January 28, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 34°F


Mountain Goats rock the college

A large crowd sat cross-legged on the floor of Emerson Suites Friday — chatting with lights dimmed above. The room was in a wash of blue as music played gently in the background. The atmosphere was one of excited calmness as the crowd waited for The Mountain Goats to perform.

John Darnielle, lead vocalist and guitarist of The Mountain Goats, performs Sept. 18 in Emerson Suites. TJ GUNTHER/THE ITHACAN

As opening act Emily Arin made her way to the stage, the audience stood in unison and applauded the singer. She wowed them with her airy but strong vocals. Her lyrics played out sweetly against the strumming of her acoustic guitar and the accompaniment of the electric guitar. The crowd responded well to Arin, yelling out, “I love you!” and “You’re awesome!” to her between songs. With a country and folk influence, Arin was the perfect opening for the end-of-summer night.

When John Darnielle from The Mountain Goats took the stage, the crowd went wild. While the rest of the band was not there, no one would ever have thought anything was missing because of the sheer brilliance Darnielle exuded. His guitar solos provoked cheers from the crowd as he played rapidly and masterfully.

During “Color in Your Cheeks,” the audience swayed while mouthing the lyrics along — many with their eyes closed. In “Dance Music,” a fun and vivacious number, audience members danced and bopped around playfully and sang along with deep exuberance. He was able to captivate the crowd during every song.

Darnielle radiated charisma. During chats between songs he made the crowd laugh uproariously. He was even able to make breaking a string on his guitar during “See America Right” funny by saying, “I love it when people laugh when I break a string. I know it’s because you’re just happy for a bathroom break.” The crowd responded with cheers and laughs as he went to look for a new string. Afterwards, Darnielle showed off his fantastic stage presence, picking up exactly where he had left off in the song, with the same energy and control he had before the incident.

While audience members and photographers snapped pictures of him, Darnielle commented on how people never took photos of him when he was talking, so all his photos from shows were of him with his mouth wide open.

“Maybe people have different taste in pictures than I do,” he said, while the crowd again laughed and cheered.

His last song, “This Year,” resonated with many in the audience. Almost the whole crowd sang along with the chorus of “I am going to make it through this year, if it kills me.” Darnielle’s performance was truly thrilling to watch. His energy and commitment to the performance filled the room.

After Darnielle walked off stage, the crowd continued to cheer him on until he came back for an encore performance. The first song was a slower emotional one with crisp and beautiful lyrics. Darnielle ended the show with “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton.” This elicited cheers and dancing from the audience and ended with the whole room yelling back along with Darnielle. The performance was one to be remembered because of Darnielle’s ability to command such a fantastic stage presence and perform so energetically throughout a whole set.