The Meat Puppets 

Nov. 4, Revolution

Once upon a time, two blue-blooded, musically gifted brothers from Arizona started a band. This was during the hardcore heyday of the early '80s, and though the winds were blowing strongly in the direction of harder-faster-louder, the siblings had an abiding love of such punk anathema as Neil Young and the Grateful Dead.

In short order, the Meat Puppets signed to the label SST and released a slew of albums — at least two of which are masterpieces — which combined the theretofore-disparate sounds of punk, country and psychedelia. They also earned the admiration of a certain scraggly, blonde-headed youngster who went on to start his own band of some considerable renown.

By the time they performed three of their songs alongside Kurt Cobain on MTV Unplugged in 1993, Curt and Cris Kirkwood had already attained revered elder status among informed indie listeners. But the success of Nirvana's Unplugged performance set many younger ears to wondering just who those two other guys were.

The next year, the band had a genuine hit single on its hands. “Backwater,” a crunchy, catchy pop nugget, put a spotlight on the Meat Puppets that had never shone on them before.

But the trappings and temptations that often go along with that level of rock star status eventually overtook Cris Kirkwood. He spiraled into heroin addiction, which eventually took away not only his band (which broke up in 1996) and his teeth, but also, tragically, his wife, who overdosed in 1998. In an indirect way, it also took his freedom, as he served about 18 months in prison after a conviction over a 2003 altercation in which a postal security guard shot him in the back.

But after more than a decade in the wilderness, the Kirkwoods reconciled in 2007, and the now-clean Cris has rejoined his brother in the band they started nearly 30 years ago.

The Meat Puppets took to the stage at the Rev Room with the confidence and serenity of seasoned rock warriors. Though the brothers of 2009 are showing more than just a touch of grey, their chops have never been better. Drummer Shandon Sahm (son of legendary Texas country rocker Doug Sahm) propelled the tunes with an appropriately thudding precision.

The Wednesday night crowd was an odd mix of several younger folks in early

'90s drag and a smattering of casual Friday guys wearing blazers, nice jeans and loafers. Only a bare handful of true, grizzled oldsters were to be found.

The band opened with “Oh, Me” from “Meat Puppets II.” Most of the crowd seemed to recognize the song. The Puppets played a few numbers from that classic album, including a low-key version of “Plateau,” a rowdy, raucous take on “Lake of Fire” and a bouncy rendition of “Lost.”

Most of the songs incorporated some focused jamming midway through. Curt Kirkwood often immersed himself in moments of quiet guitar reverie, held aloft by the adept rhythm section until he saw fit to bring things back to Earth with a huge swell of distortion. The brothers' guitar interplay seemed instinctive and their harmonies natural as they drew from their extensive back catalog.

They didn't shy away from their biggest hit, either. When they kicked off the intro to “Backwater,” several improbably young fans at the front of the stage cheered, bouncing up and down like it was 1994. Thank God it's not, and that the Meat Puppets came out on the other side, intact and not too much the worse for wear


From the ArkTimes store


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Robert Bell

  • The legacy of Clunk

    On the lasting ripple effect of Chris Selby's Clunk Music Hall.
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • A Q&A with Pallbearer

    Little Rock’s leading harbingers of doom return with a new album, “Foundations of Burden.”
    • Aug 21, 2014
  • Thursday To-Do: KEN mode

    You've got to figure that a band from frozen-ass Winnipeg is just gonna be way gnarlier and tougher than a band from some sun-kissed tropical clime where people wear tank tops and flip-flops year-round.
    • Feb 6, 2014
  • More »

Most Shared

Latest in Music Reviews

  • Cher in North Little Rock

    March 28, Verizon Arena
    • Apr 3, 2014
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers at Verizon

    The Red Hot Chili Peppers took a slightly different musical path to its May induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame than most of their fellow honorees.
    • Oct 31, 2012
  • Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Sept. 30

    The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra opened its season Saturday night with a return visit by the 28-year-old violin virtuoso Augustin Hadelich, who had appeared with the orchestra in the Beethoven concerto two years ago.
    • Oct 3, 2012
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »


1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments


© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation