The Mountain Goats Grapple with 'Human Horror' at the Fillmore, 12/14/12

The Mountain Goats at the Fillmore on Dec. 14
The Mountain Goats Matthew E. White Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 The Fillmore

Better than: Giving up entirely on people, life.

So Friday, Dec. 14, was not a good day for trying to have faith in humanity. After a full 12 hours of media consumption following the horrors of the day's events in Newtown, Conn., we -- like many people, surely -- could have easily come home after work, drank a bottle of wine for dinner, and spent the evening in the fetal position, getting up every now and then to scroll through Facebook comment fights about gun control.

Instead, there was a vigil to attend. Yes, that word choice might be overwrought for a rock 'n' roll show. But there is no spiritual or humanitarian leader we would have rather listened to talk about love and death and survival and human nature for two and a half hours that night than one Mister John Darnielle.

"Something I'm hearing a lot of is this 'As a parent, I am grieving this much more,' thing, which in part I find offensive because it's a human horror, right? Like if you're a parent or not shouldn't have anything to do with whether or not you are absolutely mortified by the murder of children," said the bespectacled, sport-coated Darnielle, about midway through his set. It was an emotional evening that fluctuated between Darnielle's solo work -- just him in a spotlight with a guitar -- to songs off 2012's Transcendental Youth, with a bright, full, five-piece backing band, its ringleader almost jaunty at the piano.

"At the same time, I have a 15-month old at home. And when you are far from your child and you hear that something terrible has happened to children, there is this indescribable horror that descends on you -- that I think is understandable by anyone -- but at the same time it does sort of feel like it belongs to you. So right now I'm going to play a few lullabies that I sing to my son before he goes to bed," added one of the most prolific lyricists of the past two decades, to a chorus of awwwws. And then the entire sold-out Fillmore had a sing-along to the Grateful Dead's "Ripple."

You know that guy who wrote a plaintive album about meth addiction in 2004? This isn't him. This isn't the tape deck guy from the previous decade, either. Self-assured as a performer, energetic, with a voice fuller and deeper than even the last time we saw him in 2010, Darnielle sounded just plain strong Friday night -- especially on the older, therapeutic favorites like "Love Love Love" or "You or Your Memory" or the underrated "Up the Wolves," where the contrast with his former, wavery-voiced self was most apparent. Forget wine, the guy's aging like good whiskey.

It doesn't hurt, of course, to be backed by bassist Peter Hughes (who consistently seems like he's having more fun than anyone in the room, and who on this particular night, in a sharp light-colored suit, looked like he might have climbed out of a British Invasion documentary) and drummer-who-never-sleeps Jon Wurster (who at various points seemed to be made entirely of flailing arms, a gleeful, hipster Medusa trying to either destroy the drum set or make it take flight).

Next: Darnielle, at the merch table, is swarmed by the crowd.

Location Info



The Fillmore

1805 Geary, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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@iPORT Danke, sir. Can think of very few other places I would've wanted to be.

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