Celebrating Sessanta at Red Rocks with Puscifer, Primus & A Perfect Circle

Last Thursday and Friday at Red Rocks Amphitheater, just shy of 10,000 fans packed the cavernous walls for each night of Sessanta — an evening with Primus, Puscifer, and A Perfect Circle — celebrating the 60th birthday of Maynard James Keenan, frontman of TOOL, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer.

If you’re a fan of one, you’re a fan of all.

With so much interesting history and crossover surrounding Maynard James Keenan and the early 90s rock scene, there is most certainly a reason to celebrate the man.

During Maynard’s 60 trips around the sun, since April 17th, 1964, he has amassed an astonishingly loyal fanbase through his years of eclectic music projects, wine making, acting, and comedy. Beginning in 1984, Maynard began playing bass with the TexA.N.S., then singer and bassist for Children of the Anachronistic Dynasty in 1986. 

While living in L.A. in 1989, Maynard was introduced to TOOL guitarist Adam Jones by his upstairs neighbor, none other than Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine. After years of rehearsing and playing local gigs, TOOL was signed and released their debut album Opiate in 1992. That same year, Maynard met Billy Howerdel, who at the time was a guitar tech for Fishbone, whom they were touring with. Seven years later, Maynard joined Billy to form A Perfect Circle and released their debut album Mer de Noms in 2000. 

If two multi-platinum bands weren’t enough, Maynard’s Italian heritage and love for wine prompted the founding of Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyard with their first vintage in 2004.

Then, there is Puscifer.

What is a “Puscifer” you ask? This project is simply not just a band as it is an amalgam of Maynard’s creativity manifesting as music, clothing, products, skits, and various media. Even though the debut album V is for Vagina was released in 2007, Puscifer’s first appearance goes back to 1995 during the premiere episode of HBO’s Mr. Show with Bob Odenkirk and David Cross

With no short list of accomplishments, there was plenty to celebrate at Red Rocks. April weather in Denver and the foothills is anything but predictable. But intermittent thunderstorms, sleet, hail, and snow couldn’t keep fans away from witnessing three of their favorite bands in a single night at the iconic venue.

Be it the lightning, the fans, or the venue itself, the energy was electric.

Kicking off the evening was an entertaining PSA by Special Agent Dick Merkin, educating fans on the sourcing of ingredients for SPAM — the main ingredient being fans who do not follow the no cameras and phones policy. 

Both nights consisted of three acts, with each band performing to to three songs per act. Rounding out the sets, all three bands closed with their newest songs, included on the Sessanta E.P.P.P. (which were limited to 75 pressings for each tour date including, “Kindred” by A Perfect Circle, “No Angel” by Puscifer, and “Pablo’s Hippos” by Primus).

There was little variation in the setlists between both nights. A Perfect Circle delivered standard-issued radio versions, with a deviation on Night Two, substituting “The Outsider” for “Weak and Powerless”. Even though they were mostly the same songs, there was no chance of being disappointed, especially during “Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums” that contained two drum solos, which was immediately followed by “Judith” to close. “Counting Bodies” was tribal and guttural… and meant to be witnessed live, breathing new life into the material for those seeing it performed for the first time.

Puscifer’s sets were eccentric as any fan would come to expect.

Complete with stair elevators for the geriatric performers, lounging areas, horse head masks, ping pong tables, and a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em match between Maynard and Carina Round during “Remedy”. The stage design felt like a grunge-fueled disco. Highlights of Puscifer’s sets included new renditions of “Indigo Children” and “Momma Sed”. Both of these songs were included on the debut album prior to Carina Round joining the band. Hearing her on the live and lengthened versions was a treat. 

Primus went hard and saved the evening on Night One when Puscifer’s PA system blew during the second-to-last song. While trying to stall in order to fix the equipment, Les Claypool kept spirits up and fans entertained, even beginning to play “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin, which would have been a highlight of the evening had they played the entirety of the song impromptu. When the equipment was deemed unrepairable by techs, Claypool announced to Maynard, “I’m going to give them the beaver!” and proceeded to close the evening with “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver”, while continuing to wear his pig mask.

On Night Two, Puscifer was able to complete the show and close out with “Grand Canyon” as the rain returned and provided its own ambience to finalize the Sessanta celebration at Red Rocks. 

Photography by Ryan Jacquot

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