Concert Review: The Meat Puppets at The Turf Club

By Keith Armstrong

I always approach the shows of over-50 punk bands with some apprehension; as a general rule, the adolescent energy encapsulated on a late-70s or early-80s underground release hardly ever translates into an engaging concert in 2011. Not so with the Meat Puppets. While only two original members remain (brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood, guitar/vocals and bass/vocals, respectively) and the band is on their second reunion tour since 1996, the atmosphere at the Turf Club on November 12 was galvanizing. The Pups’ setlist was heavy on songs from their legendary 1984 release, Meat Puppets II (“I’m a Mindless Idiot”, “Plateau”, “Lake of Fire”, “Lost”), but also effectively represented their trajectory over their three-decade career. While he can still channel the scrappy cowpunk sound that band helped define, Curt Kirkwood’s chops as a guitarist have only improved, allowing him to explore new musical terrain that the band could never have approached as young Arizonans in the early 80s. Due to the size of the venue, the crowd at the packed Turf Club was not much larger than what I imagine the Pups would have played to during their SST-label basement show days, but they were certainly appreciative. This appreciation did not take the form of slam-dancing, as it might have in the band’s heyday, but many a middle-aged man in studded-leather or horn-rimmed glasses raised a beer out of enthusiasm for the band’s lively performance. Having outlasted most of their contemporaries (not to mention many bands they directly influenced, such as Nirvana and Pavement), the Pups’ riveting performance last Saturday is a testament to the enduring relevance of their sound.