The Mountain Goats – Tickets – Aladdin Theater – Portland, OR – December 16th, 2012

The Mountain Goats

The Mountain Goats

Matthew E. White

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Aladdin Theater

Portland, OR

$22.50 adv/dos

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Minors -21 permitted with parent or legal guardian.

The Mountain Goats
The Mountain Goats
John Darnielle is a human male and American musician who was born in Indiana.
Alone or in collaboration with others, he has been known as the Mountain Goats since 1991.
He grew up in Central California, and has lived in many states, but now lives in North Carolina with his wife and child and at least one cat that I have observed.
I visited his home in the year 2011. I took off my shoes when I came in the door because that is my habit. No one made me do it.
John Darnielle's house is not rockstar huge, nor rockstar glamorous. It does not have a home theater or rolfing center. It's modest.
There is an office packed with shelves reflecting his preoccupations: pulp horror and philosophy and religious study. John Darnielle is fascinated with both death metal and the Holy Bible and speaks eloquently of the dark magic and elegance and grace of both.
Now I am going to tell you that, in the study by the stairs, I stepped in a little bit of cat vomit.
I can report that John Darnielle was not embarrassed. Because he knows it is in a cat's nature to vomit, and because he saw an opportunity for kindness. He loaned me some socks, and they were argyle, warm from the dryer and very soft.
The house has a basement, which John Darnielle describes as "awesome."
The basement is not particularly awesome. (I have seen some awesome basements.) It has some drums and guitars in it but otherwise is a fairly typical basement of a modest, middle-class home. Normal.
It is my impression that this may be why John Darnielle considers his basement to be awesome, for such normality was not necessarily going to be his fate.
Inside the basement is a box of a limited-edition, alternate vinyl version of his album The Sunset Tree, which came out in 2005. Each one is hand-painted by John: white sleeve traced with nave snakes and swirls of bright color.
John Darnielle told me that he made these when things were going well in his career, but he was still not convinced he was going to make it...when he still thought he might have to go back to psychiatric nursing, which is what he did when he started writing and recording songs.
Those first recordings, you may have read, were made on a simple cassette recorder. And those tapes of just him plus guitar are full of hiss and urgency. They were made for one reason. Like these hand-painted LPs, even if all else failed, they were going to get out there, no matter what.
He has written almost 600 songs now, and some of them are very sad, dealing with hard drugs and tragic ends, hurting yourself and others, sicknesses of both body and brain, off-brand alcohols. They are told in beautiful, unnerving, specific detail, because John Darnielle is a very good writer, and also some of them are just true stories about his own life.
But many have noted that John Darnielle seems often very happy, and his demeanor on stage is almost exclusively unhaunted, ecstatic.
Anyone who reads his Twitter feed knows he takes great delight in his delights: vegan cooking, fat babies, hockey, the beautiful alchemy of Chemex coffee, Anonymous 4, playing music for people, loaning out socks when the time comes, basements.
These are the consolations; and if some of his songs suggest that there are real hells on earth, other songs remind that the heavens are equally close at hand.
(Sometimes they are even the same songs.)
It is my impression that this is the ecstasy John Darnielle is feeling: that thrill of having survived, escaped for even a second to enjoy those small transcendent delights, and to sing of them.
And I can report that if you are standing in the basement with John Darnielle and wondering how he survived this far, to stand happy in this heavenly basement, you may look down at the hand-painted album of songs you are holding and realize the answer is in your hand.
Like that album, TRANSCENDENTAL YOUTH is full of songs about people who madly, stupidly, blessedly won't stop surviving, no matter who gives up on them.
I can report that it is a very good album and has many more instruments on it than those early tapes, including Peter Hughes on bass, Jon Wurster on drums, and, for the first time, a full horn section. And all of this makes a very joyous noise.
Everything I have written here is true, to the best of my knowledge.
I am not giving back the socks.
That is all.

John Hodgman
2012
Matthew E. White
Matthew E. White
Like all of us, Matthew E. White was born into a constructed world. His unfolded out of the mingled sands of Virginia Beach and Manila, the youngest son in a family that raised him barefoot between the blurred racket of that far eastern jungle city and the backyard lightning-bug-hum of a trimmed southern lawn. His first moves, from picking up a basketball to picking up a guitar, were cast in the dual glow of these latitudes. Something between them taught him to love. Something between them taught him to time travel. Here began the lessons of Big Inner.

On that day in August, when the earth shifted into the shape of Matthew E. White, there was so much to listen to, so much to put your heart into, already. The dusts of the Delta had swirled into Rock and Roll. Alan Lomax's recordings sat in a big building in Washington, DC. Lee Perry had built The Black Ark in his backyard in Kingston. Somebody else lived in Big Pink. Mac Rebennack was Dr. John. King Tubby was dubbing. Terry Riley was overdubbing. Sly Stone had hit #1. Randy Newman's Sail Away was a decade old. Caetano Veloso had just turned 40. Muddy Waters was just about gone. Jimmy Cliff had sung "Many Rivers to Cross." So had Harry Nilsson. White shared this common inheritance. He stitched his own flag out of it.

And so it begins with "One of These Days," looking in, up, and over in its declarations of love. It's waking up next to someone. It's feeling the wood of the church pew on your back. This is your introduction to Matthew E. White and the world of Spacebomb; he's convincing you to stay the night. You give me joy like a fountain deep down in my soul. You can hear him breathe in. The first time around, White only hums the chorus. Hums it. Plants it in your head as it blooms in his. Strings enter like a siren. The guitar only talks when it has something to say. The choir lets you know you're not alone. Overdubbed woodwinds and muted brass like it on top, dancing around the embers of the bass line. Whether you're a woman or man, White's mournful, get-it-on voice may be all you can hear: I don't want to live a day longer than you, so let's meet the Lord together. You can call it soul music if you want. It's his soul and it's his music.

Big Inner is told in seven songs that merge memory with the rawness of any given human moment. The references — from the lyrics that echo the common conditions of love, death, seeking, and finding, to open tributes to artists like Washington Phillips, Allen Toussaint, Jorge Ben, Jimmy Cliff, and Randy Newman — are their own scavenger hunt through history and through White's place in it. "Big Love," the album's whopping second track, evolves the serenade of the opener into an all-out field holler. The vibe is farmed by Trey Pollard's cinematic string arrangement, Megafaun's Phil Cook on near-frantic keys, baritone sax squawks, pacemaking congas, and the first appearance of a burning White guitar solo. I am a barracuda, I am a hurricane. You don't need the seven-voice choir chasing White's voice to make you believe it, but it sure doesn't hurt.

For a record so personal, built on such code, it's never been a secret. Inseparable from Matthew E. White is Spacebomb — the process, the sound, the spirit, and the record label which White's debut launches. A gifted jazz arranger and exceptional guitarist, White is joined by bassist Cameron Ralston (the Wise) and drummer Pinson Chanselle (the Mighty) in the formation of the Spacebomb House Band. You won't forget those names. This core group, multiplied by horns, strings, and a choir (all culled from and roused by the venerable landscape of Richmond, Virginia), was captured to tape in White's own tricked-out attic on the west side of town. This is Spacebomb: an inimitable House Band, a producer, and a unified crew of arrangers and musicians join with an artist and cut a record — with staggering results. White assumed the actor-director role for Big Inner; it's the first Spacebomb album, the playbook and the highlight reel all at once, for a colossal series of upcoming albums from Natalie Prass, Karl Blau, Joe Westerlund (Megafaun), and Ivan Howard (The Rosebuds, Gayngs). A conductor in every sense of the word, an ambitious new label and a solo album were an easy segue from White's well-known post as the leader of the avant-garde jazz band Fight the Big Bull.

As you swing into "Will You Love Me," you're a goner. Big Inner is an album of firsts, for White and for our place in time. He trades his guitar in for piano. He coos into the piano mic on the first take, a hunch that turns into an ice-breaker for the tingling dirge of "Gone Away." Written on the night of his young cousin's death, it walks the line between worldly gloom and heavenly lightness — and questions the validity of both. As on the rest of the album, White arranged the horns; they speak volumes beyond the limitation of his earthbound vocabulary.

The album culminates in the riverbed of "Brazos," a parable for the whole of Big Inner. Take every story you've heard, every note that's shaken your bones, every sunrise, and every friend you've got — and run. Like the rest of Big Inner, this closing track stands at full attention, the Spacebomb House Band, Horns, Strings, and Choir waiting their turn to kindle a flame that lights up the endless desert. Like every man before him, Matthew E. White is leaving a mark on the landscape. It's there, on records. It's there, on stage. But, like rare few, what Big Inner has brought to its glistening surface is what very well might be right inside of you.