I enjoyed listening to records by the Meat Puppets back in the ’80s — and I regretted the fact that I never saw them in concert. A few years ago, it seemed like I might never have that chance, since the band had gone on hiatus and bassist Cris Kirkwood was reportedly suffering from some pretty serious drug problems. In 2007, Cris emerged from limbo, however, reforming the Meat Puppets with his brother, Kurt. They were back in Chicago last week, playing three nights in a row at Schubas. I caught their set on Friday night.
I haven’t listened to the Meat Puppets all that much in recent years, but their old music instantly flashed back into my mind as I heard the Kirkwood brothers doing their unique combination of loopy guitar riffs, loping country rhythms and psychedelia. The music sounded heavier in concert than it does on record. In fact, this was one of the rare Schubas shows where I eventually felt compelled to move to the back of the room because of the overpowering volume. The bass and drum sounds were thumping a bit too loud in my eardrums up there by the stage.
Cris Kirkwood’s face was only intermittently visible, peaking out from a tangle of hair as he pounded away on the bass. His voice still blended together with Kurt’s in shaggy sibling harmony, and Kurt curled his lips as he played his guitar solos. He really seemed to relish the moment. Drummer Ted Marcus tied together the band’s somewhat spacious sound with off-kilter beats. And the Meat Puppets played many of their best songs, including “Up on the Sun,” “Plateau” (made famous by Nirvana) and “Backwater.”
The first opening band was Atlanta’s Winston Audio, which played hard rock with Southern flair and lots of hair being tossed around. The second band, Dynasty Electric, seemed like a mismatch with the rest of the bill, playing electronic pop — dance music accented with electric guitar and Theremin. They weren’t really playing my kind of music, but they made for some pretty pictures.