October 20, 2008

Friday night: Mountain Goats with Kaki King in Denver

There’s a scene in Elf where Will Ferrell’s character, as naive and untainted by the world as he is, falls for Zooey Deschanel’s shopgirl character. He stretches out his arms wide and yells, “I’m in LOVE! And I don’t care who knows it!!

As I stood four feet from John Darnielle and his rotating crew of Mountain Goats at a sold-out show at the Bluebird on Friday night, I found myself thinking the same thing, with almost that same embarrassingly unabashed fervor.

Darnielle is not hip. He is too vulnerable and transparent, too honest in his lyrics and unselfconscious in his delivery to be cool. Combine that with the potent gut-punch of the songs and you’ve got a memorable evening. Amidst exuberantly lame dance moves (me too John! Me too) he spat out lyrics of hope and despair, and rocked and tore through an amazing range of intelligent and gorgeous songs from his catalog. As Rob Sheffield wrote about Pavement in the awesome Love Is A Mix Tape, “The songs were all either fast or sad, because all songs should either be fast or sad. Some of the fast ones were sad, too.” For being as obviously intelligent and well-read as Darnielle is, he hasn’t forgotten how to rock, and rock loud.

In addition to new songs off Heretic Pride and the Satanic Messiah EP, they also played some rare back-catalog tunes (“Genesis 19:1-2“), and closed the main set with “This Year.” Those final moments with the whole crowd yelling along were among my cathartic concert highlights of this entire year. It was, for me, transcendent and very timely.

Darnielle has Wilco-like fans in their rabidity. Whenever I go to a show of an artist I’ve not seen live before, and the fans are like that, I pay extra close attention to the proceedings so I can investigate catching whatever fever led them to be foaming at the mouth in the first place. In between a crazy variety of song names being shouted as requests, the range of hardcore fans was noteworthy. I saw everyone from early high-schoolers (I think it was an all-ages show) singing along at the top of their innocent hearts, to burly biker dudes and everyone in-between.

I missed opener Kaki King because I was hauling heavy things onto moving trucks, but she came out and joined Darnielle for a good chunk of the set on her guitar, alternating between acoustic and electric and even playing some slide guitar down on the floor. She is the guest guitarist on that eloquent instrumental ballad from the latest Foo Fighters’ album, “The Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners,” as well as a collaborator with Tegan & Sara. Her distinctive style can also be heard on the new EP collaboration with Darnielle, the Black Pear Tree EP (she wrote music, he wrote lyrics). They performed “Mosquito Repellent” from that EP together, wide smiles across their faces.

The show ended too soon and left my cheeks flushed. Somewhere in these lyrics Darnielle sang, the night remains suspended:

Do what you have to do
Go where you have to go
When the time comes to loosen up your grip, you’ll know

Called my friend in New York, 3000 miles away
Halfway through her metamorphosis, nothing I could say
Hoard my small resentments
Like rare and priceless gems
Hang on to your dreams until there’s nothing left of them

All pics here


  • I’m so glad you made it to the show! This year has been awesome because I have seen a really wickedly large proportion of my favourite bands as they all seemed to tour the UK this year. And I saw The Mountain Goats in London and it was pretty much my favourite one (except for maybe The Hold Steady but I kind of count that separately as it is The Hold Steady…). I was so chuffed about how good they were and I can’t wait to get to see them again! Hope the move was ok!

    Caz — October 21, 2008 @ 12:41 pm

  • Good review! I was the girl in front of you (friend of the girl with the setlist). I gotta say, this was only the 3rd live tMG show I’ve made it to, but it was the best. He was loving the crowd and the crowd was loving him. I’m glad you got to enjoy it. :D BTW, it is exceptionally rare to hear both No Children and Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton in the same concert. Lucky us!

    Miss A — October 22, 2008 @ 8:27 am

  • For those of you that don’t know, http://www.archive.org has tons of good live music. I’m pretty sure this is the concert that Heather reviewed.

    Just in case anyone wanted to hear.

    Anonymous — October 24, 2008 @ 1:35 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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