The crowd spills out onto the sidewalks at Lincoln Square’s Book Cellar—a few people lean back against the wall sucking the last few breaths out of their cigarettes. Les Claypool, ringleader of bizarre circus-rock band Primus, has written a novel, “South of the Pumphouse,” and sits in a chair reading from chapter twenty-three.
The crowd is eclectic—where else do Primus fans mingle with Phish fans?—but intensely focused on Claypool, clinging to his words like scripture. They laugh like it’s an inside joke when Claypool reads aloud “Ed still preferred the psychedelic light show his brain was hosting in his head.” Stragglers walk in late and stand on their highest tiptoes to see the enigmatic bassist, and when it comes time for Claypool to sign books, people immediately line up. Nearby, two men discuss jam festivals and one mutters, “I was just getting burnt out on going,” while the other is just about to say how much he’s still dedicated to them.
Meanwhile, Claypool’s occupied by the eager fans who bring their bass guitars in hopes of channeling his talent through the signature he scribbles across the body. One is there to surprise his friend in the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan with an autographed book and picture. Claypool asks him, “How does your friend feel about Borat?” Much of the crowd is in a rush to get to Primus’ show at the Aragon later tonight, despite the fact that Claypool is still very much here, taking his time, signing autographs. One woman, debating whether to leave for the show, wants to make sure she doesn’t miss a thing. “If he’s still here, I’m here. If he’s gone, I’m gone.” (Shelley Jacobs)