The Cult of Mountain Goats

 Latest Tour a Godsend for Superfans


When I showed up at Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle’s now-former house in Ames, IA in 2000, it was epic – long before everyone oversaturated that adjective. I was a student at Iowa State University and I was there to interview him for the school paper. But actually, it was more of a hangout.

As red wine flowed, we listened to some Norwegian death metal, a longtime obsession of his. Of course, John’s acoustic folk rock is the absolute opposite of black metal. However, he often strums his guitar just as violently as any member of Mayhem ever would.

He showed me boxes and boxes of cassette tapes filled with original songs he recorded on his trusty boombox. In those days, John performed solo and recorded all of his music on that boombox. Now he rocks a full band, complete with a horn section. He even performed at Carnegie Hall earlier this year.

But on his current tour, John Darnielle is paired solely with now-veteran bassist Peter Hughes, sporting an old-school vibe in intimate venues.


At his gig last night at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall, Darnielle performed a myriad of quiet songs that were deep cuts from albums that leaned more to the obscure. “You Were Cool,” a fan-favorite that is unreleased was a highlight, as was “Ox Baker Triumphant,” from 2006’s esoteric “Babylon Springs” EP.  

At moments, it was so quiet you could hear the fizzle and pop of a beer can opening. It was like an opera concert, with everyone in the audience not making a peep, except to applaud at the end of each song. That’s how intimate the fan’s relationship is with John.

Whether they were lip synching or singing at full volume, the crowd enjoyed every minute of it. And rightly so. His ultra-fanatical followers snap up and memorize every EP, every B-side, every album (there are 14, not including the stuff he used to release on cassette tape only).

The only “hit” he played was the encore – “No Children” – a fast, singalong lyrical masterpiece from 2002’s “Tallahassee.” But it didn’t matter. The Cult of Mountain Goats knew every single song. And every single song sounded great.




19 – Kansas City, MO – The Record Bar [SOLD OUT]

20 – St. Louis, MO – Old Rock House

22 – Birmingham, AL – The Bottletree [SOLD OUT]

23 – Gainesville, FL – High Dive 

24 – Fort Lauderdale, FL – Culture Room

26 – Charleston, SC – The Charleston Pourhouse

27 – West Columbia, SC – New Brookland Tavern

28 – Wilmington, NC – The Soapbox


6 – Durham, NC – Festival for the Eno

26 – Newport, RI – Newport Folk Festival

28 – Asheville, NC – Bele Chere Festival


13-16 – Miami, FL – Atlantic Ocean Comedy and Music Festival


7 – Bristol, UK – St. Georges

8 – London, UK – Union Chapel

9 – Manchester, UK – Royal Northern College of Music

10 – Glasgow, Scotland – Arches

12 – Gent, Belgium – Handelsbeurs

13 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – People’s Place

14 – Cologne, Germany – Luxor

16 – Paris, France – La Gaite Lyrique

18 – Madrid, Spain – Teatre Conde Duque

19 – Barcelona, Spain – Caprichos de Apolo 

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The Dazing Power of John Darnielle

The Mountain Goats Win Over Chicago Fanboys and Fangirls With Ease



He is the only guitarist who wields an acoustic like it’s an axe. And that axe delivered a drop-dead ravishing performance Saturday night at the Vic Theatre in Chicago.

The genius behind the Mountain Goats –  John Darnielle – is also the only indie rocker who would ever introduce a tune by saying “This is a song about a psychiatric hospital” or “This is a song about when I was a teenage drunk.” And then burst into a track that isn’t slit-your-wrists depressing at all. It sounds uplifting.




John Darnielle is like an indie-rock novelist. His tunes are like chapters – each one telling the tale of some dysfunctional relationship, twisted love story or disheveled vagrant. But the music doesn’t sound anything like the lyrics. For the most part, the Mountain Goats’ music sounds rhapsodical and happy.

In fact, Darnielle is so prolific, he couldn’t accommodate a request to play “Fault Lines” because he didn’t know it. I don’t blame him.

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