|All photos by Kevin Norris|
David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights brought a wall of sound and an aggression to their performance that was surprising and energetic. It continued the trend at Merge 25 of bands that may sound lighter on their records, but were really bringing it for the festival.
Kilgour himself was particularly amped up. His thick New Zealand accent makes him hard to understand and he poked fun at the audience’s confusion with a mocking British accent and an exaggerated slower pace with exaggerated pronunciation.
The mix of older artists and rising stars makes Merge 25 unique. Performances from the older artists don’t feel like fan service and the younger artists don’t kowtow to their predecessors. At Merge 25, it feels like it’s all about the music and pretty much all of the bands on the lineup are continuing to produce good songs.
The Mountain Goats spilt the difference between old and new. John Darnielle has played for a long time, but he’s fairly recent to Merge having only put out two new albums on the label and this was the band’s first performance at a Merge anniversary festival.
Due to festival time limits, this wasn’t a typical Mountain Goats set with Darnielle telling stories and winding his way through his extensive catalogue. The full band set raced through a start that included “San Bernardino,” “Choke Out,” “Love Love Love,” and “Game Shows Touch Our Lives.”
Then came one of the best moments of the festival, a cover of American Music Club’s “Who You Are.” It was one of those rare moments when the audience was entirely silent at a John Darnielle show, allowing everybody to stand mesmerized by the band.
Darnielle followed up the cover with “The Battle of Bull Ramos” another little known song after which he thanked Merge records and its fans for letting him have the freedom to play songs that nobody knows. Merge allowing artists to be themselves would be a common theme in thank yous throughout the festival.
In gratitude, The Mountain Goats closed with two songs just about everybody knows: “No Children” and “This Year,” which was chosen by a show of hands over “Up The Wolves.”
The Mountain Goats set list
Love Love Love
Game Shows Touch Our Lives
Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1
Who You Are (American Music Club cover)
The Battle of Bull Ramos