturday Night Live alum and Portlandia co-creator Fred Armisen might be best known as an actor and comedian, but for a solid decade and change, Armisen was a professional drummer. His biggest stint in the limelight was as the drummer for Chicago punk legends Trenchmouth, but starting around the turn of the new millennium, Armisen began to turn his attention towards comedy and away from music.
However, Armisen hasn’t completely left comedy music behind. He has been deputised to step in for Devo as their drummer and currently acts as the bandleader for Late Night with Seth Meyers. Armisen certainly didn’t have any trouble getting some famous faces to appear on Portlandia. Now, his music connections are coming in handy with his three-night stand at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall.
Billed as ‘Comedy For Bass Players, But Everyone Is Welcome’, Armisen’s bass-centred comedy show comes as the follow-up to his Grammy-nominated comedy special Standup for Drummers and its sequel, Comedy For Guitar Players. The three-night show also featured special guests for the other two nights: Mike Dirnt of Green Day and Kathy Valentine of The Go-Gos.
The final night’s show saw Primus leader Les Claypool make an appearance. Claypool arrived on stage to participate in a skit centred around musical impressions. While he’s best known for his own slap-happy prog-funk style, Claypool has plenty of other styles he can play in, as he was happy to show off. From Eddie Van Halen-like shredding to John Entwistle’s famous “lead bass” style from The Who, Claypool proved himself to be a student as well as a master.
Probably the funniest impression that Claypool pulled out on his bass was of Rush singer Geddy Lee. Claypool is an avowed Rush maniac – as evidenced by his recent Primus tour featuring the band covering A Farewell to Kings in full – and is the perfect man to duplicate the low tones that Lee created. Claypool showed off the “proper” and “improper” ways to play Rush’s iconic instrumental ‘YYZ’, but the audience got in on the joke when Claypool would up playing two identical passages.
Armisen got his own swings in, including clowning on frustrated drummers trying to play math-rock rhythms and taking his audience on a somewhat-biased tour through the history of punk rock. The show ended with Armisen taking audience requests for some of his most famous songs played on SNL and Portlandia.
Check out Armisen and Claypool jamming together at ‘Comedy For Bass Players’ down below.