Perception is a funny thing. You can have a preconceived expectation of something, and most of the time that is exactly what your brain will show you. But if you stop and look closely, sometimes you'll be surprised at what is actually there.
So what the hell does this have to do with Solid State, you ask?
Tuesday night at Higher Ground, The Meat Puppets' Curt Kirkwood was wearing a shirt that said "Gone Fishing." Seemed a little cheesy for an indie rock legend. But I figured he probably bought it in some truck stop gift shop because he's been touring the country in a minivan for the last twenty-seven years, and he doesn't have a lot of money so let's just give the guy a friggin' break about the shirt because, after all, he's a dynamo guitarist and performer . . . ahem. Moving on . . .
An hour into the set, a friend pointed out to me that the shirt actually said something quite different. So I took a closer look and had to laugh, because it definitely didn't say what I thought it said (see photo).
Musically, The Meat Puppets are all over the map. When they come to town you're never quite sure what state they'll be in. For example, their last appearance at HG was a reunion-fueled romp through their back-catalog. This show, however, began with a bunch of cow-punkish songs from the just-released Sewn Together, which features punchy, syncopated bass lines and double-time drum beats topped with chicken-pickin' guitar runs. Sounds good, right?
Then they took a sharp left into different musical territory. The songs started featuring super extended, effects-heavy guitar solos. Old favorites like "Up On The Sun," "Plateau" and "Lake of Fire" felt a bit meandering after eight minutes of echo-drenched, Strat pyrotechnics. And I mean that in the best possible way. It's almost like they saw Dark Star Orchestra's soundcheck (they were playing next door in the Ballroom) and got inspired to go all Jerry on us. I think The Meat Puppets actually out-jammed the DSO. Dude. A couple of hippies even wandered into the room at one point and started doing the noodle.
Like Kirkwood's shirt, openers Retribution Gospel Choir were not what they seemed at first glance. If they had a more definitive name I would have showed up earlier. I was expecting some kind of mellow choral arrangements or whatever, but instead got . . . ten-minute psychedelic guitar freakouts.
And I mean that in the best possible way.