Meat Puppets - HVAC Pub - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Meat Puppets - HVAC Pub

by Zach Johnson Rating:9 Release Date:2011-11-23

Interesting circumstances abounded as I finally got to see one of my favorite bands the Meat Puppets last Saturday night in Wrigleyville. As much as I love the Cubs, seeing the Meat Puppets in the neighborhood seemed like an odd pairing (bro vs indie), but being that the Foo Fighters were playing around the corner at Wrigley Field, it all made a bit more sense. 

Unfortunately, that very fact led to a few curveballs that evening, not the least of which was the fact that my beloved Meat Puppets were being billed as the 'after show' to the Foo Fighters concert, which I somewhat resented, especially when I found out the Meat Puppets weren’t going to hit the stage until midnight. This was far, far past this 32-year-old father of two’s standard bedtime, and being that I wondered into the pub slightly before 8:00 (I was so early they didn’t even ask for my ticket at the door) I realized I had a lot of time to kill and numerous delectable tap options to choose from.  

So much time, and so much booze to choose from….I quickly realized I was going to be in a world of pain the next morning.  Predictably however, such concerns slowly melted away as I began knocking back some Daisy Cutters and started chatting it up with my fellow Meat Puppet brethren at the bar.   It was somewhat refreshing to be at a Wrigleyville bar on a Saturday night and it not be mostly populated by a plethora of intoxicated douchbags, as the Meat Puppets drew out a more seasoned, burn-out crowd, which was right up my alley. 

So I made some friends at the bar, and the hours rolled by, and soon it was 11:00 and the pub was slowly becoming more packed with droves of cheeky Foo Fighters fans arriving in waves from the famed baseball stadium around the corner.  And, although I like Dave Grohl as much as the next guy (he’s a great musician) I never thought much of the Foo Fighters.  Aside from their 1st album (which is really pretty good) I only liked maybe a handful of their other singles, and had always found them to be a bit corny overall.  You could certainly do a lot worse, but they were always just A-OK in my book.  So as the pub filled up to capacity (it was about ½ full before the FF fans arrived) my intoxicated resentment somewhat built observing most of the people arriving who no doubt viewed the Meat Puppets as an afterthought to their great evening with the Foo Fighters, when I was here for the Pups and the Pups only.  Anyway, I digress.

I had somewhat modest expectations for the Meat Puppets performance that night, expecting a B+ or hopefully an A- show, but they definitely exceeded my expectations.  They came out with one of my favorite instrumentals “Seal Whales” and I was really digging it, as I was hoping they would focus on their classic MPII and Up on the Sun albums, and much to my delight, they did just that for most of the next 2 fantastic hours.

While I was quite aware of the Meat Puppets psychedelic tendencies, I was really truly impressed with a few of the extended jams sessions they delivered.  The Meat Puppets are a band that mostly let their instruments do the talking, and they were incredibly impressive on that front in a live setting.  For example, after delivering a somewhat uptempo/punchier version of “Up On The Sun”, they proceeded to transition to a brilliant, hammering, somewhat tribal sounding jam session that must have lasted a good 10 minutes straight.  It was both hypnotic and infectious and seemed to blow a lot of the Foo Fighters fan’s minds who no doubt were used to more streamlined/generic material.  Simply put, it was awesome.  There were a couple of other instances of really satisfying, powerful, yet trippy instrumental excursions from their standard songs, and it really helped add to the overall live Meat Puppets experience.

Another somewhat surprising thing about seeing the Meat Puppets live was the energy and intensity they injected into most of their songs.  Chalk that up to the increase in tempo to virtually every song in their setlist, which gave even their more mellow material a nice, lively, powerful punch.  I was pretty ecstatic with their setlist, which off the top of my head included the following songs (in no particular order): “Lost”, “Plateau”, “Oh, Me”, “Lake of Fire”, “I’m A Mindless Idiot”, “Up On the Sun”, “Maiden’s Milk”, “Sam”, “Backwater”, “Coming Down” etc.

There were a couple of other songs I didn’t quite recognize, I’m assuming because they were from their more recent albums which I’m admittedly not that familiar with (yet), but even those were thoroughly enjoyable.  They returned for their encore with a pleasantly surprising version of the classic Everly Brothers hit “Cathy’s Clown”, which has subsequently been stuck in my head for days now.  If the Meat Puppets were not loveable enough, covering that song really did it for me.  Really shows the scope of influences the band has, and really showcases their broader fantastic taste.

As for the much hyped “special guest” which me and probably 90% of everyone else assumed would be Mr. Grohl, it actually turned out to be Greg Norton from the late/great Husker Du who came out to play bass on their final song of the night.  I actually didn’t recognize him at first and thought it was Pat Smear, but soon came to my senses.  

Anyway, the fantastic show wrapped up shortly before 2:00 AM, about 6 hours after I had wondered in to the modestly crowded pub earlier in the evening.  Tired as I was, and as painful as the next day was, I have to say, it was worth it.  The Pups put on a truly fantastic performance and had me eating out of the palm of their hands all night.

P.S. as awesome as the Kirkwood brothers are, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Shannon Sahm his due as a fantastic drummer, who particularly shined during some of the epic jam sessions that evening.  Tip of the hat to Mr. Sahm, a very bad man behind the kit.

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