Review of The Mountain Goat's concert | Remy Beckman
DECEMBER 1ST, 2023 AT HANGAR 1819
The Mountain Goats are a North Carolinian band that you either are obsessed with… or have never heard of. Despite this, on December 1st in Greensboro’s Hangar 1819, the energy was practically buzzing out the door. Over the thirty years the band’s been playing they have built a dedicated fan base of both old and newer fans, with even some parents at this concert introducing their kids to the music. But audience goers of all ages went wild when the band took the stage, erupting into applause.
Rightfully so too. Seeing John Darnielle, the lead singer, live was truly a transcendent experience; his voice was so rich and strong you felt it in your bones. But you never had time to be floored by his stellar voice because Darnielle was always so alive, bounding from one side of the stage to the other, skipping, jumping to the beat, ever the entertainer you could never look away from him.
Another thing that kept you engaged with the show was that you never knew what they’d play next. With a discography spanning thirty years, the setlist was diverse in sound. Some songs were slow and bluesy and then the next would go fast and hard with a rock sound that had the pit headbanging. Even more impressive than this range, was how seamlessly the band would switch between instruments. Darnielle could go from playing an acoustic guitar one second, to headbanging at his keyboard the next, and suddenly he’d be shredding like his life was on the line on a baby pink electric guitar. Another band mate, Matty Douglas, was also switching from keyboard to absolutely blasting on the saxophone, providing a fullness to the music that was palpable.
There was a portion of the show in the middle where the other band members left and Darnielle performed a sort of solo act. This was where the majority of the show’s crowd work was done, as John told anecdotal stories relating to the songs. This was quite the change in tone as the rest of the show had had little band banter or even crowd work between songs. It was not an unwelcome change though as I felt it gave John’s solo the feeling of intimacy he was going for.
By the end of the show, I had screamed, cried, and danced for nearly two hours. Despite the tiredness in my bones, I felt an overwhelming sense of connectedness to those around me. Brought together by our love of this indie band from all generations and walks of life, it was like belonging to a community. This sense of community strengthened when the band came out for an encore. Surrounded by strangers we belted out one of The Mountain Goats’ most inspirational songs, "This Year," and I truly felt like I was gonna make it through this year if it killed me.
Seeing The Mountain Goats live is truly a religious experience. If you're already a fan you’ll love the variety of their music, stage presence, and strong technical skills, and if you're not already a fan, you’ll walk out one.