Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Mountain Goats | Dartmouth College | 10/28/05

Last night, jds and I headed down to Hanover, NH to Dartmouth College's Rocket Fuel Club to catch The Mountain Goats. Hanover is a little less than an hour away from Montpelier and all interstates so it was a very easy trip.

Neither one of us had ever been to the Rocket Fuel Club so we no idea what to expect. The club is in the basement of their student center and was really simple to find. As we were walking to the club, we saw The Mountain Goats' visionary, John Darnielle, sitting at a table in a conference room. It has to be one of the most sterile "backstage" area in rock. Nothing crazy is going to happen backstage at the Rocket Fuel Club with everyone peering in through the conference room door's window as they walk to the club's entrance.

The club itself has the look of a disco leftover from the 80's with blinking lights in the dance floor and uncomfortable vinyl furniture surrounding the edges. The other thing you immediately notice is that there isn't a stage. The band is just set up on one side of the club. Thankfully, I'm taller than the average concert-goer but it still gives a cruddy view of the band.

jds and I quickly headed over to the bar to grab some beers. The pleasant surprise here was that the beer cost as much as entrance to the show...nothing. Granted it was PBR but going home with the same amount of money as I left with is always a blessing. Plus, they had a huge bowl of halloween candy available for everyone to enjoy. Hey, for $41,355 a year, those are the kind of perks the students get and I'm more than happy to glom off of them.

The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers opened the show. I wasn't familiar with them before learning they were going to be the opening band. However, I had found a few mp3 files from their website to check out before the show. Based upon those mp3 files, I had expected them to be a folk based rock band. This proved to be a very wrong assumption as they proceeded to generate a lot more noise than I ever expected. jds noted how much they sounded like Radiohead and Interpol which was very accurate. There were even some chord progressions that led me sing Radiohead tunes to myself. Overall, they were OK but didn't inspire me to learn any more about them.

Around 11pm, Darnielle and his bass player, Peter Hughes, took the "stage" (aka the performance patch of carpeting). They didn't have any other band members with them which was slightly disappointing but not horrible. Perhaps some keys would have been nice to add in but its absence didn't hinder the show.

I had never seen the Goats before but had heard about Darnielle's facial expressions and repoir with the crowd. Both of those traits were on full display, which, combined with Darnielle's confidence and comfort with performing, made for an enjoyable show. They opened up with "Source Decay" which quickly got everyone into the show. They did a few tunes from their great 2005 release Sunset Tree such as "Love Love Love", "Dance Music" and "Lion's Teeth" but the set list included a wide variety of tunes. By the way, the guy in this photo against the pole with the green and pink striped shirt was the biggest Goat fan there. He spent every song leaning against the pole with his eyes closed mouthing the words. He never missed a word. I got the sense that he spends a lot of time laying on his dorm's bed listening to Darnielle over and over again.

One downside to the show was the excessive number of talkers during the show. There were probably 200 or so people in this small club but with such a low barrier to entry into the club, the show attracted Goats fans as well as friends of friends of friends of Goats fans who were just there to socialize and coat their tummies in PBR before heading out to the night's parties. For most of the songs, Darnielle's voice and guitar could drown out the talkers but the soft tunes were largely ruined. Perhaps charging just a nominal fee to get in would weed out a lot of the talkers but it wasn't that big of a deal for me. It didn't ruin the night.

For the last few tunes, Darnielle brought the gang from The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers back out on stage. Together, they performed a cover of The Silver Jews' "Pet Politics". Being a big Joos fan, I was very excited. I had never heard a band cover them at a show. However, "Pet Politics" is one of my least favorite Joos tunes but Darnielle shortened the boring chorus and rawked it up a bit. The combination of those two things made the song sound great. It was a nice cap to a good evening. The crowd tried to bring the Goats back out for a second encore but Darnielle was done.

Hopefully, the Rocket Fuel Club will book more shows next semester. The absence of a stage is annoying but everything else about the place is so easy, that it makes it another good club for our area. The Hold Steady will be there on Nov. 18th but I'm planning on seeing The Black Keys in Montreal on Nov. 17th so I'll be wiped out on the 18th.

1 comment:

Flatlander said...

I realized after writing this post that The Mountain Goats covered "Pet Politics" on the disc of covers that accompanied the June edition of The Believer magazine (the music issue).

The live version was much more rocking though than the studio cover.