Very few bands have meant as much to me as Meat Wave, who I’ve written about over and over on this site and in other corners of the music world. Their self-titled debut remains one of my favorite records of all time and is still the only cassette that I’ve listened to so much that some sections of it are damaged (a modest estimate would put the number of plays at over 200). In 2014, they played the first Heartbreaking Bravery Presents showcase (their set that night remains one of the most meaningful moments I’ve experienced in music) and I got to know them as individuals a little better, which, on a personal level, made their 2015 run feel even more celebratory. Last year, they signed to SideOneDummy, released one of the best records of the year, one of the best compilation EP’s of the year, and toured the world. They made their name known but retained their humility. Here, guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter Chris Sutter takes a look at an extended moment he experienced with Drive Like Jehu at the Denver Riot Fest stop that reminded him of the importance of music. Read it below and remember to hold onto the moments where everything clicks into place.
2015 was the craziest year of my life. The epitome of bittersweet. Life is very mystifying. I’m half-trying to figure out how it all works, half-trying not to disturb it and let it do its thing. The latter has worked out for me more thus far. What makes us all so drawn to or obsessed with music? Or anything for that matter? And how is it that music has provided me with so many amazing opportunities and experiences? I think that you can’t expect anything from it, and in that it presents things to you. That’s how it works in the Meat Wave camp, keep your expectations very low and usually it’s a lot better than what you thought it’d be.
Before the year began, we more or less agreed that we would focus more than ever on traveling, touring and playing well. Because why the fuck not? Yolo. So that’s basically what we did. We released an album in September. We toured the UK and Europe three times(!). We went to fucking Iceland. Toured the US and Canada. We got a beer and a sandwich named after us. We saw so many bands we respect and love. Met so many amazing people. Basically, if we did this, it’s proof that literally anyone can do whatever the fuck they want if they work hard, sometimes make some sacrifices and just really want to do it. We are the luckiest people. Purely. Undeserving, really.
In late August, we drove to Denver, Colorado to play Riot Fest. A mixed bag of bands and artists, with some real gems thrown in. We had no idea how people would respond to us, whether we’d get a good slot, etc. (remember, low expectations). We made a long weekend out of it and brought our friends Andrew and Jonathan with us, which sweetened the deal so much more cause they’re the best. Upon traveling to the fest we were informed that we’d be opening up one of the main stages, essentially opening for Drive Like Jehu and the Pixies, two of my favorite bands ever. Fuck.
That morning we arrived we were golf carted by our liaison to the stage to soundcheck (this never happens). It was the most gorgeous summer morning, a cool breeze mixed with hot-ass sun rays beating down. The fest took place in an open-air arena/jumbo parking lot where they do rodeos. As soon as we got to the stage we realized we were surrounded by all the Pixies gear and they had just soundchecked (WTF).
A couple hours later we played, real early in the afternoon. T’was good. The rest of the day proved to be really bizarre and fun. I was just kind of geeking out the entire time. “Oh shit, there’s the motherfucking GZA eating” or “Captain Sensible just came in to our dressing room (never happens either) and woke Joe up to give him a beer.” We met Andrew W.K. We got up so close to see Iggy Pop, suddenly I turn around to see Thurston Moore, excited as I am, both of us taking pictures of Iggy and his leathery-ass chest. We saw the Pixies, Modest Mouse, Bootsy Collins, Dead Milkmen, Tenacious D, and Snoop Dogg that night. But nothing compares to Drive Like Jehu.
I thought I’d never in my life be able to see Drive Like Jehu. Those guys’ bands influenced me so incredibly much. Just the epitome of badassery. So at the risk of seeming like greedy little snobs, we asked the super generous stage manager Keith if we could get on the side of the stage for Jehu, to which he obliged. So there we were, on the side of the stage as the sun was setting watching Drive Like Jehu expertly put everyone to shame. Tear-inducing. Pure power.
About midway during their set, I look over and there’s fucking Jack Black standing right next to us watching Jehu. WTF. How did we get here? I drunkenly and idiotically said hi to Jack Black. He gave me a thumbs up. But seeing Drive Like Jehu that night was life-affirming. Throughout the year, I’d been wrestling with the prospect of putting so much time into music and sacrificing a lot to do it. Is it worth it? Is it too self-indulgent? What about my future? But it is this moment in seeing Drive Like Jehu and many other moments over the course of the year that slapped me in my dumb face and clearly stated “yes, this is right. Nothing else matters if you have a deep love for something.” Very cheesy, but actually true as hell.
It’s proof of not only music’s, but life’s mystical powers. We’re just huge fans and nerds and students of music, and in that found ourselves surrounded by so many people we had respected and loved for years. It’s given us the opportunity to play to and meet amazing people all over the place; the restoration of my faith in humanity! 2015 kept reminding me of this and how lucky we all are to be able to share and experience in this era of art and music.