Cinquanta: Puscifer - A Perfect Circle - Failure

On May 10th and 11th 2014, Maynard James Keenan, vocalist for Tool, Puscifer and A Perfect Circle hosted a celebration for his 50th birthday.  The whole thing took place at the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park, Los Angeles California. As Puscifer has so far not toured Europe, I figured, if the music does not come to me I’ll have to go to the music, and so I got on a plane on Friday the 9th in Frankfurt, Germany, and headed to LA, for the 2 nights of music, and a couple of days after the shows.

Now if you were there, you know this was a hell of a special performance, and if you were there for both nights, you know that this was the only way to go to get the full experience!

On night one, we got to the Greek theatre around 6:30 pm as Maynard had posted in social media that an early arrival was suggested for some pre-show fun, the part that I saw consisted of an outtake of the "What Is... Puscifer" release, spiced up with a special sketch for Maynard’s Birthday, where Hildy made him a Coke birthday cake.

The stage set up had the Puscifer Camper, on the left, the Failure drum kit in the middle, and the Puscifer Drum kit on the right (as seen from in front of the stage). In front of the middle drum kit there was a little high rise with the Puscifer Microphones. And then there were a few small camping tables with chairs, and a BBQ inclusive of fake Flames.

We were in our seats just before 8pm, quite gnarly seats in section A, dead center, and anticipated a regular show, meaning Failure would open the evening, then we expected an A Perfect Circle set, followed by Puscifer as the headliner.  Needless to say, our expectations were as far from what we were about to experience as possible.

A short introduction by Neil Hamburger, and Failure took the stage, but they were accompanied by all the musicians that were to perform as regulars throughout the evening.  As everybody came onstage they were already greeted with a standing ovation, and although it's a fully seated venue, I dare say, not a soul sat back down.  Failure/A Perfect Circle opened the Set with the "Nurse who loved me"  backed up by Maynard, Billy Howerdel, and Carina Round, what a performance to open the evening!  Then as a good host, Maynard made sure everyone on stage at least had a drink which mostly consisted of him serving his wine. Failure played 2 more songs, and while finishing "Dirty Blue Balloons" the drummer was actually wheeled of stage with his entire kit, while still playing.  Just as the song finished the A Perfect Circle drum kit rolled out.

failure opening night 1

With a 10 second break at the most, A Perfect Circle had taken the stage to perform a 3 song set, consisting of "Weak and Powerless", "Orestes", and "the Noose".  All 3 songs were performed so powerfully and with such perfection that it was almost shocking to see the Drum Kit wheeled back stage while "the noose" was not even finished.

APC night 1

Another 10 second break, and we were hearing the first notes of Puscifer's "Vagina Mine", unreal was all I thought! And, I was also wondering what comes next?? Could it be done with such shorts sets? Will there be other bands? What the hell is going on! But then came "Trekka" which simply blew my mind, so no more time to wonder, just to enjoy!  Next came a perfect rendition of "Polar Bear" followed by "breathe", which was simply mind blowing!!  Unfortunately right here, the flow stopped a bit as Maynard announced, that Grandpa needs a break.  So we took a break as well, and headed for the outdoor smoking section, which is a bit of a joke I think, limiting outdoor smoking... As all the smoke goes up anyway.  But the crowd made it easy to get a little high, and inhale some vapo pens, which are quite the invention!

About 15 minutes later Puscifer took the stage again, and they opened their second set with "Oceans", which made me feel as though I was floating in space, such an angelic sound! "Monsoons" had Billy Howerdel on additional vocals, and this set was closed with "Horizons", so overall a floating peaceful spaced out set.

puscifer night 1

Right at the end of "Horizons" the Failure drum kit was wheeled back on stage and it was clear they would keep rotating bands throughout the night. "another space song" was followed by "Frogs" and "solaris" which featured Maynard on backing vocals, what a duet this was, subtle hints of Maynard’s singing actually took the song to another level.  Overall Failure are not a bad band, but the addition of musicians throughout the night actually made them a lot better.  My friend G. who had seen them open for Tool a few weeks before was actually horrified about having to sit through an entire Failure set, but split up between bands, I must say I quite enjoyed their songs, if only to come down a bit from the rest of the music.  As they were finishing "solaris", the drum kit left the stage, and the back drop was once again illuminated by the A Perfect Circle sign.

APC launched into "the Hollow" which I had not seen in quite a few years, so that blew my mind! And then I for one totally lost it as the went into "Rose" which they performed with such power, that I could only let go in the music, and actually might have bumped my friends around a bit, dancing between the rows of chairs.  "Rose" blew my mind, but then, a version of "the Package" which was sung as a duet between Maynard and Carina Round, who actually sang the first part of the track by herself took it up another notch!! UNREAL!!!

And now it was back to Puscifer who opened their 3rd set with "Conditions of my parole" for which Maynard strapped on his Megaphone, which rendered the vocals a tad more aggressive than the album version. This is unquestionably one of my favorite Puscifer tracks, and the live version is as gnarly as it can get! "Man Overboard" yet again was just mind blowing and "the undertaker" really showcased Maynard’s long and powerful screams!!  Somewhere during this set, Tool drummer Danny Carey sat down at one of the camping tables and was greeted with quite a cheer from the crowd, and probably made everyone in the venue hope for a Tool encore.

Back to APC for their 3rd set, "counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums" rocked the entire venue! "3 libras"  was simply beautiful, and they closed that set with "by and down" their newest track, but also in my opinion one of the weakest of the entire night.

Failure closed the regular night with another 3 song set, which consisted of: "blank", "wet gravity" and "heliotropic".

Here I thought, well 3 sets by each band, should probably close out the night, but I was far from it! As the Failure drum kit left the stage, there was a little break, and then, the roadies actually pushed out Danny Carey sitting behind his massive drum kit! WOW! Are we in for some Tool now, I wondered!  But no! It was all Puscifer as Hildy came on stage looking for Maynard who was sitting in the camper on the crapper, in a full brown suit, and his blonde wig and mustache, as they launched into "Cuntry Boner" with 2 drummers!  And then the really most unexpected happened, the musicians, dressed up in Paper Mache masks, and actually it was a Green Jello reunion of sorts to perform "3 little pigs" which got the crowd into a mild frenzy as no one would have expected this! But we were in for quite another surprise when Justin Chancellor walked out on stage with his bass strapped on! Now only Adam Jones was missing for a Tool performance!  He did however not show, but this did not keep them from performing a hell of a version of "Sober" in which Zac Rae (who had been standing next to us in the smoking section but we did not yet know him), took over the guitar parts with his keyboard!!! Here the crowd totally lost it!  The night ended with "the humbling river" which was more than fitting as the whole evening was quite a humbling show!  Who would have expected a show like this? No one! Maynard set the bar quite a few notches higher for any future birthday celebrations by famous artists!!!

Unfortunately here the night ended, and my friends were in somewhat of a hurry to get to the car, while I was still so blown away I had a hard time to move at all! Purely stunning! The whole thing did not feel like a normal concert, not only because of the band mash up, but also because most of the time all musicians were on stage hanging out, which added a casual feel to the whole thing.  The only downside to the entire event was the seated venue! While the Greek Theatre is a stunning venue in a lush green setting in a small ravine of the Griffith Park, the fact that it was seated took away some of the feel of a party rather than a show, and at least a small standing area to mingle and dance would have further added to the coziness of the evening. But that is complaining at a very high level. The night was quite cool, and I was happy to wear my cloak which fitted perfectly into the setting as well, and was sure to wear it again for the next night, Just the first night had already made my trip worthwhile, and I was more than excited for night 2, as Hippie and I drove up to Topanga Canyon where I spent the night in a nice little camp.

We started day 2 quite mellow in Topanga, and around 5pm headed up to the Griffith Park Observatory to take in the view before heading back down the mountain to the Greek Theatre for night 2.

We actually missed the preshow fun entirely and just got into our seats, again in section A, a bit more to the front and left this time around, as the Hildy Coke cake sketch was playing.

Night 2 pretty much started exactly the same way as night 1, the band was greeted with standing ovations and no one cared to sit back down.   "the nurse who loved me” was again the opening song with as powerful a performance as night 1.  Failure changed one song from their set, which we did not notice, and so we were expecting everything to be the same, which again was far from on spot.

APC changed their first set to start off with "the package" with Carina Round sounding even better than the night before, and overall the band sounded tighter. APC finished their first set with "rose" and "the noose", both songs essentially leaving me speechless.

The first Puscifer set was the same as the night before except that they skipped "Trekka", and thus made it a 3 song only set before taking a break, this time without any announcement.

puscifer night 2

Again we took the time to inhale a lot of Vapor, and got back into the venue a bit sooner so we would not miss the first few notes of "monsoons" as had been the case the night before. The second Puscifer set was identical to night 1 but overall, as with APC, felt a bit tighter than the day before.

Failure's 2nd set was the same as the night before, and Maynard again added some punch to "solaris". Next up was APC who switched up their set a bit, "weak and powerless" was followed by "blue" and "the hollow", which again was nothing short of mind blowing!

On to Puscifer's 3rd set which changed considerably from the night before, as only one track was not switched out. We heard the "spanish fly mix” of "the undertaker". Next Carina Round took the main vocals, for "Rev 22:20" as she has done on the "what is ... Puscifer" release, and boy does this woman have a hell of a voice!! I sure understand why Maynard has kept her onboard Puscifer for the last few tours and releases! Letting her go would actually take away from Puscifer, and not just a little!  "Man Overboard" also sounded tighter than the night before, and the set was closed out by a very powerful rendition of "Telling Ghosts"!

The 3rd APC set was also mildly altered as it started off with "counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums" followed by "by and down", and finishing with "the hollow" this time around.   Failure's 3rd set switched the 1st song but the rest was the same as the night before.

This time around Danny Carey drum kit was no more surprise, so we thought we'd be in for some more Tool, but this did not happen. Again Maynard was sitting in the camper but this time around had not bothered with the suit and wig, so Hildy wondered who he was, as they started "cuntry boner" followed by "3 little pigs". Then we had the next surprise as a young man with a cello took place, and Maynard casually introduced him as: "this is my son". WOW, Devo Keenan on stage for a Cello solo! And then he stayed there to play "the humbling river" with his father! How gnarly, 2 generations of Keenan's on one stage!! And Devo did quite the job! Backed up by 2 drummers, and a full band!

Overall this was one hell of an experience 2 nights, songs from 5 different bands so to speak, 6 if you take into account that "cuntry boner" is a cover, and musicians who were all at the top of their game!  Also very noteworthy is the fact that they mixed up the set lists, and actually played some different tracks on both nights! Nothing short of mind blowing!  The most surprising thing of both nights though was the fact that one could actually see Maynard throughout the entire evening, and unlike his usual Tool and APC performances, he did not hide in the shadows this time around, probably because in the end, the evening was mostly about him. And well worth the total of 11600 miles to travel to LA and back again. I sure hope that Puscifer will tour Europe in the future, but if not, I sure as hell will travel again and again to see them!  The one thing that is to hope, is that they will actually release the Cinquanta shows on DVD, preferably both nights in full! set list day 1 set list day 2