Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I Went to the Mountain Goats, and You Didn't

Last night was time to cash in on one of my Christmas presents to Mrs.5000, and it was one of those presents where I got as good as I gave, so to speak. The present was tickets to see The Mountain Goats at our favorite City of Roses concert venue of late, the East Side's own Doug Fir. We were expecting it to be freaking awesome, and we were not disappointed.

Many gentle readers, I know, share our enthusiasm for the Goats, whose elegant song structures and narrative lyrics represent some of the finest pop songcraft currently available on the planet. As this was our first time seeing them live, there were some surprises. First, what a dork lead Goat John Darnielle is! Mugging like he was on children's television, going off on rambling affectionate asides to the audience, quoting Chaucer -- fucking Chaucer, people! -- from the stage, he came off as a completely loveable geek. I should have slipped him the L&TM5K URL.

The other surprise was the, urm, muscularity of the performance, which had a much harder rock edge than do the studio recordings. The melodic gracefullness -- the prettiness, really -- remained intact. The crowd responded enthusiastically, often singing the choruses, and keeping "Love, Love, Love" going when Darnielle lost track of his own lyrics.

At any gap of more than two seconds between songs, half the audience started shouting requests from the extensive Mountain Goats back catalog. Clearly, many considered the obscurity of a request the best measure of its merit. The band, as you might expect, stuck largely to their set list, and so I did not get to hear my own bellowed request, "Up the Wolves."

One last surprise -- the first surprise of the night, really -- was the opening band, New York City's Jeff Lewis and the Jitters. These guys integrated a spare indie sound with a crack rhythm section, electronics, and harmonies that reminded me of the oddball eighties outfit "Shriekback," if that isn't too obscure a reference. This was broken up by very funny solo a capella song-poems, delivered straight-faced while paging through an enormous set of comic-book illustrations, and a long lecture, in rhyming couplets and with accompanying music samples, of "The Development of Punk Music on New York's Lower East Side, 1950-1975." Really quite brilliant. Gotta get me some of these kids' records.

Finally, a mini-vignette: after I exchanged a few sentences with a young female Mountain Goats co-enthusiast while Mrs.5000 was visiting the bar, a boyfriend scurried across the club and conspicuously interposed himself between her and me, remaining there for the rest of the night. I overheard him grilling her for maybe two minutes about our 25-second conversation. Clearly, he was plenty threatened by my radiant sexual charisma. I've aparently still got it! It must be the beard.


Anonymous said...

RE: "Mugging like he was on children's television." This isn't an overstatement. The grimmer the angry despairing tweaking fucked-up poetic spiral of the lyrics, the goofier his grin on the guitar solos. A little surreal but cathartic. It was quite a joy to be part of the crowd belting out the obligatory sentimental encore, "I hope you die. I hope we both die," etc.

RE: "Mrs.5000 was visiting the bar." It was actually the very crowded women's bathroom, of course. He's trying to protect me, or reinvent me as a John Darnielle character, or something.

Dan Nolan said...

I love the MG. They're playing a great venue here in Cambridge in a few weeks, but it's sold out.

Shriekback is, unfortunately, too obscure a reference for me, though I'm intrigued by your description of the band that reminds you of them. I'll have to check out both.

Chance said...

"Visiting the bar" is a perfectly serviceable euphemism for using the restroom.

"Using the restroom" is a slightly less serviceable euphemism for visiting the bar.

d said...

oooo. how's the beard? i need photos.

Elizabeth said...

@chance: Is THAT why I always get strange looks from people when I ask them if I can bring them back anything?

Rebel said...

I totally knew Mrs5K was in the bathroom. BTW - any good gossip in there?

Anyway as charismatic & bearded as you certainly are, I'm not sure it was so much that you've "still got it" as much as it is that the poor girl's boyfriend has an insane and somewhat disturbing jealous streak.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

5000, you big ol' pimp, you!

I hope you didn't get her abused though. I mean, good to know you still got it, but you'd hate for her to "get it" on your account.

Anonymous said...

I must check these guys out. What a sweet date!

And I learned a new euphemism.

blythe said...