Local Band Spotlight: Primal J and the Neanderthals
The band’s primary message is to melt faces and to spread love. It has no primary set list, just following what lead singer and guitarist Justin Lottman starts playing. The group primarily play locally, but would love to expand. The band is called Primal J and the Neanderthals.
Made up of Lottman, bass player Dan “f—kin’” Renner, Eric Whirley on the guitar, Kenny Lemons playing the keys and guitar and Chris Pope on drums, Primal J and the Neanderthals have been a staple of the music scene in the Vail Valley for about two and a half years now.
The band formed one-member at a time through mutual friends, and was rounded out when Lemons answered Whirley’s Craigslist ad for “musicians looking to rule the world.”
“That was my goal when I was younger,” Whirley said. “Now I really just want to play.”
The band has cemented themselves as one of the most important local acts, organizing Primalfest earlier this year — a festival featuring completely local musicians, including the Cliff Notes. Better yet, the crew is already working on securing a venue for Primalfest 2019.
The band’s repertoire consists of both covers and originals, with a “funky-punky-rock-reggae” sound, according to Renner. Pope also added that the music a bit of a country twist at times.
The band’s covers consist of songs from the likes of Neil Young, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and more.
However, Renner noted, “it’s our original stuff that really kicks ass.”
The band operates on an improvisational level, following Lottman’s lead during shows, who plays “whatever comes to mind.”
That being said, the band always works hard to read a crowd.
“If it’s a smaller, more intimate crowd, we don’t play our heavier stuff,” Lemons said. “Captivating an audience is the true measure of success for me.”
‘Everyone Starts Dancing’
In addition, it strives to get people moving.
“We get the occasional table dancer,” Pope said.
“We try to get the girls dancing, too,” said Renner. “If the girls are dancing, then everyone starts dancing.”
While the band has big dreams of touring and eventually playing Red Rocks, it also has a huge appreciation for playing in the Vail Valley.
“It’s nice to play in a place where we’re all from,” Pope said. Renner also noted that seeing his kids play with his bandmate’s during shows is something he really appreciates.
The band’s following is “small and tight, but growing,” and each member has noticed a few locals wearing shirts with the band’s logo on it.
“It was like ‘whoa, when did that happen?’” Renner joked.
Several of the members have been playing music for all of their lives, Lemons even has several degrees in music, but each explained that they’re playing for the love of music, not for the money — and that the expenses of Primalfest were a strong example of that.
“After a lifetime of training, it’s cool to see this thing kind of blossom,” Lemons said.