Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Mountain Goats @The Greene Space, Mar. 30th

That blur in the middle is John Darnielle, the fast talking, frenetic front man of The Mountain Goats, a band my dear roomie Hannah introduced me to a few years ago.  I am still getting to know them, occasionally hearing a song here and there when I have my iPod on shuffle, but Darnielle's slightly nasal, sometimes off-key delivery is quite recognizable and charming in its ways. While the songs are not very complex musically, often consisting of chiefly a strumming guitar and without traditional rhyming scheme, the lyrics are rich in imagery and story telling, and are a treat for anyone who invests the time to really pay attention to them.

Knowing how great a fan Hannah is of Darnielle, I jumped on getting us a pair of tickets to see The Mountain Goats perform on a live broadcast of WNYC's Soundcheck program, hosted by music geek John Schaefer, pictured speaking to Darnielle above.  While I am not nearly as big of a fan of the band as she is, I looked forward to the opportunity to see them in this unique context, in the middle of the day, which accommodated my schedule nicely.

Rather than try to explain the whole segment, you can listen to it here:

Backed by drums, bass and a piano, Darnielle played a few songs off The Mountain Goats' newest album, All Eternals Deck.  The standout track for me was "Damn These Vampires," but overall, Darnielle and the Goats brought all the songs to life.  Seeing them live has helped pique my interest and I shall have to listen to them more closely.

The actual venue itself, The Greene Space, is a nice, small venue, with HD monitors all about so you can see views other than your own.  Sound-wise, I had no complaints.  The show attracted an interesting mix of people -- some older people who look like they listen to public radio 24-7, and then there were the uber-fans.  Not knowing what we were up for, Hannah and I wandered by the venue an hour before showtime and there were a few diehards already there, so it being a sunny day, we decided to get in line too.  At one point, Darnielle came out to grab a bite for lunch before the show, and he greeted the line.  Darnielle seems totally goofy and earnest, with a bit of spazzy thrown in.  One of the uber-fans whom I shall dub the Rainman of Rubik's Cubes leapt at the chance to speak to his hero and was totally digging the fact that Darnielle did a modified handshake arm grab with him.


The first part of the program featured Suzanne Vega (yes, that Suzanne Vega) who has recently put together a bunch of songs with Duncan Sheik (yes, that Duncan Sheik) for a one-woman play she is doing about the life of author Carson McCullers.  No, we didn't get to hear her sing "Luka," "Tom's Diner" or "Left of Center" but it was still great to see her perform.  Her voice hasn't changed.  The few songs from the play, "Carson McCullers Talks About Love," were interesting ditties that had quite a few lyrics culled from things McCullers actually said or wrote.

With either performance, it was a good taste of the music, but, probably, too short at about 15-20 minutes a piece.  Or, rather, it might have been just right for what it was.

Update - you can watch the program in its entirety below:

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