Tim Finn Review: Puddle of Mudd

For a spell at the turn of the millennium, Wes Scantlin was poised to be one of Kansas City’s biggest rock stars.

In 2001, his band, Puddle of Mudd, released Come Clean, its first big-label album, which dropped four singles into the Top 5 of the mainstream rock charts, three of them No. 1, and sales of which exceed 5 million copies.

The band was a hit on the road, playing major festivals, filling theaters, and snagging opening gigs on arena tours, including a stop at Kemper Arena in July 2002, when they opened for Korn.

But the band’s success trajectory subsequently took a dive. Its sophomore album, Life on Display, was significantly less successful commercially. Coincidentally, the market for the band’s genre—call it what you will: post-grunge, nu-metal, alt-metal—began to wane, and Puddle of Mudd did not endure the change in weather gracefully.

Thursday night at Crossroads KC, Puddle of Mudd headlined its own festival: Muddfest, a confederacy of like-minded hard-rock, post-grunge bands, a few with signature one-word or monosyllabic names: Trapt, Saliva, Tantric, Saving Abel.

It was Scantlin’s first hometown appearance (he’s a Park Hill grad) in more than a decade—since a September 2008 performance at the Midland Theater.

In that 10-years-plus, Scantlin and the band have survived a fusillade of troubles and strife, including nearly a dozen personnel changes, and Scantlin endured a few brushes with the law and several incidents of misconduct at shows (including a mid-show exit in April 2017.)

But nearly two years ago, when it seemed the band’s train was on the verge of derailment, Scantlin went into rehab. In July 2018 he announced he’d been sober for nearly a year, and the band was full-steam ahead.

Thursday night, he made a crowd of more than 500 hometown fans proud. For nearly 90 minutes, PoM issued a relentless wave of hard, heavy, and melodic rock, some of it new, some of it two decades old. And throughout the set, Scantlin was a humble and gracious a host—a guy who seemingly has assessed what he nearly lost and deeply appreciates that he didn’t.

The four bands that preceded PoM played sets of varied duration. Trapt’s set was the longest: nine songs, including crowd favorites like Headstrong, Fire, Echo, and Contagious, plus a tribute to Chris Cornell: a cover of Audioslave’s Like A Stone.

Saliva, the last of the openers, followed with a shorter set that featured Ladies and Gentlemen, Superstar (a furious anthem with an early Kid Rock vibe), Doperide, which featured mash-ups of Phil Collin’s In The Air Tonight and Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and Click Click Boom.

Puddle of Mudd, appropriately, took the stage to the sounds of Optimistic Voices (You’re Out of The Dark) from The Wizard of Oz, a reference, no doubt, to Scantlin’s sobriety, not his near-Kansas roots.

The set unfolded savagely. They opened with Control, fusing it with a few verses/choruses of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs. This version—guitarist Matt Fuller, bassist Michael John Adams, and drummer Dave Moreno—has been together five years and is as stable as the band has ever been. All three sing, as well, and the four-part vocals/harmonies were a highlight all night.

What it lacks in lyrical nuance and sophistication—“I love the way you smack my ass” being a signature line—Puddle of Mudd can make up for in songcraft. A bulk of its material is stock grunge/post-grunge, songs that genuflect overtly to Nirvana’s Nevermind and all its traits and dynamics.

But several times, they swerved into different terrains, evoking the sounds of bands like Cracker and Everclear, swaddling ripe melodies and clever chord progressions in heavy percussion, aggressive guitars and bright harmonies.

The set list included plenty favorites, including Drift & Die, Out of My Head, Bring Me Down, from Come Clean, and Famous, Livin’ On Borrowed Time, and Psycho, from Famous. They also issued a worthwhile cover of AC/DC’s TNT.

They closed with a flourish: a new song called Spaceship, then two of its biggest hits–She Hates Me and Blurry, a song as huge and overplayed as any in 2001-02.

Before that song, Scantlin asked the crowd to hang around a bit extra so they could redo a new song they’d played earlier, one that was being recorded for a video that will precede a new album expected this year.

Most of the crowd stayed in place to hear the song again, and an appreciative Scantlin led fans and the band through another spirited performance, proving emphatically that sobriety and rock and roll and good times are not mutually exclusive.

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