The only thing anyone seemed to know going into last night’s epic South Park birthday bash at Red Rocks Amphitheater outside Denver was that it was going to be wild and weird. In honor of the show’s 25th anniversary, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone brought Primus and Ween together for two sold-out nights of comedy, mayhem, and singalongs, including a rousing “Uncle F**ka,” backed by both bands.
The stage was adorned with cutouts of snowy South Park trees, instruments, a few lawn chairs, and a cooler. Even Primus frontman Les Claypool seemed amused. “What the hell is goin’ on here, man” the Primus bassist asked at some point later on. That was the vibe of the night.
Throughout the show, Primus and Ween, plus Parker and Stone, traded performing and sitting onstage to watch their old friends from the best seats in the house. Mickey Melchiondo (“Dean Ween”) faced down Claypool for a brief yet thunderous guitar battle. “This is so cool,” he said. Technically, the first time Primus, Ween, Parker, and Stone shared a stage was in the Season Two episode “Chef Aid,” in which animated versions of Primus and Ween performed sets at the Live Aid-inspired charity concert to help acquit the beloved Chef (voiced by Isaac Hayes).
Before South Park debuted in 1997, Parker and Stone asked Primus to record the show’s now-iconic theme song. Last night, while wearing the same red-striped coat and navy slacks as his animated self in the show’s intro, Claypool performed three different renditions of it: the original, slowed-down version, the sped-up second recording, and the newest and fastest one that features Claypool playing a jolting Whamola instrument. All the while, he stomped goofily around the stage.
The interchanging headliners gave the night a kind of variety-show excitement. One minute we were hearing songs from Ween’s The Mollusk, then The Book of Mormon, then Primus covering Rush’s “Closer to the Heart.” Laughs filled the venue while clips from South Park of Kanye West’s obsession with fish sticks and Butters hanging with Awesom-o were projected onto the giant boulders cradling the stage.
It wouldn’t have been a South Park event without the potentially too-far jokes and references (but it’s South Park, so they can get away with it, right?) The full-band rendition of Sheila Broflovski’s “Blame Canada” had a backdrop of the Canadian flag with a giant red X across it. Parker yelled “Joe Biden took our jobs!” in the notable South Park accent, which sounded more like “Joe Biden tookerder!” (worth noting: he and Stone recently signed a $900 million deal renewing South Park for six more seasons and committing them to 14 movies on Paramount+).
The two emotional peaks of the night were thanks to Primus and its ringmaster Claypool, who performed near-recording-sounding versions of “Too Many Puppies” and, with help from Stone voicing Butters, “Tommy the Cat.” The praise for these was solidified with chants of “Primus sucks!” from the crowd. While Ween may have laid down a too-heavy wah-wah on an extended electric “Voodoo Lady,” things took an even stranger turn when Parker and Stone began closing the show dressed as royal court performers during “The Ballad of Lemmiwinks.”
“It’s been a dream to be able to perform at Red Rocks,” Parker sentimentally gushed to the colorful mass of tie-dye-donned fans. And it just made sense that the night ended with a never-ending take of “Boogers and Cum,” and the encore followed with Team America: World Police‘s “America (F*ck Yeah).”
“We were just going to have a party or something to celebrate,” Stone told the crowd of their initial plans to celebrate the big 25. And the biggest party was the joy of seeing some of music and television’s craziest dudes having an even better time than their like-minded audience.