I’ve long prided myself on being a bit of a polyglot when it comes to music. Just for this website alone, I’ve mulled the importance of Drake in the larger context of music consumption and the usefulness of pizza-themed Velvet Underground tribute bands, If you pressed me for a list of my favorite albums of the new year, I would send you in the direction of the woefully overlooked Lady Lamb record just as quickly as I would bring up the commonly accepted contenders: Sleater-Kinney, Father John Misty, Kendrick, Sufjan. Point is, I listen to a lot of music. It’s one of the few things that keeps me sane. However, there is occasionally the rare case where a band completely slips through my grasp, for any number of reasons. In the case of my shameful ignorance of The Mountain Goats, I would probably use the “deep discography” excuse and the fact that their music has almost always seemed impenetrably fatherly. Regardless of these lame shifts of responsibility, I had the chance to reevaluate my stance on the band in the purest form possible: that of live performance.
To say that most of the crowd at Mercy Lounge this past Thursday night were dedicated Mountain Goats fans would be a bit of an understatement. I heard at least one girlfriend reassure her significant other that it would be okay for him to work his way to the front because she knew it was his favorite band. The assumption about the band being “impenetrably fatherly” held up as well, judging by the prevalence of receding hairlines and horn rimmed glasses in the sold-out room. It’s strange to think this band will be hitting the festival circuit, as most of the band members look more like they should be on a book signing tour. I say all these judgmental things to preface the fact that I was eventually taken aback by how great The Mountain Goats are, and how they helped to remind me of the feeling of discovery.
John Darnielle, mastermind of the collective, is a brilliant storyteller and songwriter. He flexed all of these muscles by diving into anecdotes from his troubled past and love of professional wrestling, interspersing these tales in between songs of redemption and regret. The crowd was eating out of the palm of his hand from the moment he took the stage, though their reaction to this meal was somewhat questionable the more that they mixed alcohol with their dinner. I still haven’t decided whether or not it’s rude to yell out song requests and try to stick out in a packed audience by telling the people on stage how much you love them. Part of me still thinks it might be dedication. Either way, I had several chances to ponder the topic and listen to certain crowd member’s annoyed reactions to calls for songs that I’ve never heard of.
At the end of it all, it’s refreshing to see a crowd that is engaged, no matter if that engagement might be construed as crossing the line. I know that I’ll be catching up on The Mountain Goats’ discography in advance of my trip down to Atlanta to cover Shaky Knees. While I’m doing that, check out some snaps from the evening courtesy of photographer Lauren Hanson.
– Kevin B.