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Monday, October 26, 2009

Dead Confederate & Meat Puppets: the essence of true rock

Rarely do I ever get to see an entire lineup of bands I've been dying to hear, but Saturday night at the 40 Watt was a night like no other!

I first discovered Madeline as I was making a list of bands that I just had to check out during Athfest. I was quite intrigued by the songs of hers I had sampled on Last.FM and MySpace, but since my underage friends couldn't get into the venues she was playing, we had to miss out on her sets. When I learned she was opening for Athens band Dead Confederate and nineties famed rockers Meat Puppets, I was overjoyed! Indeed, she was the perfect singer to start off the show.

Madeline's sound alternated between soft southern rock and soft dark rock, and she wore an incredibly intense expression on her face as she sang which made her songs all the more powerful. She and the White Flag band particularly fired up the crowd with their Johnny Cash cover and a number of their final tunes. And the crowd she gathered... Wow! I've never seen such a large and eager audience for an opening set before.

Moments later, everyone on the floor waited with bated breath for the first headliner. I had previously seen Dead Confederate own the stage at Athfest over the summer, but nothing could have prepared me for the show they had in store for us this time. They leapt immediately into their hard rock as they stepped onstage, setting the mood as they jammed wordlessly for several minutes in the low light. What an entrance! They followed these songs with a set of amazing tunes which included their much-loved hits The Rat and Get Out. The guitar chords resonated through my whole body, and the lights behind the band flashed almost constantly in a shock-inducing display of sheer madness. Lead singer Hardy Morris was so completely immersed in the songs that he closed his eyes during most of them and even writhed on the floor near the end of the set. Truly, this is how Dead Confederate was meant to be experienced. I adored them at Athfest, but seeing them rock the darkened 40 Watt surrounded by crowds of enthusiastic fans was completely amazing! And as they were packing up after their last song, Hardy jumped off the stage and landed right between Sheila and I so that he could talk to the talented photographer who happened to be standing right beside us. Oh, Athens! Fun times.

And then, there were the Meat Puppets. Getting to see these rock legends take over the stage was nothing short of incredible! Their subtly southern rock and wild long hair screamed nineties in its prime, and their wild energy and badass attitudes captured the attentions of everyone in the audience. Their fans, ranging in age from college students to middle aged partiers, covered the whole dance floor with their exuberant moves as basist Cris Kirkwood jammed across the stage, pushing over sound equipment and grimacing with intensity. One lady in the crowd even held up a shirt she had gotten from them over two decades ago as she danced. Wow, these guys have staying power! I could see why, too. The Meat Puppets sure know how to put on a show! Then, as they finished up their set, Cris lifted up his shirt to show off his tattoo, making one drunk fan so excited that he started screaming and trying to touch the design. And boy, was this guy determined. After several minutes of trying, he finally succeed in diving onto the stage only to be dragged off by a security guy, who was helped by Cris himself, and thrown out of the 40 Watt. Wild!

Then, just as we thought the show was over, another drum appeared onstage and the members of both Dead Confederate and Meat Puppets emerged from behind the curtain. We could all tell they had bonded quite a bit during their joint tour throughout the country. Cris and Hardy even shared a cigarette as they tuned their instruments once more. And then, they began. It was an encore of insane proportions! Together, both bands rocked a short set with such energy that it was an experience unlike any I've had before. The whole dance floor felt so in the moment right then. I wouldn't have missed it for anything! It was like those rock shows of past decades that I've seen on TV. I've really never seen anything like it. Saturday was definitely one of the most unbelievable nights ever!

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