The Elvis Presley Syndrome persists. I was having a bite to eat and running my mouth with New Primitives bassist Tommy Peterson when out of the blue, he casually dropped that Thursday June 15th would be their last weekly gig at the West Bank nightclub The Cabooze. I knew right away what was up. The boys weren’t drawing well enough. You’re sure can’t blame a club manager for firing you if you’re not filling the till, so I couldn’t be made at The Cabooze. Clearly the fault — obvious as an elephant sitting on your living room floor — didn’t lie with New Primitives either. Four — count ’em — four Minnesota Music Awards and virtual eras of experience under their belt, these men are qualified.
The fact is, though, audiences at The Cabooze love hearing Afro-Cuban rock. Sadly enough many of them also prefer to watch White people perform it. It ain’t nearly hard as it was in Presley’s era, but to this day, artists of color are lucky as hell to get work playing and singing their own music.
Tell you this: New Primitives signed off on the good foot, with a set that burned. Reggae jam “Bring Me Down,” Latino-rock gem “Buscando La Gente,” a ska-style take on The Temptations’ “The Way You Do The Things You Do” and the laid-back funk of “Didn’t I Tell You?” put true sizzle on the steak. What hips that were there had themselves steady swiveling on the dance floor. FYI: “Bring Me Down” is off the album New Primitives, along with other crowd-rousing staples “Wild Horses” by band leader Stan Kipper, and a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire.” “Buscando La Gente” and “Didn’t I Tell You?” are off the forthcoming album American Nomad.
It should be hard to understand — but it’s not — why an ensemble this gifted has such a hard go of it. Playing at The Cabooze should have spelled a strong leg up. Shoring up their constant roadwork throughout the Midwest, this held potential as a home base from which to solidify the band’s following. Instead it winds up being just another paycheck. On the bright side, these guys raised more than enough hell in the course of their stint that, when they are booked back in for a show or two here and there, folk who miss them will flock, welcoming them back with a world of enthusiasm. On the real side, they should still be at The Cabooze every week.
Not that New Primitives now will be found on somebody’s bread line. In July they’re at the historic Whiskey A Go Go in Hollywood. If they mess around, catch fire on the West Coast and wind up leaving the Twin Cities, listen for whining about how this town lost a good band. I bet a good percentage of it will come from people who listened to reggae and Santana records at home, yet would not get off up their behind and see New Primitives right under their noses. Which one can do, by the way, after they get back from L.A., July 14 in downtown Minneapolis at Peavey Plaza with The Minnesota Orchestra.