Meeting the Meat Puppets

One of the benefits of when I worked in a record store was the in-store live performances of bands. And one of the best shows I’ve seen in my life was while I was working. I literally got paid to see The Meat Puppets perform.
Most people only know the Meat Puppets from Nirvana’s “Unplugged” album, on which they performed three of their songs with Kurt Cobain, “Lake of Fire,” “Oh Me” and “Plateau.” Then after a few minor hits, the band sort of drifted into obscurity.
Well, come summer of 2009, the band had gotten back together after years of turmoil and drug abuse. They had a summer tour and played small venues, but I was floored when informed that they were going to play at our store in September. The Electric Fetus in St. Cloud is not big, so I couldn’t imagine how this was going to work.
Their album at the time, “Sewn Together” was a great pop/rock collection that strayed from their grungier early albums and their hit 90s album, “Too High to Die.” This was a slick, catchy album that for fans was out of left field. Unlike the murk of their first two albums, this was a polished beast. I bought it on vinyl when it came out, not knowing that in a few month these guys would be autographing it in person.
The day of the show was weird. The band went to the college radio station for promotion and interviews. The sky went from sunny to a dark, ominous black within minutes. Before I went to work, because of the rain, I asked Gina to bring my vinyl, thinking by the time she showed up the rain would have stopped. Nope. She had to put it in a bag and hide it under her hoodie when she arrived for the show.
Suddenly, we were under a tornado watch. The band was still at the college, in the basement and here were  50- plus people crammed into this tiny spot of the store. The Meat Puppets had sent people over to set up the equipment ahead of time. Things were on edge.
First to arrive was Curt Kirkwood, lead singer and guitarist. His brother, Cris, the bassist and back-up vocalist was still at the college. Curt was a great guy. He cracked jokes about his brother and hung out with fans at the store. Here was this rock star just hanging out.  He was just down to earth. Some people didn’t realize he was in the band until he put on his guitar.
While waiting, Curt was getting impatient and began noodling on his guitar waiting for his brother. He and the drummer did a few instrumentals, seemingly on the fly, that were psychedelic and amazing. And this was just the guy warming up. I still have a video on my phone of this and am still amazed by it.
Finally Cris showed up and the band went to it. They played most of their new album and seemed happy that the fans were into it. Most of these kids were 18-19 years old, so they only knew the new album and the stuff Nirvana recorded. They did play “Plateau” and “Lake of Fire,” but people were jazzed up on the new stuff.
After the show, they signed autographs and I sold albums and shirts for them. I guess I could say I worked for The Meat Puppets for one night. After the fans left and things were calm, these guys went on a shopping spree. They seemed to love the store (they played at the Minneapolis store the night before). I remember I had just bought the Neil Young “Archives” box-set a week before, and Cris Kirkwood came up to me with a copy and asked me if it was any good. He stared at that set for 20 minutes. How he deduced I owned a copy, I’ll never know. He was a mysterious guy, but incredibly nice. I had read an interview he did in Rolling Stone about how he was a huge abuser of heroin and ended up in prison in the 2000s for a while. He is clean and sober now. And he was crazy when performing. Jumping around and all. He was just as manic looking at CDs and records. The band members were like kids in a candy store.
Then they packed up their equipment and left. Me and the rest of the employees were still a bit shell-shocked. Here was this band, whose influence was huge in the ‘90s grunge rock scene and had played on Nirvana’s “Unplugged” album, in our tiny record store and performing like they were at First Ave. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to.

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