By Brennin Cummings
John Darnielle pressed his eyes closed and reached his arms out to the crowd, stroking his grateful disciples’ faces while they all screamed the gospel of The Mountain Goats- “I HOPE YOU DIE. I HOPE WE BOTH DIE.”
Their 90-minute set at Castaways on April 2 felt more like a church service. The Mountain Goats covered new material from their new album, All Eternals Deck, as well as pulling out old favorites from Full Force Galesburg, that Darnielle himself admitted he might not even remember how to play. Opening band, Megafaun, joined The Mountain Goats on stage during the anthem “This Year” and watched Darnielle with amazed eyes as if they were his apostles, as they banged on tambourines and yelled the lyrics along with the gathering of college kids.
I was singing along in the front row during “Damn These Vampires” when Darnielle looked straight at me. Of course, being the spaz that I am, I got nervous and fucked up the lyrics—right in front of John Darnielle. He laughed, finished the song and said, “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to trip you up!”
After the show, when me and my friends asked for a picture with him, he remembered me and said, “I didn’t mean to make you nervous! I just like to make that connection with people.”
That need to make personal connections with his audience was obvious throughout the show, but especially during the aforementioned emotional encore performance of “No Children.” Darnielle dove into the crowd grabbing his worshippers’ cheeks while both deity and devotee yelled into the same microphone, standing on the same dirty bar floor as the audience.
It’s rare to get that feeling of intimacy with a band in a room of 200 people, yet when I walked out of Castaways last night, I felt like I had some sort of personal bond with Darnielle, as I’m sure everyone in that room did. The show transcended a normal concert into a display of straight up emotional spirituality.
All I have to say is: All hail John Darnielle.