Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The night that the Meat Puppets were last in Rock Island, Illinois (and if you're reading this essay on the final day of two thousand and ten, they've returned to the city for the first time since then) adds significantly to the folklore of this Tempe, Arizona band that Kurt Cobain and hard drugs loved so much. We became personally acquainted with the Puppets two years ago down in Austin, during the SXSW festival as they were mounting a comeback and releasing a new record for the first time in a long while. One of the most beautiful moments of that initial meeting was afterward, when they were killing time outside in the sun, following the taping. They were smoking cigarettes the way they compulsively do and cracking into the first Tecate of the day, still before the noon hour, when Tricky's bus rolled up and to a stop and, like one homeless-looking man to another, Tricky stumbles off his bus - drunk and in sporty rubber sandals, with his black tube socks on - wanders right over to Cris and Curt Kirkwood and asks if he can bum a smoke. A good handful of months later, they were here for a gig and the day was getting away from them. Tour had been grueling and they'd arrived in town later than they'd hoped and Curt fell asleep at the hotel. We'd been planning on the full band coming by the Horseshack for an encore session and as we got to the prearranged time, it came and it went. The band and their manager were not answering their phones, but we finally heard from them an hour or so later, as the show was just two hours out. It was the band's manager, Dennis, and he said that the band was exhausted but Cris really wanted to come up and do something. Now, Cris is a bass player for the Meat Puppets, but he doesn't do any of that here. Cris is not a piano player, never has been, but he is here. He sings here. This is also out of the ordinary. What it all amounts to is one of the most amazing and easily the oddest session we've ever been lucky enough to tape. We kept tape rolling as Cris plinked through some of his favorite songs (you've never heard "A Good Year For The Roses" like you hear it here), lovingly butchering, then tightening them up as much as he was going to be able to and ultimately leaving it all in the final cut. You will hear the entire thing, all of it and it's engrossing.