Tag Archives: Mountain Goats

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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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Against Me! Thrill Packed Brooklyn Steel Crowd on Saturday Night

October 16th, 2017

Against Me! – Brooklyn Steel – October 14, 2017


For some, Against Me! are the only band that matters, while in other circles the group hasn’t mattered in more than a decade. In their early days, the Florida four-piece fused folk and punk in a way that put their sound somewhere in between Billy Bragg and Crass. Their 2002 debut, Against Me! Is Reinventing Axl Rose, was filled with scrappy sing-along tunes that promoted far-left politics and an infectious DIY charm that quickly won over the punk scene and influenced countless other acts. Then things began to change: Their 2007 album, New Wave, was a divisive sea change for the band as they jumped from indie label Fat Wreck Chords to the major label Sire Records. The LP paired them with famous producer Butch Vig, who helped them expand upon their sound and buff out the amateurish edge that seemed exciting and dangerous to many of their longtime loyal followers. But for those fans who turned their backs around that period, they have really missed out as Against Me! have come into their own in so many ways.

During that period, singer Laura Jane Grace (previously known as Tom Gabel) had begin to subtly hint in her lyrics that she was suffering from gender dysmorphia—and in the following years, she began to fully transition. This process fueled Grace to write the band’s masterpiece, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, so nakedly honest about her experiences while still rocking with more fury and passion than the band had displayed since their early days. During this time, the original rhythm section left and after some temporary substitutions, drummer Atom Willard and bassist Inge Johansson became permanent members. With these additions, Against Me! have become one the best live bands going. And after touring behind their newest album, Shape Shift with Me, for seven weeks, they brought their well-oiled machine to Brooklyn Steel on Saturday for a life-affirming night of rock and roll.

The room boiled over with a collective joy impossible not to notice as Against Me! blasted into Blues“True Trans Soul Rebel.” The mania in the crowd barely let up as the sea of fans bounced along in unison with crowd-surfers perpetually rolling overhead throughout the set. The band treated fans to a well-balanced mix of material from throughout their career, even busting out some deep cuts from the early days, like an especially heavy rendition of Axl Rose’s “Jordan’s First Choice.” One of the most surprising moments of the main set came as the quartet played a faithful rendition of Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream” that did the fallen Florida icon proud. Their encore also started with a cover as Grace played a solo rendition of the Mountain Goats classic “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton.” The song’s lines “When you punish a person for living his dream/ Don’t expect him to thank or forgive you” could act as a rallying cry for the resistance and Grace sang it with an intense purpose that sent chills down the spine. As the show came to an end, the band went out with a one-two punch of “Sink, Florida, Sink” and “We Laugh at Danger and Break All the Rules” that had fans singing the words long after the house lights had come on. —Pat King | @MrPatKing

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Kick Off Your Weekend with Matthew E. White at Rough Trade NYC

August 4th, 2015

Make no mistake: Matthew E. White is a musician. He’s a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and arranger, and he even formed his own label, Spacebomb Records, which uses a house band—led by White on guitar, Cameron Ralston on bass, Pinson Chanselle on drums and Trey Pollard on guitar—for all of its work. “White has built a potential powerhouse the likes of which haven’t been seen since the late ’50s and ’60s, since the heyday of Motown and Stax Records,” according to New Republic. “A studio that produces records with a house band and a rotating stable of musicians, taking advantage of local creativity and regional flavor.” Growing up in Virginia Beach and the Philippines, White listened to the likes of the Band, Curtis Mayfield, Brian Wilson, and ’60s and ’70s R&B, and he’s worked with Justin Vernon, Megafaun, Natalie Prass, the Mountain Goats and Sharon Van Etten, in addition to leading the avant-garde jazz big band Fight the Big Bull. In theory, that should really be enough for just one guy. But for Matthew E. White, it wasn’t. So Spacebomb Records put out his acclaimed debut full-length, Big Inner (stream it below), in 2013, reminding many of Randy Newman’s early work, thanks to White’s unique take on things. And he followed that with this year’s exceptional Fresh Blood (stream it below), which the Guardian labeled “a delicious second helping,” and about which, NPR Music opined, “The high quality of performance and arranging, the generous spirit of its narrator, the ear-candy moments of instant comfort that permeate Fresh Blood—all that is how Matt White and his crew salute their inspirations.” And as good as his albums are, White and Co. (above, doing “Rock & Roll Is Cold” for KEXP FM) are even better live. So don’t miss him on Friday night at Rough Trade NYC.

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Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See the Mountain Goats on 10/13

October 9th, 2012

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With a brand new album, Transcendental Youth, released a week ago, the Mountain Goats, led by John Darnielle, are headed our way for four sold-out shows at The Bowery Ballroom and Music Hall of Williamsburg. And while that could be a total bummer if you don’t already have tickets, The House List is giving away a pair of them to Saturday’s show at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Want to go? Try to Grow a Pair. It’s easy. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Music Hall of Williamsburg, 10/13) and a brief message explaining what about the Mountain Goats does it for you. Eddie Bruiser, who’d like to hit all four shows, will notify the winner by Friday. Good luck.

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The Mountain Goats: It’s All True

March 29th, 2011

The Mountain Goats – The Bowery Ballroom – March 28, 2011

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There’s no denying that even given John Darnielle’s frantic recording pace, he’s as strong a songwriter as ever. Just like Sonic Youth has, he’s been plugging away, through the infancy of indie rock, putting in the time year after year, experimenting within the confines of his acoustic guitar to get to a place that’s very different from the early work. It’s a logical, gradual change that just keeps gaining him fans, evidenced by three nights of sold-out Mountain Goats shows at The Bowery Ballroom. Radio City would be the next logical step, but one that you could see Darnielle resisting. He’s historically played to the small venue and the intimacy of the material … and that’s part of the equation that makes all his work so successful.

The surprising thing is Darnielle has been slowly building this devoted fan base with very instrumentally traditional songs that rely on his unique delivery and the consistent songwriting he’s brought to each album, from the early live cassette recordings to the more recent string orchestral-backed albums. A classic from last night, “Going to Georgia” or “This Year,” from the autobiographical The Sunset Tree, are entirely new experiences rearranged for a four-piece.

There’s always going to be a surprise at his live show, a song you’ve never heard from an obscure 10″, and when the audience yells out requests, Darnielle actually listens and plays them. It all comes from being genuinely happy and excited to share the songs from all parts of his long career. In his typical completely open style he talked about high school crushes, the death of his abusive stepfather and a Cannibal Corpse documentary he encouraged everyone to immediately go see. I had heard about Darnielle’s enthusiasm and generosity performing live, and from quiet, heartbreaking, whispered ballads to rocking anthemic and angst-filled sing-alongs, all of it’s true. —Jason Dean