I had almost forgotten that I had tickets to see The Mountain Goats until about a week ago, when I noticed that the show was sold out. I'm not a huge Mountain Goats fan - I got into them via Kaki King, and have only really listened to the Black Pear Tree EP she was featured on - so I was a little surprised to see that they had such a big following.
I arrived at the show a little late, and could hear John Darnielle's trademark voice echoing down the hallway as I walked in. Paradise was the most packed I'd seen it. I was greeted with brief monologue from John about the pain-in-the-ass calls for "Freebird," and a variety of witty stories and entertaining banter followed. He discussed how kids might potentially try to pawn his guitar for drugs and explained how, when considering or going through a divorce, the right time to get a lawyer is always today.
The witty, high-spirited, and tongue-in-cheek commentary balanced the deep, earnest, and often painful lyrics of each song perfectly. I only knew a handful of songs going in, but I enjoyed every moment of the performance, and plan to go back and listen to as much of The Mountain Goats' catalogue as possible.
But, to be honest, what really made the show amazing was the energy emanating from the crowd. I spent most of the show watching the fans in the front row screaming along to every single word, completely in love with the experience of seeing their favorite band. Wide smiles could be seen across the audience. You could tell that many people felt a deep, emotional connection to the music; the times they'd listened to The Mountain Goats all night after an intense breakup or during a difficult transition could be read on their faces. These people really cared about this music - it had had a profound impact on their lives.
I've been there before. I'm often very immersed in the music at a concert, and I can think of several shows that were powerfully emotional experiences (e.g. Sigur Ros, Japandroids, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and, interestingly, Fennesz). And of course I love those shows. But there's something great about seeing other people have that experience too. The Mountain Goats' performance was good, but that's only half of the story. The thing that made the show truly beautiful was seeing other people get so passionately into the music.
In the 9-5 world (more like 9-10, in my case), you rarely see true passion. I know few people that really love the experience of working or feel an emotional connection to the things they do. It may be a good job in the "it's fun" or "it's interesting" or "it's challenging" sort of way, but it lacks a real emotional investment.
The things I typically do outside of work also lack that real passion. Sure, going out for a few beers can be a lot of fun, but it's hardly a completely immersive experience. One night tends to bleed into the next...
Concerts, on the other hand, provide a view into the things people really care about. Their emotions, their passions, their values. Of course, many concerts are just fun times too, but every once in a while you hit on a real gem like this Mountain Goats show. Whether you feel it yourself or you have the chance to see others feel it, it's a beautiful reminder that there is more to life than work and booze.
And that's why I love concerts.