I've loved the Mountain Goats since I was 17 and first heard "Going to Georgia" on Tallahassee's college radio station, V89, and had to stop the car to listen. In fact, the Mountain Goats are a dealbreaker for me: you don't have to have all of John Darnielle's albums, but you have to acknowledge that he's a genius for me to like you. My friend Marina (coincidentally formerly a V89 DJ) recently encountered John in the wilderness, and has this report:
"We rented a house on the Outer Banks in NC last week with some friends, and one day decided to sign up for this kayaking tour of a wildlife refuge. We get there and walk over to the other folks who are waiting for the tour to start. There's a family and one other couple. I didn't pay them much mind at first, but I kept looking at the guy, thinking that he looked really familiar. The guide had us all say our names. I didn't hear the guy say his name, but when his wife said "Lalitree" it hit me. John Darnielle! I'm trying to keep my cool here and not have a total indie rock weirdo spazz moment, but it was hard. We all get into the water, we’re kayaking around, it's totally freaking beautiful. Except that I'm mostly concentrating on how to think of how I can confirm this - is it rude to just ask him point blank, should I wait until we're back on land? I wasn't 100% sure, but I was 98%...especially when he starts talking.
At some point he starts talking with the guide about taking Biblical Hebrew classes in college, Palestinian liberation theology, and classical Greek grammar declensions (all the while interspersed with asides like "oh that’s some [insert obscure bird name here]", and I knew I was right. About halfway through the tour, the guide asked him what he did for a living and he told her that he was a singer. I figured that was my moment.
I paddled over a little closer (apparently almost knocking over my friend Haelim in my haste) and said "Your last name is Darnielle, right?" He looked at me blankly for a second, then half-smiled/half-puzzled a yes. "I knew it! I just knew it! You're John Darnielle and you have no idea how important your music has been to me". (Yes, I really said that. In a kayak, in the middle of some bay on the outer banks with snowy egrets flying over head.) He seemed really surprised. I apologized for being an indie rock weirdo, but told him I couldn't help myself and that his records had really formed the soundtrack to my adult life. (Yes, I actually said something to that effect as well.) He was super nice, told me it was actually really validating and rewarding when something like that happened especially since he doesn't think of himself as recognizable. I told him it was actually Lalitree that gave it away; he made some crack about trying to get her to change her name to Jane. Anyway, they were both so nice and we all talked as we paddled around. It happened to be the day of my first wedding anniversary, and it was way better than anything Erik could have gotten me. Is that weird? And then we went back to the house, and I forced everyone to listen to the Mountain Goats and Lifter Puller for hours while we played a round of Mah Jong."
(If you're not familiar with John Darnielle aka The Mountain Goats, Sasha Frere-Jones wrote about John Darnielle (and Craig Finn of the Hold Steady) in the New Yorker a few months ago. (Though I disagree with him calling Darnielle "America's best non-hip hop lyricist", but then I've never heard hip hop with lyrics that couldn't have been penned by a 12 year old with a rhyming dictionary. Yeah, yeah, let the hate mail begin, but nobody's ever been able to convince me otherwise. That emperor has no, uh, bling, in my opinion. (sorry!))
Anyways, enough willfull ignorance maybe, here's the Mountain Goats fan site. )