Union Transfer and The Mountain Goats, Philadelphia


I was sitting at the bar in Union Transfer and I began to think about how this was already one of the most comfortable venues I ever visit for a concert. I saw Mazzy Star there before and on this night I was there to see The Mountain Goats. Sitting at a high table, with a good beer, in the beautiful wooden interior, with friends and we were talking. Every table in the room was filled with folks doing the exact same thing. Perhaps boringly, I explained to my friends what I thought was going on and why I thought it was so important.

I will forever be on about that campfire experience. It’s primal. It’s the thing that we human beings have been doing for a long time in the course of our evolutionary history. That’s where art, music, stories, communities, and friends came from. Well, outside of the hunting and/or gathering parties. I mean, the water cooler of a modern office is pretty much just the animal carcass of our ancestors. And when I looked around the room at Union Transfer – every single one of those tables had a candle on it. And there it is.

Perhaps there are candles on tables at restaurants for that very reason. I don’t know. I am not going to google it because I want to think that’s why. They are the campfires from which we can never and should never leave. The table where you share food and drink is the most important human edifice. That’s why I get so pissed when giant chain restaurants fabricate this familial experience with shitty food and generic nonsense.

These kinds of concerts can be hot, sweaty, stressful, claustrophobic affairs. This wooden room on the side at Union Transfer immediately ameliorates the expected apprehension going to a concert seems invariably to manifest in your brain. Yes – it ended up hot and sweaty in there but it was fun. It was great. I think the experience was absolutely influenced by those quick couple of beers around the candle. I’m glad it probably was.
IMG_2053 That said, The Mountain Goats were amazing. They are a favorite band of mine and have been for quite some time. I was very glad to hear a bunch of tracks from their newest album which is focused on wrestling. I got to hear my favorite track (Never Quite Free) – which was hilariously started and stopped twice while John Darnielle struggled to find the right vocal key – and when he found it, he nailed it. Love, Love, Love from the Sunset Tree was great. A new arrangement on “No Children” coupled with a hilarious spoken word intro about visiting a divorce lawyer was pretty brilliant and a second encore of “This Year” just killed it.

Great show. Great experience. Usually it is only the former that is able to be spoken after a concert. I’m thinking it was the candle and the table in the wooden room. I appreciate it.

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