The Mountain Goats - Live In Cincinnati (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Mountain Goats

Live In Cincinnati (2015)

live show

For me, The Mountain Goats have always been a very personal band. That statement is twofold, as the John Darnielle has written some of the most touchingly personal lyrics I’ve ever heard. The band is also one of those bands that I’ve always felt was meant for being listened to on headphones in a quiet apartment or while you’re driving alone late at night. Transferring that over to a venue like Bogart’s, which has a capacity of 1,200, can alter that feeling of a band who you’ve always felt is best suited for those quiet moments by yourself. You can’t blame a band when their popularity out grows the setting their music evokes though, and luckily The Mountain Goats gave me no reason to blame them for anything.

On April 16, 2015, The band took the stage to Dusty Rhodes, one of the greatest orators in the history of professional wrestling, telling Ric Flair all about hard times. While many of the people around me seemed less than excited by this, I thought it was perfect, as the band’s latest released Beat the Champ is centered on professional wrestling, and there’s no greater connection than one of the greatest wordsmith’s pro wrestling has ever seen talking about the same things one of the greatest wordsmiths in music today talks about … hard times.

The set opened with “Stabbed to Death outside San Juan” which was played and sung beautifully. While the song, on its surface, is about a professional wrestler being stabbed as part of a match … it’s also about dying for the sake of recognition. They followed this with “Cry for Judas,” one of my favorite songs that deals with the old punk adage of live fast and die young in perhaps the most poetic fashion it ever has.

After a few more songs with the whole band, Darnielle played a few songs solo. The first of these, “Minnesota,” is the oldest song the band played that night. And it also changed my view on something that has been a source of constant annoyance for me at shows since the advent of the smart phone, people recording video. Perhaps, it stems from mine being just a few years older than several of my fellow concert goers … but I always feel like doing this puts proof of the experience above the actual experience itself. However, my opinion on that was changed after he finished playing this song. He recounted when this song first came out, in 1997 on Full Force Galesburg, he was playing to crowds of thirty people and was considering going back to being a psychiatric nurse full time however when people want to record him playing those songs it lets him know he made the right choice. It was a perspective I hadn’t considered before, and also showed that even in a medium sized concert hall their can still be a real connection made between the artist and the crowd.

The final song, of three, played solo was “Steal Smoked Fish” which we were told is about drug addicts. When the crowd cheered I shared the same thought that Darnielle articulated, you’re not old enough if you’re still cheering for drug addicts. When the plea of “God bless the guys from my old neighborhood. Gone past the point where any blessings can do them any good” you either know exactly what he means or you’ve been fortunate enough to not have any friends die from drug problems. It’s a connection I’d rather not be able to make to a lyric.

“Love Love Love” was the second song the band played after full band came back on the stage, and the final verse became a sing-a-long with the entire crowd joining in. This, for me, is the most magical point of any concert. You can keep your guitar solos, pyrotechnics, and stage theatrics any day of the week. Nothing is better than when a piece of music brings a crowd filled mostly with perfect strangers together in a chorus.

The band was joined on stage by opener Stephen Brodsky, who you may recognize as the vocalist for Cave In, for the first song of their encore “The Best Ever Death Metal Band out of Denton” which once again brought the crowd together to sing the refrain of “Hail Satan!” while Brodsky brought a more metallic shout to the table, which complimented the generally clean vocal style of Darnielle nicely.

The set closed with, “This Year,” and the crowd closed the night out as one unified body sing, dancing, and jumping along as the band played the song. As it turned out, my concern about the intimacy was an unnecessary one. Every moment the band was on stage they were able to engage the audience, and aside from a moment where some people had to be told to shut up since they were talking louder than the band was playing on a softer number, they never seemed to lose it. No, it wasn’t as intimate as seeing them in a small listening room would have been. But, live music is a communal event, and luckily for everyone involved Cincinnati is typically a great community of people to experience live music with.