with the Chandeliers. The Bar Formerly Known as Indigo, Friday 7th April.
Indie touchstones The Mountain Goats returned to Wellington in the wake of their incredible New Zealand concert debut last year.
The Chandeliers got the evening started with their haunted organ and tight grooves, but failed to engage the mostly seated audience, saving their few dancy numbers until the end of their set, and their pop-rock sensibilities were shown up by the master craftsman of melody that is John Darnielle. Darnielle is a true legend, having released ten full-length albums in more than two decades under the Mountain Goats moniker. The line up was simple: John on guitar and vocals, and long-time collaborator Peter Hughes on bass and harmony vocals. There is not anything to ‘get’ about the Mountain Goats’ music: they write simple-sounding songs with varying degrees of humour, beauty, narrative and melodrama. They are not everybody’s cup of tea, but they are certainly mine: splash of milk, no sugar.
The paradox that is John Darnielle revealed itself immediately. Opener ‘You or Your Memory’ consisted of heartfelt lyrics about a personal crisis point, but was coupled with faux-rockstar gestures from the singer. A strange kind of grin-slash-grimace appeared often on his face as he rocked his acoustic guitar way harder than many death metallers. The band left the stage after only a dozen songs, taken mostly from the latest album The Sunset Tree, as well as several new songs. Highlights were ‘Alibi’ and ‘Ox Baker Triumphant’, a narrative that was explained at length. Some fans seemed disappointed by the lack of ‘pre-band’ Mountain Goats songs, but the encore made up for this with favourites ‘Going to Georgia’ and ‘Monkey in the Basement’. The between-song anecdotes were humorous and warming as usual; Darnielle seemed somewhat bewildered by the very vocal finger-wagging rockers, a bemusing element that most of their other shows probably lack.
Indigo proved itself unsuitable for such a personal, stripped down show, especially when compared with the warm intimacy of their previous Wellington show at Bodega. The loud-quiet dynamic was less intense due to the intrusion of background chatter from such an open yet claustrophobic space. A venue. however, would find it hard to sour this performance – and the band delivered an exciting and honest set that left one happily contemplating the absurdities of life.