Indie folk band The Mountain Goats has been around for nearly 30 years, but its members are still going strong. They released their 17th studio album In League With Dragons in April, and they’re currently touring around the country, stopping at the House of Blues in Anaheim, California (best known for its Disneyland resort) on Monday, September 16.
The evening began with a set by singer-songwriter Lydia Loveless, who sang a collection of heartfelt songs with country and folk influences. Her soulful voice told stories of the ups and downs of relationships with vivid lyrics like “I was thinking of things I’d do if I had the time/Until my fingers smell like pussy and Lucky Strikes” as she accompanied her own vocals on the guitar and keyboard. Her voice was a bit whiny for my taste at times, but she ended on a good note with a fast-paced and catchy tune that set the stage for the rest of the show.
After a short interlude, the Mountain Goats opened with a slow, staccato “An Antidote for Strychnine,” from their most recent album. Lead singer John Darnielle’s distinctive voice sounds just like it does on recordings. There’s something almost foreboding in the way it quivers as it lingers on certain lyrics, and the songs sound almost like spoken stories as he clearly enunciates each word. Watching the band perform feels almost like hearing a friend tell anecdotes from their life — except it’s a friend who speaks in poetic verses with infectious melodies.
The band’s quirks shined during the performance; Darnielle cracked jokes about dragons and politics, an unexplained snake and apple rested on the keyboard for the duration of the set, and pianist Matt Douglas treated the audience to several saxophone solos. Darnielle played part of the set alone, and his band joined him for the beginning and the end.
“Sax Rohmer #1” off 2008’s Heretic Pride was a crowd favorite. People shouted as Darnielle belted “And I am coming home to you / With my own blood in my mouth / And I am coming home to you / If it’s the last thing that I do.” Another highlight was “Wear Black” from 2017’s Goths, which featured canorous harmonies and dreamy keyboard tunes.
With their spirited dancing and enthusiastic head-bobbing, it was clear that the band hasn’t gotten bored of live performances, and it was just as evident from the crowd’s cheers that their fans haven’t gotten bored of them either.