The Mountain Goats may be to goths as apples are to oranges — the two don’t make up your usual comparison, but they still maintain some basic similarities, if you really think about them.
John Darnielle’s usual lo-fi, lyrically narrative music might not immediately recall the dark-linered, all-black-wearing goth subculture, but the two do have similar origins. Darnielle himself was part of the goth community in his adolescence, as he’s mentioned in both his song lyrics and in interviews.
His 16th album, Goths, comes as a concept album — a personal artistic homage to the goth scene. It also, however, anxiously begs the question Darnielle must grapple with at this point in his career: Who will remember him come another quarter century?
Last Thursday night at The Fillmore, Darnielle — who at 50 years old now looks less like a punk rocker and more like an 8th-grade math teacher — was still received with resounding enthusiasm.The crowd — your typical San Francisco mix of Mac Demarco-emulating millennials, middle-age Deadhead-types, and yes, some bonafide goths — was ready.
Starting with the Goths opener, “Rain in Soho” — a steady downtempo growler that’s probably the most goth rock-like piece in The Mountain Goats’s entire canon — the matching all-black, sportscoat-wearing quartet filled The Fillmore up with cacophonous sound.
If anyone on the street yelled at you to “Stay Alive!” the way Darnielle did to the crowd from the stage, you’d be a little scared. But because it was John Darnielle at The Fillmore, it just seemed fitting.
Between swigs of tequila, Darnielle graciously introduced the other members of his band. Their rapport carried the performance, despite the fact that the majority of them are actually new additions to the formerly one-man project. They still played all of Darnielle’s old songs with him, from older crowd-pleasers such as “This Year,” off The Sunset Tree to new, but very fitting “We Do It Different on the West Coast” from Goths.
Darnielle even brought onto the stage famed Bay Area producer John Vanderslice to sing with him. Vanderslice — despite being on crutches — made it onto the stage and jammed with the band, much to the crowd’s delight.
After a long set and plenty of mutual appreciation between the band and its fans, the Mountain Goats left the stage, only to be beckoned on again for not one, but two encores. Darnielle wandered right out into and through the crowd, seeming to not only grace fans with his presence but also to greet old friends and acquaintances. Back on stage, he played Goths’ last song, “Abandoned Flesh,” but appeared to forget a word or two — regardless, he also brought out a saxophone, and the sexy woodwind vibes graciously overpowered and erased the memory of any mistakes.
Darnielle could do no wrong that night. The familiarity of both his music and his character lended itself well to the overwhelmingly positive atmosphere of The Fillmore. The world could use more goths.