The Mountain Goats at Fitzgerald's, 6/21/2014
For storied indie-folk group The Mountain Goats' second show in Houston in the past few years, fans got a toned-down version of the full band we saw the last time they were in town. Featuring John Darnielle, the guy behind all the words, and longtime collaborator Peter Hughes on bass and back-up vocal duties, the current incarnation allowed for more flexibility in song choices throughout the evening. That made it much more fun for the die-hard fans in the audience -- and, at this particular performance, it seemed like the entire gathered group were die-hards.
From the moment the lights dimmed Saturday, you could sense a particular heightened energy wavering throughout the room, and as soon as Darnielle opened his voice for the familiar fan favorite "High Hawk Season," so did everyone else.
It's a really cool feeling to be in a room surrounded by only fans of the band you're seeing. I'm not sure if it was the free Electric Six show downstairs or the hefty ticket price that deterred those who were just going because their friend likes that "This Year" song, but I definitely saw a few different groups of people walk away after seeing how much it was.
But thankfully for us, and unfortunately for those that left, we were treated to a charming night by a very quotable Darnielle, feeding the crowd his quips about life and love in between a set heavy on requests and fan favorites. Having the ability to change the set list on a drop of a dime, with only Hughes for Darnielle to worry about, the duo just seemed to go with the ebb and flow of how the room felt.
And the room felt good...really good. Matter of fact, it was the room that guided the night right. The crowd was as attentive as I've ever seen here, ten times more than the standard Houston audience. Which didn't go unnoticed, as Darnielle made it known several times throughout the evening that this was easily the best crowd he'd ever played for in Houston.
Thinking back to the host of Mountain Goats shows I've seen, the crowds are generally always like that. They are one of those bands that might not be the biggest in the mainstream, like Phish, Ween or Primus, but have an unlimited amount of megafans throughout the world. But unlike the aforementioned bands, it's the Mountain Goats' lyrical content that draws so many people in.
Darnielle's songs are very home-hitting and easily relatable to so many different (younger) people. They are angsty enough to bat with your most emo of bands, but with upbeat rhythms and sometimes jangly guitars, they are much more accessible musically than most bands that sing about such subject matter. Darnielle's songs rarely touch on the lighthearted side of life, but that's what makes them so perfectly relatable. We've all been through some rough times, some much more than others, but the Mountain Goats let us step away from our own problems for a moment and allow us to realize that we're not the only ones dealing with this crazy fucked-up world.
Review continues on the next page.