The Mountain Goats offer rarities, covers at Hopscotch 2012

Submitted on Apr 10, 2012

The strangely redeeming story of the Mountain Goats begins more than two decades ago, in California, where psychiatric nurse John Darnielle started recording primitive songs with a pounded acoustic guitar, an unrestrained voice and an unadorned boombox. Now living in Durham with his family, Darnielle is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s best working songwriters, equally adept with scene-setting specifics as he is life-altering dramas. In 2005, the New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones famously called Darnielle “America’s best non-hip-hop lyricist.”

The years that followed that rudimentary dawn were a steady evolution for Darnielle: With several relocations came several record labels and a steady stream of releases split between singles, albums, cassettes and compact discs. What’s more, in the last two decades, the Mountain Goats have written several thousand songs, each chronicled and committed to memory—whether or not those tunes actually made it to an album—by a growing army of Mountain Goats obsessives. While Darnielle has harnessed a cult following, he’s also inched toward something like popular acceptance, with a full-time rock trio and a recent album—his Merge debut, the splendid All Eternals Deck—that opened at No. 71 on The Billboard 200. In the past year, he’s appeared on late-night television, performed at Carnegie Hall and debuted a new work with acclaimed a cappella group Anonymous 4.

At Hopscotch, John Darnielle will play two sets by himself on the same night in Fletcher Opera Theater. He will perform solo, mostly with an acoustic guitar, offering the sort of rarities that the band’s most devoted fans howl for at every show, full rock band or no. “If you have been to a North Carolina Mountain Goats solo set, you already know about that kind of set and bear the marks on your body to prove it,” Darnielle says. “Come on out and get your wounds re-opened.”

The second set, however, will be unlike any in the 20-year history of the Mountain Goats—all covers, possibly all on Fletcher’s beautiful grand piano, all by himself. A lifelong metal fan and longtime columnist for the extreme music magazine Decibel, Darnielle says he plans to spend a portion of the summer arranging and learning covers of heavy metal songs. “The tentative title for this set,” Darnielle says, “is ‘Nearer My Hateful Mankind Plague to Thee,’ but titles are subject to change.

“There used to be a line on some old noise albums, something to the effect of, ‘If you are remotely interested in the contents of this package, you should not hesitate to buy it,’” he continues. “I don’t like to give a hard sell, but that’s this set. I will see you there.” —Grayson Currin

Tickets to the Hopscotch Music Festival are available here. The complete Hopscotch lineup will be announced April 18th. Please stay tuned for more announcements in the coming weeks.

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