Jam on Wry

Primus' Les Claypool rocks the mock-doc in 'Electric Apricot'

Les Claypool (far right) satirizes jam bands in his debut feature, <i>Electric Apricot</i>, which screens this weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar.
Les Claypool (far right) satirizes jam bands in his debut feature, Electric Apricot, which screens this weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar.

Like tripping on acid while waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, jam bands – Phish, Gov't Mule, the Grateful Dead, Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade – will always be an acquired taste. Too willfully obscurantist for the mainstream, too tie-dyed for the underground, but just right for a certain percentage of Bonnaroo-bred Goldidreadlocks that keeps the Dead's and Bob Weir's wiry little Ratdog back catalogs permanently pressed; the String Cheese Incident will always be incidental to the majority of concertgoers.

Electric Apricot, the directorial feature debut from Primus' slap-bass mastermind, Claypool, (playing in a limited run at the Alamo South Lamar this weekend), dissects the minutiae of the jam-band scene in a way no Phishy concert film would ever dare to attempt: via outright parody. Sure, the jam-band genre has provided comedy fodder for everyone from The Simpsons to virtually every late-night talk-show host (excluding Alan Thicke), but Claypool is himself a proud member of an actual jam band. That insider status makes this mockumentary both less likely to upset the karmic equilibrium that genre stalwarts rely upon to avoid being beaten to death by Motörhead's fan base, while simultaneously blurring the lines between satire, parody, and overkill.

Electric Apricot's filmic template is obviously Spinal Tap, right down to its rainbowed kick-drum heart, with Claypool himself playing drummer Lapland "Lapdog" Miclovich as Phisher Trey Anastasio by way of the Tap's Nigel Tufnel. Claypool's canny mock-doc follows the group – which also includes spiritually bent bassist Steve "Aiwass" Hampton Trouzdale (Adam Gates); beefy, anger-management-miscue guitarist Steven Allan "Gordo" Gordon (Bryan Kehoe); and Marin County beachboy Herschel Tambor Brillstien (Jonathan Korty) on keyboards – into the studio where they record the painfully literal anthem "Hey, Are You Going to Burning Man?" before ultimately securing a third-tier backup semislot at the equally fake Festeroo concert.

Along the way, Electric Apricot skewers not only the jam genre's penchant for endless, seemingly mindless guitar noodling and New Agey self-importance – a trait handed down from their hippier-than-thou San Franciscan forebears – but also the manic, stoney fans and live-show "tapers" (represented here by Robot Chicken's Seth Green and South Park's Matt Stone), who attach themselves to their favorite band's touring undercarriage like scraggly, tie-dyed remoras. "It's like free love with a bit of ass-shaking and a little bit of crazy, like, wow," gushes a female Phish phan at one point, while, speaking of growing tensions in the recording studio, Apricot Gordo says, "I felt like Hitler at Waterloo in there yesterday."

Needless to say, once they finally end their quest at Festeroo, real-life Phish bassist Mike Gordon pointedly tells the camera, "I've never heard of Electric Apricot," but whether he's hip to Claypool's cinematic gag or not remains a mystery. Much like the appeal of jam bands, actually.

National Lampoon Presents Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo screens Thursday through Sunday at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. For more information, visit www.electricapricot.com.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Screens Reviews
SXSW Film Reviews: 'Lunarcy!'
Daily Reviews and Interviews

Wayne Alan Brenner, March 15, 2013

SXSW Film Reviews: 'The Punk Syndrome'
Daily Reviews and Interviews

Patrick Courtney, March 15, 2013

More by Marc Savlov
Cold Pursuit
Liam Neeson is Mr. Plow ... with a vengeance

Feb. 15, 2019

2019 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentary
Tales of love and hate dominate these Oscar hopefuls

Feb. 8, 2019


Primus, Les Claypool, National Lampoon's Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle