When I first started listening to The Mountain Goats in 2009, my co-worker who introduced me to their music would play a live recording of theirs, in part to introduce me to what it would be like to go and see them live. The recordings intimidated me because many of the songs had fans singing along with the songs, sometimes singing just as loudly as chief singer John Darnielle. I asked him if it was a regular occurrence to have everyone in the audience singing like that — he said that it was. I couldn’t help but think it would be awkward to be one of the few people in the audience to not be able to sing along like that and he assured me that it would not be an issue.
I first saw The Mountain Goats in December of 2009, with the band formerly known as Final Fantasy opening for them. In the time leading up to the concert I had been listening to little other than their music with the exception of when I was at work, not wishing to force numerous hours of the same band on them day after day. My then girlfriend (now wife) Elizabeth was with me and we got to the venue extra early as I really didn’t want to be late.
After waiting in two sets of lines, we went inside and paused at the merchandise table. I had been told by numerous people in bands that one of the best ways to support a band that is on a label is to buy one of their shirts at the merchandise table as they get more money from that than from records being bought. Having too many shirts already, I resolved to pick up a couple of records that I didn’t have yet — on vinyl, naturally.
We enjoyed Final Fantasy but I was still anxious about the idea of being in a room full of people who knew the lyrics so well. The Mountain Goats came on and after the first song John warmed the room by saying, “Hi, we’re The Mountain Goats!” This is a funny thing to hear especially if you know that John has almost always said it when performing live even during the many years he performed alone. Song after song came on and I realized that I recognized the majority of them. Indubitably, this was largely due to the many hours of listening to them on my iPod on my way to and from the office.
There were even a couple of songs to which I — along with everyone else — sang along. My fears were not only baseless, but in a way I had become one of the people I was worried that I would encounter — a fan who sang along with all of the songs.
Singing along with almost all of the songs came at the second Mountain Goats concert I saw, which was late last month, the day before the new album came out. I went with a co-worker of my roommate because he really was interested. It was apparently the first appearance of The Mountain Goats at the Bowery Ballroom since 2007. They took the stage and played a lot of classics, most of which I had memorized — and so I sang along.
The transition from anxious fan to full fledged sing along fan was rather smooth albeit I pushed it along with my near fanatical (pun somewhat intended) listening of just about every album, ep, seven inch, and cassette that the band had recorded. When they next return to the area, I can feel even better about the experience, having seen them a couple of times and knowing that I won’t feel like the odd person out.