I’ve been a fan the Mountain Goats since my younger brother introduced me to them to me years ago. In his early 20’s he was becoming quite the aesthete, with a penchant for finding bands with unique and distinctive sounds. As the first in a short line of my musical senseis, I admired his taste and opinion and devoured the recommendations he threw my way. I remember the first time he played “No Children” for me. Slack-jawed I listened to every word. I admired John Darnielle's lyrical prowess and I became enamored of the band. From that introduction I developed a deep love of musicians with a penchant for witty, introspective, beautiful and hilarious lyrics. And personality. And quirkiness. And an unwavering commitment to their craft.
On the evening of June 16th, I attended my first live Mountain Goats performance and it was everything I thought it would be. It was summed up perfectly by a lanky co-ed standing behind me in line at the bar, “OMG dude, they sound EXACTLY like they do on their records!” And it’s true. Crystal clear, and clean. And big. A big sound. A round sound that fills you up. And while many bemoan Darnielle’s unique voice, I kind of love it. To me, it’s a thing of beauty.
Belonging to this bespectacled nerdy dude, looking like Rick Steve’s younger, hotter brother - it doesn’t do what a lot of indie rock voices do. It doesn’t become another instrument weaving in and out of musical notes. No, it tap dances on TOP of the music. It becomes the border, the edges, highlighting, giving shape and form to the songs. And you can hear him, really hear him. It’s not just another sound, soft and melodic. It’s a big and real and commanding force
I’m also a huge fan of the rapport between musician and crowd and Darnielle has a unique connection, to say the least. He prefaces his songs by offering eccentric humor and explanations, employing a strange and wonderful brand of storytelling to entice us and draw us in to him. It allowed me to experience his songs in a different way, knowing a brief background, I felt like I was part of the in crowd – part of a secret club. I’ll never listen to “Damn These Vampires” the same way again, given the brief explanation that Darnielle offered before they launched into the song that night.
There was a ton of energy in the air. The audience bounced and sang along as Darnielle hopped around the stage – embarrassing me like my dad or my favorite uncle might (the most endearing moment came when he took of his glasses to head bang for a minute, only to place them gingerly back on when he was through). There were also lots of tender moments of hand holding and canoodling. I drank my over priced beer and pined for my love – who opted to stay in that night and watch a marathon of Locked Up Abroad. It was ok though, I enjoyed going solo. The Mountain Goats I know and love belong to me alone. The highest high point came for me during the encore when they played an absolutely SPOT ON rendition of “No Children” (I know, right?!). Talk about full circle. Incredible show – incredible band.
Here’s some pics of them from Sasquatch 2010 by Adam Forslund: