The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle often gets painted as a one-man musical radness machine. He writes brilliantly about music on his amazing Last Plane to Jakarta website (including the aptly titled "Thirty Short Poems About My Favorite Black Metal Band"), pens spot pieces here and there for eMusic, and even received writing "workshop" credit in the liner notes of a recent John Vanderslice album. All of this stuff matters little compared to listening to his albums or—better still—seeing the Mountain Goats live.
On 2005's The Sunset Tree, Darnielle energized autobiographical songs by spitting out facts about his abusive childhood before closing with hindsight-informed views of his abusive stepfather's death. For weeks it was all I would listen to on my daily commute—if I ever turned off the album, I'd drive in complete silence, unheard of during my car-commute years—and it caused emotional freakouts (in traffic) more than once. It was wonderful, scary, and awesome—and it completely wrecked me.
Last year's Get Lonely created an epilogue-of- sorts, with image-filled, pointed takes on loss— specifically, the loss of the kind of relationship that leaves one "not being used to being the only person there." Darnielle's narrator remembers "the day we moved into our small house 'til the vision got too vivid to bear," and notes that "some days I think I'd feel better if I tried harder/most days I know it's not true."
During last year's Doug Fir show, Darnielle played the chords while the crowd sang the brutally honest lyrics to 2002's "No Children" ("I hope you blink before I do/Yeah I hope I never get sober... and I hope you die/I hope we both die"), facilitating one of the creepiest moments I've ever participated in at a rock show. You've got two chances to experience a genius this weekend. Don't blow it.