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21 March 2008, 8:00 pm No Comments

Music: Tomorrow : The Mountain Goats @ Black Cat.



Event Details: Tomorrow : The Mountain Goats @ Black Cat. - :

This post was submitted by Matthew, a new TNG reader that has a lot of very strong opinions on what must surely be his favorite band.

The Mountain Goats are coming to the Black Cat on Saturday, March 22, 2008. They are what I’d describe as a folk/punk band led by John Darnielle who has been making music since the early 1990s lyrically recreating a sort of an unplugged X during their “Under the Big Black Sun” period.

Perhaps the most important thing about the Mountain Goats is that you know they’re coming before they get here. Is it the smell from the burning rage coming off your iPod? Or is it that plaintive sound of their beast of a tour bus beating its way through the corn fields at the edge of this city? Silver Queen corn isn’t grown all that close to the city, but if they’re going to get to DC for this show on Saturday night, the Mountain Goats are going to have to drive through well-fertilized Eastern Shore fields to reach the Black Cat by 8pm.

In college Darnielle began writing and recording furiously right out of the gate, performing under the name The Mountain Goats (which came from merely a passing expression used in the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins song “Yellow Coat”):

All the indie media seems to rave about what they describe as Darnielle’s lo-fi recording style, but perhaps his most significant contribution to the new music ouvre is a pair of albums from 2002, “Tallahassee” and “All Hail West Texas” which I just don’t see as particularly lo-fi. So for those who seek that sort of thing out, there’s no reason necessarily to get your hopes up.

Something just happened in 2002, when Darnielle’s music took a powerful turn towards a strangely accessible style. This resulted in a period of surprisingly wide internet radio play — for the Mountain Goats — and frankly, made listening to them a must-experience for indie kids during the start of the new millenium. When KEXP and Morning Becomes Eclectic
was the best way to hear them perform, groupies had to keep their ear pretty close to the ground just to catch them.

Perhaps the most important thing about the Mountain Goats is that you know they’re coming before they get here. Is it the smell from the burning rage coming off your iPod? Or is it that plaintive sound of their beast of a tour bus beating its way through the corn fields at the edge of this city? Silver Queen corn isn’t grown all that close to the city, but if they’re going to get to DC for this show on Saturday night, the Mountain Goats are going to have to drive through well-fertilized Eastern Shore fields to reach the Black Cat by 8pm.

As Pandora.com states, “Hyper-prolific and militantly lo-fi, there are over a hundred Mountain Goats songs scattered across compilations and label samplers, most of them recorded (by choice) on a department-store boom box. Although many musicians have contributed to Mountain Goats releases, by far the person most identified with the outfit is singer/guitarist John Darnielle. Oh and what a contributor Darnielle is:

Shadows crawled across the living room’s length/I held onto you with a desperate strength/With everything/Everything in me. I handed you a drink of the lovely/Little thing upon which our survival depends/People say friends don’t destroy one another/What do they know about friends?

Funny, when I hear their lyrics, I really feel like I’ve been there and back. You may not have been. Be glad you haven’t. I don’t think I’ll ever forget when I had to look Sergio straight in the eyes and say, “No, you know what, don’t take that back.” I said it, and I could taste the truth of it. “If you feel that I wronged you irreparably, that’s the way you feel.” You know the feeling, when you want to exclaim, “Don’t lie. That’s so exhausting. That’s for our parents and our parents’ friends.”

The Mountain Goats aren’t for those who cannot express their feelings. It’s a select group of us who just don’t intend to be anything but a raw nerve telling our loved ones how we feel. And they write the soundtracks for our breakups and our road trips. That’s where John Darnielle and Peter Hughes come in.

Oh, the righteous anger and fear of the intimacy that they can tap into. They’ve experienced a big life and written that life into their lyrics, generating a power that propels their guitars to create their vivid audio epics.

Darnielle basically writes these powerful songs like a 21st Century Pete Seeger-cum-Angry Punk Rocker. His talent is a gorgeous and beautiful thing to hear recorded, but I confess, I’ve not heard him do this live, so I really don’t know what to expect from Saturday’s show. His angry folk music marries lyrics with the high anger energy of punk rock fury and bonds me to my early 20s. I just sat up all night last night hoping and praying that the live versions of what I know verbatim could live up to the recorded wonders I have lived with since I started buying—yes, buying—his CDs about three years ago.

His first five years of recordings were prolific (1995-2000). Some albums were a little dry. But something happened in the 2000–2008 period that opened up the sound. Darnielle’s role became preeminent in the band and now he becomes the kind of musician who feels like a close, vaguely incestuous friend by the conclusion of each album.

On more than one listening, I’ve sensed him literally in the room with me. He feels like that friend who’d leave his girlfriend’s side at three in the morning and lie down with you to spoon you close, to hold you tight, because he knows your latest break-up is killing you fast.

Maybe I’m extrapolating.

Break ups aside, his other albums convey a remarkably vivid sense of place. He went to Pitzer in Pomona, CA, and much of his experience playing the Southland colors several of the albums. Darnielle seems to weave the experience of life on the road into strong backboned songs that evoke the small town brush fires that compel some of us to leave them running, not walking.

Like those of us who originally fled our West coast upbringing so we could live on the East coast, his personal departure from Southern California provides a series of musical sagas about abandoning the emptiness that led us away from that liberal paradise. Settled now in North Carolina, Darnielle and his music doesn’t really seem to spit anger specifically at his new Southern roots, as those songs seem to seethe with rage at a more amorphous America that ignores everyone who has lived inside the skin this rambling troubadour wears as a hair shirt.

Is that too prosaic? Maybe for those who haven’t met him in his music, so let’s get down to brass tacks:

The experience of having heard his music over and over again for three full years leaves me wondering if Darnielle can wrap me in the same broad arms that I hear in his music when it’s rolling into my weak ears. I had the same question about three weeks ago when Jose Gonzalez rolled into town at the Sixth and I synagogue. Gonzalez performed a set perfectly recorded for a live podcast on WAMU. It was nearly a pitch-perfect cathedral- like chorale rendering of that love-stained folkie’s complex poly-rhythms.

But The Mountain Goats live at the Black Cat. I’m not so sure. I don’t think it’s likely the local public radio stations will come in to capture this for their internet sites.

Can I scream the lyrics to his most e
nigmatic songs and not anger those around me? And not frustrate his performance? Can I hold my arms around myself and rock gently to his biggest hits?

I spend my time these last few days before Saturday hoping that the concert will be half as welcoming as when Stephen Merritt brought the Magnetic Fields to the Black Cat. Me and my ex were all gently swaying to his holy banter from the stage. It seems now like years and years ago. It must have been. Years ago, when Stephen actually asked the audience to shout song titles for them to play from the stage. Will Darnielle be half as interested in feeling the connectivity he creates in his songs to the half-harvested souls that flock to the warm love of God running through our veins?

Will Darnielle ask us to just shut the hell up?

He probably should.

It’s 2008 and begging for a song from some ancient album, well, that’s just not right anymore. But like when Okkervil River was at Iota in Arlington two years ago, the way they held the audience in a tragic embrace, the shouts for more and the complete exhaustion of their entire repertoire was not a sad sap peon to their fans as much a reverie of love between the audience and the band.

Yeah, it leaves me wondering how you capture the 4AD-produced majesty of the Mountain Goats on stage, when the energy comes as much from the inside voices in audience member’s heads as it does from Darnielle’s wild imagination. They’re voices that may not be walking onto the tour bus at the close of each evening when the tour moves on to the next town, but they’re as real as any of the ones whispering into their boyfriend’s ears, “Man, I wish this place still allowed smoking. I need a cig.”

But hell, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Even if it doesn’t live up to the hype in my own mind, I wouldn’t miss Darnielle coming to town for one skinny minute. Because in one skinny minute, the Mountain Goats can retell a lifetime. Sometimes I don’t know how I’d manage this town, if I were unable to hear with these weak ears.


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  • adam isn't here said:

    ok, i started to read this, then realized it was a million fucking words long and stopped. i don’t like the mountain goats (i think he’s kind of a pussy whiner and i don’t want to hear about his tough childhood cuz it’s really not that interesting) but almost every girl i know back home fucking LOVES him and saw him a couple weeks ago when he played there and refused to text me about it while or after it was happening because that would have “cheapened it”. they thought it was totally fucking great. so that counts for something

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok, i started to read this, then realized it was a million fucking words long and stopped. i don’t like the mountain goats (i think he’s kind of a pussy whiner and i don’t want to hear about his tough childhood cuz it’s really not that interesting) but almost every girl i know back home fucking LOVES him and saw him a couple weeks ago when he played there and refused to text me about it while or after it was happening because that would have “cheapened it”. they thought it was totally fucking great. so that counts for something

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok, i started to read this, then realized it was a million fucking words long and stopped. i don’t like the mountain goats (i think he’s kind of a pussy whiner and i don’t want to hear about his tough childhood cuz it’s really not that interesting) but almost every girl i know back home fucking LOVES him and saw him a couple weeks ago when he played there and refused to text me about it while or after it was happening because that would have “cheapened it”. they thought it was totally fucking great. so that counts for something

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok, i started to read this, then realized it was a million fucking words long and stopped. i don’t like the mountain goats (i think he’s kind of a pussy whiner and i don’t want to hear about his tough childhood cuz it’s really not that interesting) but almost every girl i know back home fucking LOVES him and saw him a couple weeks ago when he played there and refused to text me about it while or after it was happening because that would have “cheapened it”. they thought it was totally fucking great. so that counts for something

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok, i started to read this, then realized it was a million fucking words long and stopped. i don’t like the mountain goats (i think he’s kind of a pussy whiner and i don’t want to hear about his tough childhood cuz it’s really not that interesting) but almost every girl i know back home fucking LOVES him and saw him a couple weeks ago when he played there and refused to text me about it while or after it was happening because that would have “cheapened it”. they thought it was totally fucking great. so that counts for something

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok, i started to read this, then realized it was a million fucking words long and stopped. i don’t like the mountain goats (i think he’s kind of a pussy whiner and i don’t want to hear about his tough childhood cuz it’s really not that interesting) but almost every girl i know back home fucking LOVES him and saw him a couple weeks ago when he played there and refused to text me about it while or after it was happening because that would have “cheapened it”. they thought it was totally fucking great. so that counts for something

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok, i started to read this, then realized it was a million fucking words long and stopped. i don’t like the mountain goats (i think he’s kind of a pussy whiner and i don’t want to hear about his tough childhood cuz it’s really not that interesting) but almost every girl i know back home fucking LOVES him and saw him a couple weeks ago when he played there and refused to text me about it while or after it was happening because that would have “cheapened it”. they thought it was totally fucking great. so that counts for something

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok, i started to read this, then realized it was a million fucking words long and stopped. i don’t like the mountain goats (i think he’s kind of a pussy whiner and i don’t want to hear about his tough childhood cuz it’s really not that interesting) but almost every girl i know back home fucking LOVES him and saw him a couple weeks ago when he played there and refused to text me about it while or after it was happening because that would have “cheapened it”. they thought it was totally fucking great. so that counts for something

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok, i started to read this, then realized it was a million fucking words long and stopped. i don’t like the mountain goats (i think he’s kind of a pussy whiner and i don’t want to hear about his tough childhood cuz it’s really not that interesting) but almost every girl i know back home fucking LOVES him and saw him a couple weeks ago when he played there and refused to text me about it while or after it was happening because that would have “cheapened it”. they thought it was totally fucking great. so that counts for something

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok, i started to read this, then realized it was a million fucking words long and stopped. i don’t like the mountain goats (i think he’s kind of a pussy whiner and i don’t want to hear about his tough childhood cuz it’s really not that interesting) but almost every girl i know back home fucking LOVES him and saw him a couple weeks ago when he played there and refused to text me about it while or after it was happening because that would have “cheapened it”. they thought it was totally fucking great. so that counts for something

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok, i started to read this, then realized it was a million fucking words long and stopped. i don’t like the mountain goats (i think he’s kind of a pussy whiner and i don’t want to hear about his tough childhood cuz it’s really not that interesting) but almost every girl i know back home fucking LOVES him and saw him a couple weeks ago when he played there and refused to text me about it while or after it was happening because that would have “cheapened it”. they thought it was totally fucking great. so that counts for something

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok, i started to read this, then realized it was a million fucking words long and stopped. i don’t like the mountain goats (i think he’s kind of a pussy whiner and i don’t want to hear about his tough childhood cuz it’s really not that interesting) but almost every girl i know back home fucking LOVES him and saw him a couple weeks ago when he played there and refused to text me about it while or after it was happening because that would have “cheapened it”. they thought it was totally fucking great. so that counts for something

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok i read the last part, and when you saw magnetic fields stephin actually talked to the crowd? amazing! both times i saw them he just sat in the corner and let claudia (who was so charming) do all the talking.

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok i read the last part, and when you saw magnetic fields stephin actually talked to the crowd? amazing! both times i saw them he just sat in the corner and let claudia (who was so charming) do all the talking.

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok i read the last part, and when you saw magnetic fields stephin actually talked to the crowd? amazing! both times i saw them he just sat in the corner and let claudia (who was so charming) do all the talking.

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok i read the last part, and when you saw magnetic fields stephin actually talked to the crowd? amazing! both times i saw them he just sat in the corner and let claudia (who was so charming) do all the talking.

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok i read the last part, and when you saw magnetic fields stephin actually talked to the crowd? amazing! both times i saw them he just sat in the corner and let claudia (who was so charming) do all the talking.

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok i read the last part, and when you saw magnetic fields stephin actually talked to the crowd? amazing! both times i saw them he just sat in the corner and let claudia (who was so charming) do all the talking.

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok i read the last part, and when you saw magnetic fields stephin actually talked to the crowd? amazing! both times i saw them he just sat in the corner and let claudia (who was so charming) do all the talking.

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok i read the last part, and when you saw magnetic fields stephin actually talked to the crowd? amazing! both times i saw them he just sat in the corner and let claudia (who was so charming) do all the talking.

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok i read the last part, and when you saw magnetic fields stephin actually talked to the crowd? amazing! both times i saw them he just sat in the corner and let claudia (who was so charming) do all the talking.

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok i read the last part, and when you saw magnetic fields stephin actually talked to the crowd? amazing! both times i saw them he just sat in the corner and let claudia (who was so charming) do all the talking.

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok i read the last part, and when you saw magnetic fields stephin actually talked to the crowd? amazing! both times i saw them he just sat in the corner and let claudia (who was so charming) do all the talking.

  • adam isn't here said:

    ok i read the last part, and when you saw magnetic fields stephin actually talked to the crowd? amazing! both times i saw them he just sat in the corner and let claudia (who was so charming) do all the talking.

  • Anonymous said:

    Well, after reading that, I’m kind of curious how the show went.

    You need an editor, but post more, plz.