A s if leading one of the Bay Area's most unique bands and writing a full-length novel weren't enough for Primus frontman and lovable oddball Les Claypool, he's now added film director to his cache of hat tricks. Years in the making and largely filmed in Marin, Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo is a mockumentary in the vein of This Is Spinal Tap , skewering the jam-band scene and all of its attendant nonsense with a keen eye for the absurd. Distributed by National Lampoon, it's funny, as the saying goes, because it's true.
The film follows the foibles and follies of Electric Apricot, a band of mostly clueless hippies who start out small, playing in coffee shops, writing innocent little songs, jamming endlessly. But when "Hey, Are You Going to Burning Man?" is a surprise hit and the band starts to record their first album, relations get strained. By the time they're offered a slot at the huge jam-band festival Festeroo, the infighting increases to the most shameful of levels: group therapy.
With easy targets to aim at, Electric Apricot contains plenty of zinging one-liners, but Claypool's ace in the hole is the ability to send up, in what at times is obvious fashion, aspects of his own scene; Primus, after all, exists on the outer periphery of the jam-band world. That Claypool can gather together people like Wavy Gravy, Bob Weir, Warren Haynes and Mike Gordon to participate in such a roast is a testament to his guts as much as his clout. It proves, too, that a little bit of harsh introspection is necessary to keep at it in music; jazz musicians often criticize the "jazz scene," for example, just like punk bands often criticize the "punk scene," and in doing so, they protectively elevate themselves above the trivial aspects that so often transform musical adherents into caricatures.
People all over the world will see Electric Apricot but it carries a special extra heft when shown locally. In hippie-friendly Northern California, it's a near guarantee that certain personality traits of the film's subjects will ring a familiar unhygienic bell. Claypool will be on hand to discuss the film at a special screening on Thursday, Jan. 10, at the Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St., San Rafael. 7:30pm. $9.75. 415.454.1222.