The Meat Puppets/Retribution Gospel Choir/Los Yegueros; December 29, 2010; Club Garibaldi
I had gotten very good at being a homebody in December. It was surprisingly easy for me to go from seeing several shows a week to only seeing two so far this month, and it’s almost over. Since I didn’t even bring my camera to the Shaky happy hour show, it was like I wasn’t even there. Part of the reason for my self-imposed hermitude was that I felt pretty broke after my twelve year old car needed a new muffler, but in truth, there just didn’t seem to be anything that really made me want to get out of the house. Given all of that, it was awfully easy to talk me into a road trip to Milwaukee for this show. I hadn’t been to Bayview’s Club Garibaldi since the smoking ban was enacted in July, but it was high on my list of venues that would benefit from it. It is a very cool club, but the last time I was there the blanket of smoke almost killed me. Another plus, it is right across the street from the Palomino, the only place I’ve found since leaving Texas that makes decent fried okra, and theirs is delicious.
The last time I saw the Meat Puppets I found myself amused to no end that lead singer Curt Kirkwood was wearing sweatpants, as if he couldn’t be bothered to put on real pants. He was wearing the same pair tonight so I can only suspect that it is his new uniform. He was also wearing a distracting T-shirt with something about horny teenage girls that I found myself starring at. Tonight’s show wasn’t as good as the one at La Crosse’s Warehouse back in April, but it was still entertaining. They played the songs that Kurt Cobain made famous on Unplugged, it’s a shame that “Birds” and “Lake of Fire” are still doing more for Cobain than they ever did for the Meat Puppets. There was an excellent version of “Up on the Sun” that had some guy yelling for them to play it again for the rest of the night. It was no surprise that they played “Backwater,” the closest they ever came to hit of their own, what was a surprise was that they led into it with “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” It’s a long song, and I certainly don’t claim to know all the words, but I am pretty sure the majority of the verses don’t end with “when the skies of November get gloomy.” Still, the fact that it is an awesome song and completely unexpected made up for any missing lyrics. Johnny Cash’s “Tennessee Stud” was another surprising cover.
Since the last time I saw them, Chris Kirkwood has added keyboard to his repertoire, though I am not sure why. He’s an expressive and entertaining bass player, but his keyboard skills seemed pretty rudimentary. I can only guess about that fact since I couldn’t actually hear it, I’m not even sure it was plugged in. It did leave his bass unoccupied for Steve Barrington of Retribution Gospel Choir to pick up during “Birds.” He and drummer Eric Pollard took to the stage during the song with Pollard singing backing vocals. The funny thing is, Curt didn’t even notice his guests until the end of the song when he looked over and was startled to have company.
The Retribution Gospel Choir was the fashion polar opposite of the Meat Puppets, the trio all sported black pants and shirt with a black, white or striped tie. They looked very sharp, though I’d be willing to give the hard-working band a break after seeing how the shirts of Pollard and Alan Sparhawk were glued to their bodies with sweat at the end of their set. I love a good sweaty hug from a band boy, but I think I would have backed away from this one. Sparhawk is of course best known as the leader of Low, the painstakingly, and painfully, quiet trio from Duluth. My one experience with Low had me showing up at their Union South show after a happy hour, getting shushed four times and leaving. I’ve never been back. All that time playing quiet has led Sparhawk to some pretty noisy places for his side projects. I do not love the Retribution Gospel Choir’s music, I’ve seen them twice and not one song has stuck with me. However, I do enjoy their show. The energy is staggering and the connection between band members crackles with electricity. It can get a little jammy, but it somehow feels necessary. Besides, anyone who sweats that much on stage must really love what they are doing, and I can respect that.
Openers Los Yegueros were from Panama, which they reminded us of several times during their set. Even though their English was excellent they sang in Spanish save for one song. I liked them enough that I probably would have bought a CD if I didn’t still feel so poor. I gave them the thumbs-up when the lead singer asked me how the first song sounded. I’m pretty sure he heard me say he was cute when they got on stage. What? He was cute. We’d made the mistake of looking up what their name meant before the show, and I can tell you it wasn’t anything I learned in my two years of high school Spanish. Sorry, you have to Google it yourselves.
It definitely was a good time. I think my New Year’s resolution will be to go out more. Should be easy to keep.
Retribution Gospel Choir
The Meat Puppets