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Review Tue Apr 21 2015

The Mountain Goats Continued Their Reign as Musical Champions at the Vic

John Keogh-werewolf-mountain-goats.jpg
The Mountain Goats Regional Heat Tour Poster "Werewolf Gimmick" by John Keogh

There is a certain level of trust gained after two decades and over a dozen records, and John Darnielle knows that. Halfway through his set this past Saturday at the Vic he remarked that very sentiment in regards to Beat the Champ, the grappling concept album that marks his 15th under the name The Mountain Goats. I doubt many artists would be able to get away with an album devoted entirely to wrestling, particularly the '70s and flashy '80s that Darnielle has set his focus on. Even fewer could find the emotional resonance and beauty within those songs. Darnielle noted that the album were not as universal as his previous efforts, but I think that The Mountain Goats were able to dig down and show off the ubiquitous depths of those songs and gave the audience at the Vic a good look at what wrasslin' can offer.

Stephen Brodsky, standing in for Ides of Gemini who could not attend the tour, noted that he was nervous. I could hardly tell. Brodsky has plenty of experience under his belt and he nailed his set, the first half of which was dedicated to mostly covers. He started things of with Morphine's "I'm Free Now," fitting his low-tuned acoustic guitar pretty well. The country-ness of Willie Nelson's "I Wanna Get Drunk" was peppered throughout Brodsky's version, while Neil Young's cadence could just be heard during "On the Way Home." There was something special about his inventive versions of these songs that allowed the original versions to just lightly bleed through. The cover of "Explain" by Sunny Day Real Estate's Jeremy Enigk was likely the best one of the night, with Brodsky pulling out all he had for the song.

Then he switched over to a few of his own songs, starting with Cave In's "The Calypso," before things turned a little heavy. Brodsky tuned his acoustic guitar lower than it already was and busted out two Mutoid Man songs, "Gnarcissist" and "Bridgeburner," blasting out these unreal heavy rock bordering on punk songs. It was honestly a sight to behold. The guitar solo on "Gnarcissist" was otherworldly and I honestly couldn't believe it was coming out of an acoustic guitar. Brodsky took his unique coolness a final step further by preforming a mashup of Mötley Crüe's "Without You" and Elliot Smith's "Angel in the Snow." It was as weird as you would expect, but sounded a hell of a lot better.

I knew The Mountain Goats were going to put on a great show, but I had to elevate that thought when the lights dimmed and a familiar voice came through the speakers. It was a recording of Dusty Rhodes, "The American Dream," dropping a promo on the crowd. It was the perfect entrance for The Mountain Goats, pushing the night's theme to the forefront. John Darnielle and band rushed to the stage and quickly settled into the night's first piece of wrestling, "Stabbed to Death Outside San Juan," the story of Bruiser Brody's demise. There were moments throughout the night were Darnielle turned the whole event into an education on wrestling. He would explain the importance of heel turns (the moment when the good guy suddenly turns bad) before "Heel Turn 1" and the territory system of the Eighties before it fell under during "Southwest Territory." Darnielle was breaking a kayfabe left and right and all ears were on him.

The best moments of the evening came was when he elaborated on his band and songs. He constantly lauded his long-time bassist Peter Hughes and multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas, who was celebrating his birthday. He even snuck drummer Jon Wurster into "Foreign Object." He explained his memories of Chicago, where he lived for six months and used as the basis for "Get Lonely." Darnielle lets his music embody him, inserting every bit of his life in his songs. This was most evident during the rarely performed "Song for My Stepfather," which he played alone and asked for phones to be put away for the emotionally draining song.

The Mountain Goats' set spanned the majority of their discography and gave everyone in the crowd something to love. But as much as they where enjoying themselves, it could barely reach the fun that Darnielle was having. He relished his time at the Vic, strutting around the stage so enthusiastically during "Never Quite Free" that he had to take off his glasses in order to rock out has much as he wanted. He seemed to always be ecstatic with the crowd's reactions, sincerely appreciating them as if it were the first time he'd seen such a response. While it might be surprising to see the crowd immediately cling to a new song like "Foreign Object," it shouldn't have come as a surprise during "Up The Wolves," during which the atmosphere of the riveted crowd was chill-inducing.

The first encore solidified how well the new songs played with the old. The sold-out crowd blew up when Darnielle started "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero," becoming as excited and emotional as they were for older and more established songs. The crowd was already hyped beyond expectations as "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton," which Darneille felt the need to urge the crowd to chant along with him -- although I think they were multiple steps ahead of him. The bright flash of joy spread across his face again as "Hail Satan" took over the Vic.

Had the show finished there I would have been content, but clearly there were a couple iconic songs missing from the set. Darnielle acknowledged this upon his return, giving everyone at the show exactly what they wanted. "This Year" rang out to an eruption of cheers. Every syllable of the song was matched by the crowd as they jumped and danced furiously to the youthful indiscretions that fill the surprisingly optimistic song. He followed it with a short "Happy Birthday" to his bandmate before rushing into the deeper and sullen "No Children." The bleakness of the song couldn't hold back the atmosphere that "This Year" had brought to the venue as people sang along to this one, too. The communal experience transitioned to "Spent Soldier 2," where they were reminded that no matter how bad things get, "Just stay alive/Stay forever alive."

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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