It has been a mountain goat day. The Mountain Goats were drinking Mountain Goat at The Corner this evening, a pleasure the punters were denied, Mountain Goat’s founders were on The 7.30 Report calling for a moratorium on excise on microbrewed beer, their Richmond brewery presumably held their weekly Goatage tonight, where the brewery turns into a pub, and John Darnielle — theconstant member of the ensembles which have over time performed as “the Mountain Goats” — sang about magpies in Richmond to an adoring goddam piercingly screaming crowd, a big crowd, and brought him and his little frantic guitar and vocals sometimes duet sometimes trio within the rubric of this little newspaper. Snap by husband of Bonsai Butterfly from Georgia, in Montana, with thanks.
Darnielle is mesmerisingly intense, and sings tight little packages of higly sprung songs earnestly, so that the perversity of his lyrics is rendered all the more delicious. Some come in under two minutes,formal little two stanza things with two line choruses. Bright young things in backless tops, curly hair and eager eyes bobbed along to “Hail Satan” making the sign of Beelzebub with thumb and little finger, and waving it like candles at a Carols by Candlelight. “This is a song of hope” said Darnielle before launching into a song with a refrain “I hope you die; I hope we all do”. “She told me you’d died, at last. At last” he says of his stepfather on his second-latest album before softening the sentiment momently. His between song repartee is good too, like his musing on how “thank you, you’ve been great” must appear almost like a nervous tick to an audience. (There was a pause and then a sweet voice piped out, clear as a bell, “We really love you”). The lyrics are attractive as in a good poem, and for the most part perfectly audible, obtuse as they are, as in this song which Darnielle described as “a true story — or two true stories actually, separated by 10 years and a lot of hard drugs”:
alright I’m on johnson avenue in san luis obispo
and I’m five years old or six maybe.
and indications there’s something wrong with our new house
trip down the wire twice daily
I’m in the living room watching the watergate hearings
while my step father yells at my mother.
launches a glass across the room, straight at her head
and I dash upstairs to take cover.
lean in close to my little record player on the floor.
so this is what the volume knob’s for.
I listen to dance music.
ok so look I’m seventeen years old,
and you’re the last best thing I’ve got going.
but then the special secret sickness starts to eat through you.
what am I supposed to do?
no way of knowing,
so I follow you down your twisting alleyways,
find a few cul de sacs of my own.
there’s only one place where this road ever ends up.
and I don’t want to die alone.
let me down, let me down, let me down gently.
when the police come to get me
I’m listening to dance music.
This is unique stuff. How often do you see a band consisting of two guitars and a bass, all blokes, all singing? (Though it was just guitar and bass most of the time.) How often do you see a singer take off his glasses thoughtfully during songs, and put them back on? How many vegan boxing nuts do you know? Darnielle has a more quixotic delivery than even the chick who fronts the Waifs. He is the very visage of insanity, grimacing, opening his mouth wide during silences, and shaking his head side to side at great speed, while singing so that his cheeks wobble. The whole thing works. You just can’t help liking the guy. Girls were going gaga. It’s a unique, 100% original Dylan-like experience for our age, and I’ve gotta admit to the special satisfaction of having beaten the madding crowds, getting in early, years ago, a tape in a car radio on the way to somewhere, over and over, one of those Texas Campfire Tapes-like albums recorded on a boombox.
When he was thrown from his earnest song by some witticism yelled from the mosh pit, he quietened the crowd with a finger to his lips and sang without a mike, from the front of the stage, to the accompaniment only of the bass, and then the bassist got in on the accoustic singing thing, and there they were singing “Love Love Love” as a final encore. And then he was finally gone. I loved the hour he sang for. It was great.