Taking a Break from Reality: The Claypool Lennon Delirium in Asheville

Words and Photos by Rob Roane

Any project Les Claypool is involved in is guaranteed to be two things: really weird, and really good. Add Sean Lennon, the son of legendary Beatle John Lennon, an amazing musician in his own right, and you have The Claypool Lennon Delirium.

I am a huge fan of the Delirium and was fortunate enough to photograph them at The Orange Peel in Asheville, North Carolina, on April 19. They’re touring in support of their sophomore album, South of Reality. Throughout the evening, they played all nine songs from the new album as well as a few from their first offering, The Monolith of Phobos, as well as a couple of choice covers.

Shiner (Lennon) and the Colonel (Claypool) choose a wide variety of offbeat and strange topics as well as some social commentary to write their lyrics. The story of the character “Cricket” centers around the reliance and over-prescribing of drugs in America and the issues that come along with it. The Cricket chronicles began on Monolith and continue through South of Reality.

“Boomerang Baby” is an examination of our addiction to phones and social media. Shiner likes to find weird news stories to write about. “Boriska” is about 23-year-old Russian man, Boriska Kipriyanovich. From a very young age, Boriska showed remarkable intelligence and talent in language and writing. He has exhibited extraordinary knowledge of planetary systems and claims that he’s a pilot from Mars sent to save humanity from nuclear annihilation. “Amethyst Realm” tells the story of a woman by the same name who left her husband because she fell in love with a ghost. Lennon also wrote a song for the first album about Michael Jackson’s chimpanzee, Bubbles. Lennon spent time at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch as a child and met Bubbles there. As Sean and Bubbles grew older, Jackson lost interest in them both in his quest for a perpetual childhood.

During the sold-out Orange Peel show, Claypool explained that title track from South of Reality is about the time Claypool and his wife went with Claypool’s father to see a solar eclipse. They viewed it from about an hour south of where they would have witnessed totality. The Colonel joked that his father was not at all impressed by the event.

In true Shiner fashion, Lennon repeatedly mentioned an article he read that suggested that kids should be allowed to eat their boogers and food from the floor because it helps to generate antibodies and strengthen a child’s immune system.

There was plenty of back-and-forth banter throughout the show, and it gives you a sense that Shiner and Colonel really enjoy each other’s company and sense of humor. They seem perfectly relaxed between songs while simultaneously making their performance progressively intense and psychedelic. By the end of the single long set, the crowd was thoroughly engaged and whipped into a frenzy by the intensity of the music coming from the stage. I was left scraping my mind off the floor and trying to put together what I just witnessed next door at Wicked Weed Brewery while enjoying one of their delicious sour beers. I will definitely be seeing The Claypool Lennon Delirium again!

They’ve just announced another leg to their tour accompanied by The Flaming Lips and Particle Kid which begins in July. You know where to find me, then!

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