Squaregirl Rachel and I went on a Squaregirl date to the first of two consecutive Mountain Goats show at the Troubadour on Tuesday. This was a very exciting day for me, as I had yet to see them live. I know a few people who raved about their shows and another two plebeians that I’m not talking to anymore tell me that they weren’t good live, so I was pretty curious to see if they could compare to my imagination. We showed up a song or two into the opener Jeff Smith’s (?) Jones(?)** act. Though sort of schtick-y, he was pretty amusing, singing stream of consciousness yarns in front of projections of drawings he had done himself. I’d see him again.
Next, The Mountains Goats. In high school we called my younger brother The Minstrel. Our house carried sound really well, and you’d hear the first few strums wafting down the hall, like a harbinger. A few seconds later, he’d wander while playing his guitar and pretend to be really surprised. “Oh! I didn’t realize anyone was in here!” he’d exclaim, and then continue to play his guitar like no one was there, shuffling around the living room. He’d do these little jigs and mosey around and sing with a really animated face. Watching John Darnielle is sort of like that. “Oh! An audience. Well, I have my guitar, so… Ok. Doo doo doo. I’ll play whatever you want! Except No Children, even though that’s the only thing you guys are yelling out for. Come back tomorrow. Doo. Doo. Have you ever noticed how much I sound like Mitch Hedburg? Well, I do!”
My one complaint about the show was the abuse of encores. I don’t like encores, and two is excessive. It’s like the people who dress in head to toe green on St. Patrick’s Day. Just put on your green shirt and be done with it. That said, I truly enjoyed the show. I really respect that Darnielle appears unafraid of the unflattering poses and awkward faces musicians tend to make when losing themselves in a song. It’s that sort of worrying that will get in the way of the stage presence of otherwise talented bands. So he embraces that crazy look in his eyes, because he knows we don’t care what he looks like, we’re all in love with him anyway, all of us knowing secretly that we are the person who gets this song he’s singing more than anyone else in this room.
** Ed. Note: It was Jeffrey Lewis & the Jitters. I really wanted to catch them at the Wednesday night show, but missed it. Damn flu! They had set off my twee-dar earlier in the week when I noticed they were appearing on a radio show that I know and love called 5...4...3...2...Fun!!!. I bought one of their cds out of a healthy mix of curiosity and guilt. Not twee so much, but lovable just the same. Sqg Eliza was totally right about the stream of consciousness yarns, I'm truly bummed that I missed hearing them with projections behind them. Still, lo-fi stream of consciousness guitar pop that sounds like it would be right at home in the K Records catalogue (though the Jeffrey Lewis cd I picked up actually resides in the Rough Trade shop) is one of my biggest weaknesses so I'm glad I at least got a cd. Expect to hear way more about him the next time he's in town! **