It’s a neat coincidence that Tuesday, August 22, was the day that The Mountain Goats announced their highly-anticipated return to Jacksonville, because that was also the 40th birthday of arguably their biggest fan: the late local musician and ace facilitator Dave Hargrove, the man largely responsible for spreading the Mountain Goats’ gospel to many people here in Northeast Florida, including myself.
A passionate fan of the band, from practically their earliest days, one of his last live concerts was one of theirs, up near their home base in Carrboro, North Carolina, just a few days before his tragic, premature passing in December 2021.
Founded in 1991, the band’s latest single, “Clean Slate,” which came out in July, follows their 21st studio album, Bleed Out, released almost exactly a year ago on Merge Records, the iconic NC label (founded by Mac and Laura from Superchunk) that has issued their albums since 2011. They also had a fine run on 4AD from 2002-2009, and have also released albums for boutique labels like Shrimper, Ajax, Absolutely Kosher and Emperor Jones.
Singer-songwriter John Darnielle is the driving force behind the band, and was in fact it’s only member for much of its history. It’s a tight, lyric-heavy sound that has drawn a passionate fan base over 30-plus years of work. It’s a throwback to the kind of lo-fi sound pioneered by folks like Calvin Johnson and Lou Barlow. They also helped keep the cassette aesthetic alive long enough for a new generation of hipsters to pick up that particular torch
Hargrove died, having never gotten to see his favorite band play Jacksonville, which they did just a few months later, in July 2022. That show was at Intuition Ale Works, which has quietly compiled a fairly swank array of concerts via the booking prowess of COO Brad Lange, from local artists like LPT and Bad Madonna to national acts like Guided By Voices, Soccer Mommy, Mdou Moctar and, of course, The Mountain Goats, who return on Friday, December 15. Tickets are $45, which is not bad at all, given the chance to see them in such an intimate environment.
After all, there is no such thing as a casual Mountain Goats fan. I learned that from Dave Hargrove, among many other things. He will be there in spirit, as will I, in the flesh.
Meantime, the ‘Goats are prepping their return with Jenny From Thebes, out October 27 via Merge.
The Mountain Goats play Intuition Ale Works on Friday, December 15 at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale now. For a full list of concerts in and around Jacksonville, peep our comprehensive live music calendar.