I WAS THERE . . . The Mountain Goats @ Webster Hall 11.09.08
Show opener, Kaki King had a jam-band vibe with some ambient guitars and sonic undertones that didn’t mesh with me. The lead singer was a good guitar player, but she had a real flamboyant flamenco-like style that showcased her technique rather than being emotive in any real way. However, they seemed to have a pretty decent fan base, many of which I was standing next to in the VIP section. And near the end of their set the lead singer found herself in the middle of a tearful commentary about finally landing an apartment in Brooklyn after being on the road for so long. I found it a little feigned, but that’s probably because I’m not part of the fan base—the whole night was kind of a big Mountain Goats/Kaki King lovefest.
After about an hour of Kaki King, The Mountain Goats took the stage immediately bursting into a manic glory that lasted the entire evening. John Darnielle writes earnest pop songs that resonate with his fans and unfamiliar listeners (that being me) alike. He reminds me of Woody Guthrie, in that he just says what he means. He doesn’t work with too much clever wordplay or use phrases like “I’m swimming through the sea of our love,” or any variation of similarly barftastic zingers. And I assume that this is why people really love him; because he seems honest.
I didn’t know any of the songs they played throughout the night, but I thoroughly enjoyed the show. Darnielle was talkative and jokey and it made the show much more personal, as if he was performing for, and with, a group of friends—which he was.
I wrote down fragments of lyrics from the ones I liked so I could look them up later, but just ended up Googling their setlist. They are as follows, “Moon over Goldsboro,” “New Zion,” “Heretic Pride,” “San Bernardino,” and “This Year.” Unfortunately this did not yield as many results as I’d like and I’m still at a loss for more of the gems. Nonetheless, I was privy to a night of solid songcraft among likeminded listeners.
From my vantage point in the balcony to the immediate left of the stage, I could see the faces of the crowd. When you’re standing among the audience, no one is watching you; they’re not paying attention to you and it allows for intimate moments amid a crowd. It’s odd to see people in a state that is largely reserved for time alone, but it illustrates the ability of the music we love to permeate our walls and move what’s inside. This is what The Mountain Goats did for many that night.