A few times a week, Gothamist publishes music reviews by our contributor Jeff Baum. The opinions below belong entirely to the author.
John Darnielle last night said that he'll never come through New York City without playing the Knitting Factory. "Even if we were playing Madison Square Garden (not that we will be anytime soon), we'd still make a point to stop by here too." This was my first time seeing him play. After hearing his glowing praise for the heralded venue, I was expecting something special, and while for all I know this may have been much like any other Mountain Goats set, it was nothing short of an extraordinary night of music.
It was Halloween. John came on stage wearing a black friar's robe, complete with a gigantic gold cross around his neck. His bass player was dressed as a dark demon in a black shroud. He immediately broke into the energetic 'Going to Georgia', which he later joked was a great song to lead off with because he doesn't have to listen to people yelling out requests for it all night. After a captivating set by The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers and an excellent, albeit sleep inducing hour of Grizzly Bear, The Mountain Goats immediately provided the spark needed to kick in a much desired second wind.
I love this band and all, but I cannot consider myself anything but a passing fan compared to the other people in attendance. Darnielle has written literally hundreds of songs, and it seemed like the majority of the audience knew every word of every song he played. Many dressed up in costumes representing their favorite tune, hoping John would take notice and play it for them. It was quite endearing, if not bordering a bit on obsession. I’ll take a fanatic audience over an indifferent one any day of the week.
Near the end of the long set, he called Prayers & Tears back out to accompany them on a few songs. This was the last night of a month-long tour they had all been on together, and shared the stage to play a few more songs. After a couple of encores, they all said farewell, with John promising a new album in the spring and another tour next fall. I left last night a much bigger Mountain Goats fan than I was when I arrived and I severely regret blowing off their show at Bowery on Saturday. I cannot wait until their next appearance in New York. I expect it to be back at the Knitting Factory once again.