Like in the Nineties: Meat Puppets, Dead Confederate @ Slim's 9/19/09

It felt a bit odd as I walked down 11th Street past the Repulsion show at DNA Lounge, where a sea of metalheads in black took a cigarette break. I looked at them, wide eyed with a sense of longing. I really need a good metal show in my life right now. But I kept on walking, because I was going to Slim’s to see the Meat Puppets.

Why? Because I had always felt compelled to go see them. I was a huge Nirvana fan until Kurt went and died on me (I still am….). It was through Nirvana Unplugged that I learned about the Meat Puppets. And every time they’ve come around, I’ve always had a conflict….until now.

Dead Confederate, from Athens, GA, fit nicely into the evening. Psychedelic rock with a country twang, the lead singer has an definite Kurt Cobain vibe, especially when he reaches for his upper register and his voice takes on that sandpaper quality. Plus he wore a flannel- though it was updated to current fashion because it had a hood. Songs like ‘The Rat’ and ‘All the Angels’ show off their sound well. However, just like other bands from Athens that I often have a problem with (Drive By Truckers, R.E.M., Neutral Milk Hotel)- some of their songs slip into a mellow territory that leave them indistinct. How else can I tell they are from Athens? Presence of a trucker hat and handlebar mustache.

The Meat Puppets hit the stage, and it was immediately apparent that, while both of the Kirkwood brothers have a storied past of drug addiction, one brother has done more drugs that the other. At first, I became surrounded by guys stuck in the nineties, bouncing to the music with shirts tied around their waists. I thought, what am I doing here, really? Then, the second song happened: ‘Oh Me’. I honestly have only listened to Nirvana Unplugged maybe 5 times since Kurt died….to me, that album is like visiting his grave and also represents a very difficult time in my life. So it felt weird to hear the song, even in their much more country rock style. But I knew why I was there.

The Meat Puppets are a band where you have to take the sum of their songs rather than the individual ones to really understand and appreciate them. They have elements from many genres, span many moods, and aren’t exactly the cleanest in execution of them. But there is something in their spirit that makes them unique. For me, it conveyed the groundwork for early nineties alternative music. I felt a bit transported during the evening; a result of the band and the audience. Did I mention there were a lot of guys with shirts tied around their waists?

I’ve read quotes here and there that the Meat Puppets are somewhat resentful of their fame that came from Nirvana’s covers. I never quite understood this line of thinking. However, I left the gig saying to myself, ‘it was good, but I liked those songs better when Kurt sang them’. Go figure.

Meat Puppets: Lake of Fire

Nirvana: Lake of Fire

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