Sound Scene Express

Cass McCombs & Meat Puppets, Different Strokes for Different Folks

Meat Puppets & Cass McCombs
Club Café
Pittsburgh, PA
October 25, 2014

Photos and review by Randy Jarosz

Meat Puppets and Cass McCombs can’t be any more different. Meat Puppets, led by Curt Kirkwood, formed his band in 1980, with his brother Chris Kirkwood, McCombs wasn’t born until 1977. By 2001, when McCombs got his start in the music industry, the Kirkwoods had already seen some of their best years behind them. They were an underground, hardcore punk band in the 80’s, rode the grunge wave of the 90’s and by the early 2000’s had split. McCombs music is a bit softer and more polished, but fits perfectly in today’s indie scene. One might wonder, what an odd tour this will be, with these two bands, let alone their split 7″ single sampler, released October 28. The pair were on display for a sold out show at Club Café October 25.

Meat Puppets are comfortable with their place in rock and roll history. They’ve been there done that. Theses days, they look like a bunch of guys you would see at your local watering hole. Curt Kirkwood was dressed in a Ha Ha Tonka t-shirt and sweatpants, while Chris wore a t-shirt with the band Porcupine. Drummer Shandon Sahm went shirtless the entire set. Keeping it in the family, Elmo Kirkwood, the 30 year old son of Curt, held down rhythm guitar with some playing chops of his own.

The sold out crowd sang along for much of the evening, while Meat Puppets ran through their catalog of such songs as “Up on the Sun,” “Touchdown King,” and “Comin’ Down.” A lot of Their songs have a twangy country flavor to them, like “Before the Next Teardrop Falls.” The venue erupted during “Plateau,” a song made popular by Nirvana, after playing it during MTV Unplugged. Later in the evening, the crew broke out the song again after their version of, the Beach Boys “Sloop John B.”

Cass McCombs is no stranger to the scene himself. He has 7 albums and an EP to his name over 10 years, including two in the same year. Although underrated, McCombs is making a name for himself through relentless touring and the festival circuit.

By the time Meat Puppets had finished their set and MccCombs started his, much of the sold out crowd had dwindled. Hardcore Meat Puppets fans were probably happy to make it out early after their band wrapped up by 9:30. About 50 or so true McCombs fans were in for a treat and some others that stuck around probably discovered a new favorite band.

McCombs and his band took the stage, tossing a folder to the floor with a typed up master song list and a hand written setlist on top of that. McCombs opened with “Big Wheel,” from recent release Big Wheels and Others. You will not hear much stage banter from McCombs, his style is all business on songs like “What isn’t Nature,” from the bands debut album. Mccombs and band laid down a beautiful medley for “I went to the Hospital.” McCombs’ singing is mesmerizing at times. It consumes you to the point you forget where you are.

McCombs added in a steel guitar for “Angel Blood,” and “Meet Me Here at Dawn,” played by Dan Lead. He then invited multi instrumentalist, Stuart Bogie to the stage for “Burning of the Temple.” Bogie was flawless on the saxophone on “Multiple Suns.” McCombs later played “County Line,” with much approval from the crowd. His voice was transcendent throughout the evening but really shined on this track.

This was an eccentric pairing to say the least, but a good one, that made new fans for each group. With Meat Puppets rock and roll attitude and Cass McCombs precision their split single sampler is definitely worth checking out.

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