It’s not every father that gets to share a stage with his son on Father’s Day, but that’s exactly what will happen when Meat Puppet and former Phoenix resident Curt Kirkwood performs with son Elmo Sunday at the Musical Instrument Museum.
“I thought it was a good idea,” the elder Kirkwood says by phone from his home in Austin, about being contacted by MIM for the special gig. “I love playing with Elmo. It’s a good opportunity to ditch the band, which we haven’t done in a while.”
True, Kirkwood’s been busy touring — sometimes with Elmo on second guitar — behind the Meat Puppets’ 2011 release, Lollipop. Now he’s ready for a break and a chance for a more intimate father/son experience.
“I think it works really good,” he says about playing with Elmo. “I never encouraged him, but he always did his own thing. It got to the point where he was on a par with what I was doing while still pretty young. It was kind of a no-brainer. I don’t know anyone who plays as well as him and meshes with me so well.”
The all-acoustic show will be a combination of songs from the Meat Puppets, Kirkwood’s solo album, Snow, some covers — mostly country songs (“I only ever do country covers,” Curt explains, “or Elvis, but never rock”), and originals by Elmo.
“I read the thing that MIM put on their website and it said we’re playing some of my songs, so I guess I’ll do what the website says. I wouldn’t want to disappoint electronic media,” Elmo deadpans by phone from Tempe, where he resides and fronts Flamingo, his new band. Previously, Elmo led the psychedelic/progressive-oriented Kirkwood Dellinger.
“If we do anything, it will be older material,” he adds. “It was like my project for a long time, so if we did anything, it might be from that, but I might try and teach the old man some of my newer stuff. I don’t know.”
Hearing this, Curt laughs: “I try to encourage him to find some things that I can play. He’s being kind of cryptic about it, saying, ‘I don’t know if you can do it.’”
With the exception of songs from the all-acoustic Snow, most songs by both Kirkwoods tend to be electric, loud, fast, or fuzzy. Re-creating them in an acoustic setting for dual guitars required some rethinking. Curt, who says he only recently began “getting pretty comfortable with [playing acoustically],” does admit to having “a few gizmos up there” on stage to help the songs along.
“I want to hear some of the other stuff,” he says. “Otherwise, it seems like I’m just relying on songs. But it doesn’t get loud . . . It’s not something where you rely on volume to try and create an acceptable show.”
To mix things up on stage, Kirkwood says, he hopes to bring in some guests. But Phoenix isn’t exactly Austin, where “there are musicians on every corner,” he says.
“In Austin, I might be able to throw a rock and find a few people who would want to do it, but Phoenix is a little bit sketchier as far as working musicians, at least people that I know,” Kirkwood says, then chuckles. “It’s odd, when I think about it, because I only know people that Elmo knows who play music. I lived [in Phoenix] a long time, but there’s nobody I can think of.
“It would be nice to have some variation, but we’ll see,” he adds. “I’ll come into town early and we’ll do some half-assed practicing. [We'll] make it happen.” —Glenn BurnSilver
(This article appears in the June 14, 2012 Phoenix New Times.)