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Review: Mountain Goats @ Bowery Ballroom

April 12th, 2011

The Mountain Goats are fronted by singer/songwriter John Darnielle.

So I ventured downtown a couple of weeks ago for a concert by an indie rock band I really hadn’t heard much about before. That’s partly because I just don’t do enough indie tunes or live concerts to get around. On a friend’s enthusiastic recommendation, I got tickets to see the Mountain Goats.

The Mountain Goats are fronted by John Darnielle, who in the past actually performed as a literally-solo act, acoustically and still under the plural Mountain Goats name. He did play solo for a few songs in the middle of the concert. He’s known as one of the truly great indie songwriters and I can say that, going in with no background of listening to the band, I was impressed with the concise, interesting story-telling accomplished by the songs.

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My friend promised a near religious experience; however, despite being duly impressed with the quality of the music, I can say as an atheist that I was not converted. I loved the show, but there was no revelation. This is in part due to the fact that Darnielle’s voice is a bit grating. During the show, I compared it to listening to a methamphetamine-riddled James Taylor or, perhaps more appropriately, Kermit the Frog after years of speech therapy.

That’s not to say the show wasn’t awesome or that Darnielle isn’t an incredibly talented performer. He’s engaging of the audience, comical in his banter between songs and a truly talented front man. That said, a voice transplant would make them a huge hit.

The highlight of the night was when Craig Finn of The Hold Steady joined the band for the singing of “This Year.” Rolling Stone recounted the performance on their blog and included a video which was shot by a concert goer standing just to our right.

Here’s the music video for “This Year”, which was my favorite performance of the night.

Here’s a video of a live version of another of my favorite songs of the night, “Going to Georgia.”

All told, I would recommend seeing the Mountain Goats live. They know how to put on a good show and have a seemingly endless library of high quality songs that aren’t bound by the formulaic standards of modern rock music. I probably won’t be investing in CDs simply because of the grating nature of the voice, but I would definitely see them live again.

If you are interested in checking out some of their tunes, you can visit the Mountain Goats store on Amazon.

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