Tag Archives: Jon Wurster

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A Sunday Sing-Along with the Mountain Goats at Brooklyn Steel

November 13th, 2017

The Mountain Goats – Brooklyn Steel – November 12, 2017


John Darnielle might be the hardest-working man in indie rock. This is not to say he comes from the same school as Bruce Springsteen—playing epic four-hour shows every night with sweat soaking through his American flag bandanna. But as the singer-songwriter of the beloved band the Mountain Goats, he’s consistently churned out a thoughtful and varied body of work at such a dependable pace that you might take him for granted. While other prolific artists may have a high volume of toss-away moments in their catalogs, Darnielle’s lyrics have always seemed intensely labored over and essential. Once called “America’s best non-hip-hop lyricist” by The New Yorker, he’s able to cover an impossible amount of ground from verse to verse, all while releasing albums with the band and somehow also managing to write two critically acclaimed novels. How about that for work ethic?

The band’s latest album, Goths, was released this year, and the Mountain Goats’ tour brought them to town for a packed show at Brooklyn Steel on Sunday night. The LP explores Darnielle’s early ’80s teen fascination with this genre in the same way that 2015’s Beat the Champ paid tribute to his heroes of professional wrestling. In pure Mountain Goats fashion: always sincere and never with irony. Mothers, out of Athens, Ga., opened the show with a brief yet powerful set. Afterward, fans roared as Darnielle and Co. walked onstage. Backed by longtime bassist Peter Hughes, multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas and indie-rock drum royalty (and half of the comedy duo Scharpling & Wurster) Jon Wurster, the band leaned heavily on Goths, pulling off the new songs’ complex instrumentation with finesse. As this material is much more layered than the Mountain Goats’ usual bare-bones acoustic-punk material, Darnielle mostly stuck to playing the tunes on a Rhodes keyboard while Douglas would fill in the space with reverbed-out flourishes on either tenor sax or flute, eliciting huge crowd reactions in response. It was a thrill to watch the band gracefully pull off these new tunes live.

Some of the best moments of the night, however, were when Darnielle picked up his acoustic guitar to dust off some of the old sing-alongs from the band’s long career. Songs like “This Year” and “Against Pollution” had everyone at Brooklyn Steel singing in unison with Darnielle as he marched back and forth across the stage like an unplugged Angus Young. For the final number of their second encore, the Mountain Goats played a full-band version of the All Hail West Texas masterpiece “Best Ever Death Metal Band out of Denton,” with its rallying cry of “Hail Satan” filling the rafters and the hearts of everyone in the room. —Pat King | @MrPatKing

 

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Bob Mould Continues to Rock

February 27th, 2013

Bob Mould – The Bowery Ballroom – February 26, 2013


To get started last night at The Bowery Ballroom, Bob Mould needed just a little bit of help. Something was wrong with his guitar’s connection to the amp, but with just a tap by his stage manager, the blue Fender kicked to life. “I’m out of my mind,” Mould said laughing as he ripped into “The Act We Act” to start the show. Needless to say, Mould didn’t need any help after that.

Backed by Jason Narducy on bass and Superchunk’s Jon Wurster on drums, Mould breathlessly tore through highlights of his impressive musical career. His nonstop grin seemed to be fueled by the freight train’s pace at which they played. The set’s first half
was a carousel of music from his different bands. Sugar’s “A Good Idea” was followed by “Changes,” and then before you knew it, Hüsker Dü songs like “I Apologize” were pouring out as well.

But before Mould jumped into the material from his newest album, Silver Age, he finally took a quick break to crack jokes with the older crowd: “How many people got babysitters until 1 a.m.?” He then settled right back into focusing only on the microphone, his guitar and showing that his new music perfectly meshes with the old, with wild songs like “The Descent” and the whip-cracking solos he’d let rip during them all. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

(Bob Mould plays The Bowery Ballroom again tonight.)

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A Crowd-Pleasing Night at The Bowery Ballroom

October 16th, 2012

The Mountain Goats/Matthew E. White – The Bowery Ballroom – October 15, 2012


It was an evening built to please as the Mountain Goats played The Bowery Ballroom last night in their third of four sold-out New York City appearances. But before John Darnielle and Co. took the stage, there was the matter of the opener, the crowd-pleasing Matthew E. White and his stage-filling band. Playing music from White’s excellent Big Inner (sounds like beginner), the collective of Richmond, Va., musicians included a full horn section, a percussionist, two keyboard players and a pedal steel. It was a more soulful version of a band Miles Davis might have put together in the early ’70s. “One of These Days” was exemplar of the set, starting with a kind of indie-rock love-song vibe then entering a head-bobbing center that had White and crew channeling Stevie Wonder before building to a gospel rave-up climax. “Big Love” highlighted the deeper funk, with some straight-from-the-butcher meaty bass hooks and cosmic harmonies. The set ended with an epic creeping version of “Brazos,” which had the band firing on all cylinders, and one reviewer wondering how the headliner could top one of the better opening sets he’d seen in a while.

Of course, pleasing the crowd was no problem for Darnielle, who had the full house enrapt before the first note. The Mountain Goats opened with “Love Love Love,” off 2005’s Sunset Tree—Darnielle’s voice a liquid, filling the container of The Bowery Ballroom completely. As the set weaved through back-catalog hits and a healthy dose of the group’s newest release, Transcendental Youth, the audience hung on each lyric. The words seemed to float above their heads like the dialogue in a graphic novel, with the crowd torn between quiet, loving admiration and enthusiastic loud sing-alongs. Requests were shouted out, and some, like “San Bernardino” were granted, while others were ignored. Throughout, Darnielle showed a penchant for taking unpleasant source material and giving it an upbeat musical sheen. He introduced songs about bitter divorce (“First Few Desperate Hours”), experimentation in satanic ritual (“In Memory of Satan”), waking up in a hospital room (“White Cedar”) or literally climbing out of the pits of hell. But with the constant churn of the Mountain Goats’ rhythm section, many of these were up-tempo and happy despite their dark undertones. The secret weapon was bassist Peter Hughes, who was like a waitress in a diner keeping Darnielle’s coffee cup filled with a steady stream of caffeinated licks.

Late in the set, Darnielle paired off in duos with bass and then drums, and he even played a few songs solo, including a Wye Oak cover and “Sax Rohmer #1,” which followed a long introduction that included apologies for any forgotten lyrics and a short political rant on the failure to defeat anti-gay-marriage legislation in his home state of North Carolina. Late in the set, the Mountain Goats invited Matthew E. White’s horn players out to join in and, ironically, bring the mood down to finally match the lyrics. But not for too long, as the set closed with “No Children,” from 2002’s Tallahassee, which featured the lyrics “I hope you die, I hope we both die” accompanied joyfully by the crowd singing as loud as they had all night. —A. Stein