Almost 25 years after their inception, John Darnielle and the Mountain Goats continue to woo and captivate crowds around the world. The band recently took the stage this past Friday night at the Colonial Quarter in the heart of historic St. Augustine on St. George Street.
Under the moniker, the Mountain Goats, singer-song writer and front man, John Darnielle first began playing and recording in 1991. Since then, an assortment of singles, demos, cassette tapes, EPs and 15 full-length albums have been recorded, including 2015’s Beat the Champ. If there is any word that can describe Darnielle and his band it is: longevity. With their latest release, the band continues to show their endurance in creating indie-folk ballads that focus on the beauty of storytelling.
In the Garrison Town courtyard of the Colonial Quarter, standing tall among the audience was a great oak tree dawned in multicolored lights and hanging lanterns. This created the perfect atmosphere for the evening’s intimate performance.
Starting off the show and supporting the Mountain Goats on tour was Blank Range from Nashville, Tennessee. The southern quintet provided the audience with an eclectic array of rock n’ roll mixed with building ballads that exploded into bluesy guitar solos and booming drums. John Darnielle even made a guest appearance for one of their songs, which was just the thing to get everyone in attendance excited for the Mountain Goats full lineup.
After taking the stage on the brisk October night, John and “the Goats,” as he calls his band, started off their set strong with The Ballad of Bull Ramos, a song from their new album, which ignited the crowd into a frenzy of dancing. Darnielle is a master of storytelling and their latest album that focuses on the lives of wrestlers inside and outside the ring definitely showcases this talent.
Throughout the performance, Darnielle was kind enough to explain the origin and meanings of most songs, describing wrestlers living behind masks in Animal Mask, the quirky pop culture commentary of The Diaz Brothers, a pair of brothers from the film Scarface and Biblical references found in Genesis 30:3. These songs and stories were transformed into sing-along anthems for the fans as everyone bobbed their heads and mouthed the words to the tunes they love.
Other fan favorites such as This Year and Love Love Love, kept the crowd entranced and smiling during the performance. No details in their songs were too small to share with the audience, which is often an underrated trait not found in musicians, who sometimes like to leave a little mystery to their work. The Mountain Goats go the extra mile in expressing their art, by also fully explaining the meaning of each song, completely involving fans in the creative process.
Halfway through their set, the band left the stage, leaving Darnielle to captivate the crowd with some slower piano ballads and acoustic songs. After their return, the band commented on competing for ears with a cheesy cover band playing loud 80’s rock less than a block away. Still, the audience cared about nothing besides the band in front of them.
Later returning for an encore, the Mountain Goats decided to play a cover of their own and one quite fitting for the season, Warren Zevon’sWerewolves of London, as the crowd howled at the moon along with the band. They then finished their performance with the upbeat Spent Gladiator 2, as Darnielle beat his chest to the rhythm with the band and ended the night with all the music stopping at once.
The Mountain Goats put on a warm and charming performance for fans and it seems these folk rock veterans show no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Take a listen to their latest release Beat the Champ, out now on Merge Records.