Meat Puppets


I arrive early to catch the tour support for the evening, Munky, a youthful fusion of funk and indie, not quite the type of band you would expect to be supporting an eighties psychedelic country rock band but they are certainly a bunch of lively Irish lads, with a great stage presence and some comical banter between songs. The lead singer pleads with the crowd to buy some merch so they can afford some petrol for their van, only to be interrupted by their lead guitarist who with quick wit corrected just saying, “Diesel actually”, which gained a laugh from the crowd. I’m sure they will have fun on the rest of tour.

Now just for a bit of history on the band we are all stood here waiting to watch. Meat Puppets formed almost forty years ago in 1980 in Arizona, consisting of two brothers Curt (guitar) and Kris (bass) Kirkwood who both share vocal duties and school friend Derick Bostrom (drums). They signed to SST records as a punk band and toured after recording their first record, although they soon became bored of the punk sound and started experimenting with acid rock (I’d take a bet on them experimenting with acid too) and also country and western music, which really pissed off a lot of fans at the punk shows they were playing. The change in sound led to their second record Meat Puppets II being delayed in release by a year.

After what is seeming to be a tedious sound check, the Meat Puppets hit the stage with ‘Comin’ Down’ a great track on record but the sound for the first couple of tracks is all over the place: compared to the clean-cut sound of Munky, it is almost unlistenable with the sound of the guitar just piercing through the vocals and the bass. That said it is eventually sorted and I suppose understandable for a band of such variety of sound. By the time ‘Oh, Me’ is played the sound levels and crowd are happy and in flow with the show, with all the crowd singing along as this song is one of three tracks we are expecting to hear tonight that embodies Kurt Cobain’s love for the band.

Meat Puppets are regarded as a hidden gem in the rock world, they influenced many bands that went on to be absolutely huge: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Pavement and Dinosaur Jr, to name a few. In the case of the former, it is even to the point that John Frusciante actually auditioned to join the band in 1992 when he briefly left the Chili Peppers, due to their success overwhelming him.

The band only hit commercial success after Kurt Cobain invited Cris and Curt to join Nirvana play ‘Oh, Me’, ‘Lake on Fire’ and ‘Plateau’ during their legendary MTV Unplugged set, with Kurt singing the songs and bass and guitar left to the Kirkwood brothers; less than half a year later Kurt Cobain would be dead and the heart wrenching yet beautiful lyrics of those three songs sang on that night are now mostly associated with Nirvana. Yet when coming to release their next album in 1994, Too High to Die, the band got their first and only ever single in the charts (‘Black Water’) and the record sold more copies than all of their previous albums combined.

This tour is the first time in twenty-three years that original drummer Derrick Bostrom has toured with the band after their first split up in 1996 and his open hand unique style of playing is hard to keep your eyes away from. The set consists of a lot of their second record and a lot of what seems to be improvised jams which at times are getting a little too much for myself but certainly not for the hippies down the front who seem to be losing their shit. This is where the country and western elements of the band hold strong, they bring back chaos and regain a platform to descend into another track.

The highlight of the set for me is ‘Up on the Sun’, an anthemic classic psychedelic rock song, with fans down the front throwing their beers and the old hippie couple next to me singing along; it’s a classic, with an old school drum solo seeing the song out, it gets the loudest cheers of the night. The band end the set with their heavy version of ‘Lake of Fire’ and then of course ‘Black Water’. With not much said all night from the band, I’m not sure whether it’s the fact it’s done nothing but rain today or whether the band just like to get lost in their music they leave the stage and lights come on. Given that the band have a notorious history of hard drug abuse, it’s maybe not surprising that they just let the music do the talking, all said and done it was defiantly a show worth seeing, their last in the UK before they head over to Europe. With them all now reaching their sixties maybe this is the last time they will tour the UK, although I wouldn’t be surprised if with the reconnection of their founding drummer, they go on to play together for many years to come.

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