As an unabashed Meat Puppets fanatic, the show at The State Room on Tuesday night was just what I was looking for--a mix of old-school punk classics, unexpected weird-out jams and new songs that don't get nearly enough play.
The brothers Kirkwood have been visiting SLC for years, from their early SST Records' "punk" days to more recent sonic excursions accompanied by stellar live shows, and Tuesday night's gig at The State Room certainly qualifies as a memorable one. Brothers Curt Kirkwood (guitar and vox) and Cris Kirkwood (bass) led drummer Shandon Sahm (scion of Austin music legend Doug Sahm) and guitarist Elmo Kirkwood (son of Curt) through a set of sprawling indie-rock jams that let all in attendance know that age and time have done nothing to take the edge off the Meat Puppets' sound.
The band spent the first few minutes sans vocals, including a stellar take on "The Whistling Song," before delving into a set spanning their career. "Touchdown King" and "Plateau" led into an inspired take on "Up on the Sun," complete with a lengthy instrumental jam.
The Salt Lake City show did include some new material from the band's latest release, Rat Farm, and the show was the better for it. "Waiting" was a highlight, with all musicians on stage playing along while Curt sang, "Everything's cool. Everything's fine." After the frenzy of old songs and sped-up presentations of familiar favorites, the relatively languid "Waiting" was welcome.
After that, it was a blaze through "Sam," with the brothers speed-rapping in unison, as well as the classic "Lost" and the sorta hit "Backwater." Curt Kirkwood continuously ripped out tasty lead solos while the rest of the band settled into winning grooves on songs like the Beach Boys' cover "Sloop John B" and "Lake of Fire."
The encore included the excellent "Open Wide" from the under-appreciated gem of an album, Forbidden Places, and by the end of the night, the Meat Puppets seemed to have created some new converts to their sound. That's no easy task for a band that's been kicking around for more than 30 years, but few of the band's peers can equal the Meat Puppets' ability to showcase serious instrumental chops and acid-fried philosophical and lyrical gymnastics.