I first saw the Mountain Goats during The Life of the World to Come tour, I think January 2009 although it might have been in the fall of that year instead. It was the first concert I had ever bought tickets to, and a friend and I had been planning to go for months. We went into this warehouse in downtown Boston, listened to the opening act (Final Fantasy, who was killer), and then waited for about an hour and a half. Maybe two hours, haha. It turned out that John Darnielle had been delayed in traffic from Pennsylvania, so he finally rushed on stage with no prep and a glazed look and fucking destroyed us.
Mountain Goats is an Experience - I think every fan has the songs that feel like they were written for them, because they seem so unique and personal. They tear at your core and make you feel understood, just for a second. Seeing them live is like that feeling with the speakers aimed right at your chest. I wasn't super into the new album, because I like Darnielle best when he's loud and a little vicious, and the new album was quiet and thoughtful and sad. Seeing it performed, with a full backing band and the bass thumping in my head, made it perfect. Completely worth the cost of the tickets and the wait.
If the concert happened when I think it did, my great-grandmother had died just a month before, right in the middle of finals. He played Isaiah 45:23 and I remember standing there with tears all down my face, and it was the first time I had cried for her.
Anyway, when I saw that he was going to be playing in Minneapolis I bought two tickets right as the pre-sale opened. The Mountain Goats! In the Cedar (the best venue, and way too small for them)! I would find someone to go with me. And I did, pretty much immediately, haha. A friend bought my ticket and then an extra ticket for his girlfriend, and another friend drove up from Madison to see the show and two further friends bought tickets, and incidentally the concert was moved to a larger venue.
One of the things Darnielle talked about during the concert - he's a talker, as a performer, and I love it - was about how he was excited when the concert was moved to First Ave, but also a little worried. What if everyone who wanted a ticket had already bought one? What if the floor was a third full?
I've never seen First Ave as packed as it was for that concert. Not only packed, but packed with people who knew every single word and screamed the songs back at the band. New songs! The album had only been out for a couple weeks! And I knew all the words, we all knew the words, and Darnielle was standing above us, looking surprised and uplifted and grateful and so happy. It feels really nice to make a performer happy.
Ahhh, I keep getting twisted around in trying to explain this concert. Let's try again.
A few weeks before this concert, my cat and best friend of 15 years died unexpectedly. So on this particular Sunday I was at loose ends, not wanting to hang around my house. I went and had sushi as a late lunch with a friend of mine, and then met up with two of the people going to the concert and got a ride from them to First Ave. Once we got to the concert they wanted to hang out in the balcony and I wanted to be on the floor, so they headed up without me. Fortunately, the other three people I knew plus an extra friend of friend showed up and wanted to stand with me, so it was all good :)
The opener was Stephen Brodsky, because the original opener had to cancel unexpectedly (I think one of the performers was injured). He was ok! A lot of covers by a guy who is really good at guitar and fine at singing. The best moment, though, was when he started talking about this Guns N Roses documentary he'd been watching (or maybe an article he'd been reading) that Darnielle had recommended to him. And that it had got him thinking about Guns N Roses and now he wanted to play Patience for us. Okay, man, whatever. I am ignorant of classic rock, unfortunately. So he starts playing, and then Darnielle strolls onto stage and starts singing along, and then joins him on the piano, except it becomes obvious that he doesn't remember very many of the words and they're not playing in the same key and Brodsky keeps giggling and talking about how he would have practiced if he knew this was going to happen, and it was just fun. Fun times. And frickin adorable.
Once the Mountain Goats started, I just felt swept away. I already loved the new album - it's probably one of my favorites in the whole discography. 13 tracks of professional wrestling ballads. Sharp and vicious and louder in person than it is on the album, and Darnielle was there to talk each of us through it. He talked about Heel Turn 2, and about how much he loves that moment where you can just see a wrestler say 'fuck it' and become evil, because the script says so and also why not? I've listened to that song about a thousand times since, and every time I just think, you know, why not. He played an amazing setlist, with the new stuff, the old stuff that everyone wanted to hear, and a couple things that no one expected. Apparently he played Black Pear Tree for a woman with chronic pain who was in the audience. Someone requested Sax Rohmer and Darnielle explained that he can't sing that in concert because he can't keep the verses straight. I heard a song I'd never run into before. And, as mentioned, we screamed the lyrics to Foreign Object back at him (which admittedly aren't hard to learn) like we'd listened to nothing else since it had come out. And Darnielle looked absolutely floored.
And he sang Woke Up New and I stood there with tears spilling over my face and cried for my amazing disappeared cat. Not for the first time, but I think after that is about when I stopped crying whenever I was alone.
A Mountain Goats show is an Experience.
Also, I love Darnielle's bassist, Peter Hughes. Dude swings around like he's trying to knock people off the stage with his guitar.
It was a really good concert.