When John Darnielle, the man behind The Mountain Goats, steps onto a stage, his eyes shine like a mad prophet’s. Darnielle’s voice is pushed out of a grinning mouth, quivering as if he may break into either tears or maniacal laughter. As he punches the strings of his acoustic guitar, his face expresses a passion that is committed to every word
– that is committed to the stories and the characters that he has created in his simply constructed and earnestly written songs.
And he has written a lot of songs. The Mountain Goats’ fan site lists 524. I can’t say I’ve heard them all, but the 116 that appear in my iTunes Library have gotten their fair share of listens. The highly literate and complex songs map out the lives of desperate people trying to find something. The characters often seem to ultimately fail, and many songs end in unfulfilled dreams or going to jail for selling acid, but Darnielle’s delivery makes the sad songs uplifting and beautiful. Watch Darnielle’s lyrical dexterity visually unfold below.
More recently, Darnielle has moved from the fictions he writes so well, and moved into autobiographical territory. He can tell some spectacular stories, but the ones that come from his own experiences are truly special. Get Lonely and The Sunset Tree both closely explore Darnielle’s past and present, containing some of his best work.
Though Mountain Goats shows provide a diverse set list (and even an on-the-spot request or two), it’s likely tonight’s show will focus on 2008’s Heretic Pride. The solo acoustic show is sure to put some new perspective on some of the polished, drum-fueled tracks of Darnielle’s latest.
The concert starts at 8 p.m., but tickets can be bought in advance at the Courtyard Café in a nook next to the Espresso Royale. Tickets are $5 for students and $7 for everyone else – it’s hard to find a better show for a cheaper price. John Vanderslice (who happened to produce Heretic Pride) will start the evening out.