Besides being the day for the amazing Record Store Day, Saturday ended up adding an extra surprise when I found out the night before that The Mountain Goats are playing an intimate show at Wash U’s Gargoyle (There was virtually zero publicity for it).
Now if you were any sort of concert goer in St Louis, you would know that the Gargoyle is the worst concert venue in the area. While (or because of the fact that) it is run by the students, the university tends to be overzealous in creating guidelines for the venue. Not only are alcoholic drinks prohibited (nor sold), the university tends to station an indecent amount of guards/bouncers(?) inside the venue who aren’t afraid to abuse their authority.
Not only that, the venue itself is sorta-kinda horrible, an odd L-shaped basement with horrible sight lines. The worst offense though is because tickets are free to students, you usually have concerts where the majority of the audience weren’t even fans of the band and where just looking for a place to “party”. These are the type of people who tend to talk loudly during songs and spend more time taking pictures of themselves, ruining the experience of the concert for everyone else.
It would surprise you then after my rant above that this Mountain Goats concert ended being one of the better ones I attended in my life. Part of it is the energy that John Darnielle and his band brings to the stage and their ability to bring their songs to life. But part of it also is the fact that (because this concert was scarcely publicized,) the majority of the crowd are hard-core Mountain Goats fans. They were reverential during the quieter acoustic songs (even Darnielle praised the audience for this). And they were rocking out, dancing up a storm during the faster numbers.
The last two songs and the two song encore were transcendental. Darnielle worked the stage, encouraging the crowd to shout back the lyrics as he goes down and gives random audience members hugs while he prances around. He ended up giving me a forehead-to-forehead while singing to my face. It was amazing.
Check out oldie-favorite International Small Arms Traffic Blues that I recorded for the show below.