Words By: Drew Krapljanov
I finish Work at 9:17pm and I am optimistic that I will arrive in time for the Mountain Goats.
I check my phone and see 5 messages from my friend who is at the show already.
> MOUNTAIN GOATS AT 930
> I believe in your, Drew
> pls don
> *’t speed and die
> that would be v bad
I have missed Oh Pep! and I need to be at Badlands Bar in 13 minutes.
I squat to gracefully slip through the security shutters near the entrance to my Work but I underestimate the size of my exit and almost fall over adjusting my posture to fit underneath the barrier. A voice accompanied by a muzak orchestra croons through the empty shopping centre and I call my +1 for the evening on the phone to see he managed to get into the venue. He is waiting for a pizza to be delivered to his house and he hasn’t even left his house yet.
I feel powerful, invigorated by the potential of achieving the impossible and I am optimistic that I will arrive in time for the Mountain Goats. It is 9:33pm and I walk into the venue, alone. I am pretty sure they have just started and I don’t recognise the song. I pull out my Phone and record a 23 second snippet as a memento and locate my friend. There is something magical about this room I have walked into. Everybody is enthralled. Some people are quietly spectating, some people are screaming lyrics and even the people near the outskirts of the venue who are distracted either by conversation, who are just plain bored, are conscious that these walls are holding more than entertainment.
Side of stage, I find my friend. I smile to show that I am happy to see him and he replies with a nod and mimes a laugh. From this angle, I can see the skin and spit of John Darnielle, the small and reserved movements of guitarist Matt Douglas, the breezy and animated flourishes of drummer Jon Wurster and the playful swagger of bassist Peter Hughes. This is the first time I have seen the Mountain Goats in flesh. I actually pictured Darnielle to be shorter, almost comical in height compared to the other members however I had no expectations of him as a performer. On stage, Darnielle is a showman but not in the way you may think. He moves naturally, with a sense of determination yet with an relatable, human mania.
What makes his charisma so endearing is not just his swift, effortless delivery of intelligent banter but his strength and courage to sing and sing publicly songs of his own personal turmoil, love, loss of love, wrestling, guys pretending to be werewolves, revelation in a candid and vulnerable yet deeply impressionistic way. Through each song, the barrier and the myth between artist and audience crumbles. We embrace our childhood idols, heroes and villains and fairytales through the goofy wrestling themed ‘Werewolf Gimmick’ and ‘Heel Turn 2’. We empathise with Darnielle’s joys and denouncements of love and meditations of grief on Get Lonely’s revealing Woke Up New and Tallahassee’s morbid and hilarious No Children and scream alongside him like these words have always been inside ourselves yet Darnielle unites us all and we become courageous and invincible. We surrender not in dance, but in voice, not singular and insular but raw and unified. We reflect and reveal our own vulnerabilities with Get Lonely’s breathtaking title track and proclaim to live and to continue living with The Sunset Tree’s uplifting anthem This Year and all of this through a man who have never met before.
After all, he is just a man.