Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Mountain Goats at The Arches, 10th October 2013:

As is the case with a considerable number of the bands I listen to regularly and love, I discovered The Mountain Goats through my dear friend Steven.  A few summers ago, he added their amazing track No Children to a party playlist and I was immediately hooked.  This band - like many of my favourites these days - are too varied, unique and generally brilliant to be pinned down to just one genre, but if I had to I would describe The Mountain Goats' sound as landing somewhere between folk and indie rock, with a pinch of classical influence, a dab of punk and a metal mindset overseeing the proceedings.  As you probably know by now, I am a sucker for singer songwriters with good lyrics, and I happily waded into the Mountain Goats' dense back catalogue in the search of some new music.

Source: here

The Mountain Goats were formed in 1991 by John Darnielle, who was also the sole member of the band for many years.  These days, Darnielle is joined in the studio by Peter Hughes (bass) and Jon Wurster (drums), although Darnielle and Hughes are currently touring the UK without Wurster.  I was lucky enough to catch their recent gig at The Arches in Glasgow, and was extremely excited, as I turned down the opportunity to attend their last Scottish show and have kicked myself ever since!

Source: here

If you've never visited The Arches before, it's a pretty special place.  Located underneath Glasgow's Central Railway Station, the venue incorporates several original and enormous bare brick archways (previously derelict and wasted space) into its architecture.  When it's quiet enough, trains can be heard rumbling past in the station overhead, which is quite a haunting experience!  

When we arrived, my friends and I were a little surprised that the Mountain Goats gig was entirely seated (rather than standing only, or partially seated) but in the end this wasn't an issue whatsoever.  In all honesty, I actually welcomed the chance to sit comfortably for once and listen to the music, rather than hopping from one aching foot to the other after hours of standing.  Although there were a few upbeat songs on the setlist, without a drummer the remaining duo leaned towards more mellow tracks that were achievable with just an acoustic guitar or piano and a bass.

The extent of the Mountain Goats' discography means that I didn't know the majority of the set, but this didn't bother me as much as I think it would have had I been seeing a different band play.  Darnielle and Hughes put on such an entertaining and moving show that I'm sure I would have enjoyed myself without knowing a single song.  The unreleased track You Were Cool stood out for me, and actually brought me very close to tears, thanks to Darnielle's speciality of simple yet hugely powerful and insightful lyrics.  We were also treated to an atmospheric rendition of California Song, which involved the singer making his way into the audience, and a lot of spontaneous finger clicking.

I was pleased to be able to sing enthusiastically along to a few songs, including Fall of the Star High School Running Back, the aforementioned No Children and Up the Wolves.  The band were clearly overwhelmed by the audience's positive reaction to the whole evening, and by our willingness to participate - you can't beat a good old Glasgow crowd!  I managed to speak briefly to both band members after the gig had finished, and cheekily chastised them a little bit for not playing my absolute favourite song: This Year.  Apparently they didn't have the heart to play it without Jon Wurster, as it just doesn't sound the same without a drumkit.  They're probably right, although I would have loved to hear the song live!

If you like the sound of The Mountain Goats but aren't really sure where to start, I'd recommend trying No Children and This Year as tasters.  Broom People is also a personal favourite, and recently I've been listening to the remastered (but still deliciously lo-fi) 2002 album All Hail West Texas.  If its opener, The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton, doesn't make you smile, put a lump in your throat and win you over all at the same time, then nothing will.

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