The Mountain Goats
With Pinkish Black
The Kessler Theater, Dallas
Monday, June 8, 2015
In 1985, Dusty Rhodes delivered what is widely considered the greatest speech in the history of pro wrestling when he dressed down Ric Flair in the infamous “Hard Times” promo. So it made perfect sense that the Mountain Goats, those indie darlings with a record all about wrestling, would use it as their walk-on music for a sold-out show at Kessler Theater on Monday night.
The Kessler is a special place, especially on nights when it's jam packed with fans who are prepared to slavishly follow any command the band gives them. Yes, the Mountain Goats literally have a cult-like following. It's frightening. Drummer Jon Wurster could cryptically tweet about drinking the juice, and the entire crowd of mega fans would show up for the show carrying in Hi-C and downers to mix with it.
That might sound like hyperbole, but how else do you describe a group of people who know every word to an album that was released a mere two months ago? Beat the Champ is gospel to these fans, and it's barely been in existence longer than an adoptable puppy.
Of course, some of this could be chalked up to how likable a guy frontman John Darnielle is. Especially when he's gleefully cool-dad dancing to his band jamming out, and when he enthusiastically yells things like, "That's one of the best bands in the state. That's one of the best bands in the country!" when discussing Dallas' Pinkish Black, who opened for him last night. Oh, and he's right, they might have confused the living hell out of the unsuspecting audience, but there's no doubt that we are fortunate to have one of the most innovative and interesting music groups in the country — hell, the world — operating in the area.
All through the night the Mountain Goats jumped around their catalog and the audience didn't miss a beat, singing along to everything from well-know material to deep cuts off the new album. There's something awfully impressive about a room full of sweaty people singing together about the untimely death of pro wrestler Bruiser Brody in Puerto Rico despite maybe eight people in the room (four of whom are the band) knowing who the hell Brody was.
It was hot. It was sweaty. And not one person other than my friend and me seemed to notice. They were all too busy losing their minds over the minor attention they were getting from their personal Jim Jones. The fans were the alien toys from Toy Story, and every song and encore (there were two) was the claw. Everything was met with undiluted awe, even when things got a little jazzy, including the guitar-free performance of “No Children.” A lot of this has to do with the lush arrangements on Beat the Champ, which matches one purely American art form (wrestling) with another (jazz).
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Also, there was a random cover of Ed Bruce's “Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” that the entire audience sang along to. Proof that Darnielle is truly the Willie Nelson for nerds.
One minor thing, though: How the hell do you come to Texas and not perform the lead single from your latest album which tells the tale of a member of one of the most famous wrestling families to ever walk the planet AND WHO HAPPENS TO BE FROM TEXAS. That said, the fans didn't really seem to mind, they were way too happy to hear “Blues in Dallas” performed in Dallas for the first, and promised to be the last, time.
Fans, man. Give them a bit and they'll forgive everything.