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Friday-Saturday, Oct. 30-31. The Warfield, 982 Market St., San Francisco, 408.998.TIXS, 8pm. $25-$30

The scalper standing outside the Shoreline Amphitheatre before the recent Radiohead show should be doing brisk business, but he's not. "What's been the big ticket this year?" I ask. "Jack Johnson," he answers, "and Primus."

While it's been more than three years since Primus took the stage, it's been even longer since the band's signature lineup--bassist Les Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Tim "Herb" Alexander--played together. You'd have to go all the way back to 1996 for the trio's last performance, which took place in Alaska of all places.

The band's 28-date reunion tour, which includes stops at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium on Oct. 29 and the Warfield on Oct. 30-31, is one of the season's toughest tickets. "The tickets are selling like hot cakes," Claypool said during a recent interview. In fact, response has been so great that even Claypool has been swamped with requests from long-lost friends trying to score extras, including one person who rang him up during our phone conversation.

Claypool has kept busy entertaining the jam-band world with his Frog Brigade and Oysterhead; Alexander has played with the Blue Man Group; and LaLonde worked on his studio in L.A. But none of that filled the void left by Primus. What was all the fuss ever about with this quirky trio out of the East Bay? As Claypool puts it, "We were the band that was never supposed to get as popular as we became." Primus was a group that never quite fit in, whether it was playing on Ozzfest, Lollapalooza, H.O.R.D.E. or Woodstock. Yet its wacky bass-driven tunes, like "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver" and "Southbound Pachyderm," managed to break through to mainstream and sell millions of records in the '90s.

Recently, the band reconvened to put out a DVD, which led to a jam session in L.A. Things still clicked and the band's label, Interscope, caught wind. The result is the newly released Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People, a two-disc package that features a CD of five new songs and a DVD of old Primus videos.

So Primus is back, but for how long? Claypool says that the band will keep on going as long as it is "fun." Knowing these guys, that could be quite some time. The scalper outside the Shoreline would be happy. (Jim Harrington)

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From the October 30-November 5, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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