the Mountain Goats, 20jun2011, Great American Music Hall
This is for Genevieve, who is, and this is not a joke, the world's best girlfriend.
Mountain Goats I came late--real late--to. I'd seen the name kick around, and hadn't had much use for any of the people gushing. I think I had a dim awareness that he'd followed Colin Meloy's lead and written a 33 1/3 book that was an album review by means of piece of fiction. I naturally--probably better to say "I fatuously"--combined these facts and decided that the Mountain Goats sucked.
Somewhere around the summer of 2009, though, hungover and overfed, I dragged myself back to my bedroom after breakfast. KALX was on, and the second I walked into the room, I heard the first words of "last year".
I stood in front of my stereo, not sitting down, not setting my breakfast beer down, not focussing my eyes, cuffed and buffeted by the song, pinned like a butterfly, pinned like the wretched wrestler I was for a couple years. I sent a bitchy text to a friend "I was just reduced to tears by a Mountain Goats song, what's all wrong w/ me lol hrrr".
Ever since then, I've had work hours where I'll youtube that song a half-dozen times in a row and just really really bum myself the fuck out.*
*(If you want to go ahead and explain that it's a hopeful song like Dream Weaver--Stinky Puffs reference!!--feel free, champ. Something about it takes the cheese grater to my normally effervescent soul.)
And for a while I was a dick to Mountain Goats main man John Darnielle on Twitter.
(What can I say: when I late-bloom, I hold off on blooming until the very last available second.)
But there was something there: a song serrated like "this year" can't under any circumstances be made by somebody who isn't worth paying attention to. To put that more hammer: The person who makes that song? you must attend to; that song is capital-g Great and any person responsible for it deserves your time, attention, and financial support.
I read up a little, and the guy seemed right-on. I poked around and everything he wrote that I read I liked: some of it was hilarious, some of it was thoughtful, some of it made me fighting mad (on account of it was literally righteous). Some of it was really hilarious. Christ, I sent my mom links to stuff the guy wrote.* What can I say: when I get smitten by somebody's work, I like to go hard. I came around to his generous, slightly manic Twitter persona, too.
*(Not as weird as it sounds: my mom makes Smiths jokes it takes me months to get.)
Poked around for more songs. Never did find anything I liked as much as "this year". Never did pick my ass up off the couch and go to the record store, either--and then came the promo single "damn these vampires" which is the floundering, drowning sad-rage give-up complement to the damn-the-torpedoes you'll-have-to-kill-me-to-keep-me-down anthem "this year" and I was in. All the way in. A day or two later I preordered the album (thereby scoring the cassette pack-in, which is, for the record, excellent.) It took months to come.
It's great. You should buy it.
The show came in one of the odd clumps tWBGitW & I seem prone to, 2 shows in 3 days, 3 in 7, a lot for people with jobs, friends, bullshit obligations, hobbies & no cars. But there was no chance I wasn't going to see the show. My credit card sighs reproachfully from across the room.
The show itself...was far more of a spectacle than I'd expected.* I knew people would be into it. I suspected people would be into it. I didn't predict some other things:
- the JoeyChad next to me would treat the night like a weirdly specific opportunity for karaoke, matching every breath, every pause, drowning out several songs (ruined for G.) with his total identification with every note that rebounded & bizounded around the room
- John Darnielle's joy-skipping & mid-song giggles, also that the man would give me a very specific impression of Stephen Colbert doing Bruce Springsteen and thrilled to be doing it
- quite as much singing along as happened
*(Not here using "spectacle" in the situationist sense for once. Few experiences have been less alienating than this show.)
There are folks for whom the show would have been cheesy or "a little much". Indeed there was a revival-tent vibe for some folks that I find/found offputting; but there's a word for somebody who bags on somebody else's good time when that good time doesn't actually involve or affect him, and it's a bad, bad word. As long as you're not drowning out the band or trying to get me to dance/not dance in a way I don't dig, you get on with your show--and I hope you're having as much fun as I am. Everybody went nuts and got blissy at the end, when there was a long version of, yes, "this year", complete with singalong, opening band coming out to rock out, and what can only be described as communally ecstatic behavior. There were some encores, duh, and one of them featured a rousing (ahem) rendition of Jawbreaker's "boxcar", which normally I don't like all that much*, but that night, I was too happy to demur, and I sang along, and I sang along loud, and I sang along happily, and John Darnielle pointed at me for a second and laughed and I kept on singing.
*(Great song, sure, but it doesn't make my top 10 Jawbreaker songs. Was however funny when after that he said "thanks, we've been the Mountain Goats...I've been Blake Shwartzenbach." Zing.)
I should talk about the band: I don't really want to. The show is a real rock show, where the record is not a real rock record. At times (forgive me), the record left me wondering "what is it about every guy with an acoustic guitar that forces him eventually to front a goddamned bar band?". The show proves that this band is nothing of the kind. Recommended. Bring your capacity for real happiness and satisfaction.