Words by: Ben Van Houten
Photos by: Nicole L. Browner

So it seems impossible to avoid describing last night’s The Mountain Goats show at the Swedish American Hall without rubbing salt in the wounds of anyone who didn’t attend. During and after John Darnielle’s captivating solo acoustic set, the feeling was thick in the air that this was a special performance and we were all lucky to witness it.

[audio:https://www.thebaybridged.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/05-dance-music.mp3] The Mountain Goats – “Dance Music”

The show was a benefit for the Family Violence Prevention Fund, and John Darnielle acknowledged his own experience growing up amidst domestic violence during the show. He thanked the organization for “doing God’s work” before launching into “Dance Music,” an autobiographical song about his troubled upbringing that felt especially powerful and heartbreaking after his remarks.

Nine songs into the lengthy set, Darnielle curiously mentioned that there was something special about the set list. Listing some previously performed song titles, he revealed that he was playing one song starting with each letter from A-Z in alphabetical order. “I just played ‘Island Garden Song’, so any ideas what’s coming next?” After receiving a disconcerting number of suggestions beginning with L, he gently reminded the audience that the next song would begin with a J and launched into “Jenny,” from All Hail West Texas.

While Darnielle would eventually abandon the A-Z approach–skipping some of the “trash letters”–the conceit allowed him to play a number of songs he admitted that he never plays live, including some very obscure ones. John emphasized that he did not want these songs mentioned outside of the show and I won’t break that trust, but I will say that the many MGs fanatics in attendance were made very, very happy.

[audio:http://www.gnomonsong.com/mp3s/Papercuts-Future_Primitive.mp3] Papercuts – “Future Primitive”

Papercuts opened the show with some highly enjoyable folk-rock, with airy vocal harmonies and a dreamy pop touch that filled the Swedish beautifully. The set highlight was the terrific Zombiesesque “Future Primitive” from the band’s upcoming album You Can Have What You Want, which comes out in April on Gnomonsong. I’ve been playing that song a lot lately, and it bodes well for the new release.