I was eleven years old when the Meat Puppets had a brief encounter with mainstream success. It was right at the end of 1993 when Cris and Curt Kirkwood joined Nirvana for their legendary MTV Unplugged performance. The two bands had been on tour at the time, and taking an unconventional approach to the series, Kurt Cobain decided to include three classic Meat Puppets covers in the set with the Kirkwood joining Nirvana for the performance. At that moment “Plateau,” “Oh Me” and “Lake of Fire” all found their way to a mainstream audience, nearly a decade after the Meat Puppets originally recorded the songs. Then in 1994, Too High to Die was released and went gold riding the success of the memorable single “Backwater.” I loved that song, as well as the three Nirvana covered, but it’d be years before I’d actually explore the Meat Puppets full discography beyond those four tracks. Things were different before the age of Napster and Spotify.
It was a strange period in the music world when long running underground weirdos like the Butthole Surfers, Flaming Lips, Dinosaur Jr. and Meat Puppets could infiltrate the mainstream. And while it didn’t last, the Meat Puppets have remained underground legends whose influence cannot be measured. So when the band took the stage at Santa Fe’s Railyard last night it was an incredible treat. Unlike many bands decades into their existence, they still played with an incredible raw energy as though the grey hair and signs of age were all just a facade for a band transported through time straight from their heyday. They didn’t stray from the hits, but they also didn’t play them note for note. “Lake of Fire” and “Backwater” were injected with a shot of adrenaline, sped up to be raucous cow punk anthems.
The Meat Puppets set last night was an example of how a band can remain vital long after they’ve peaked.