Friday, May 27, 2011

Significant Life Strides: When Pestering Pays Off

"You guys want a beer?"

Me and Emmet look at eachother. John Darnielle has just asked us if we want a beer. John Darnielle of The friggin' Mountain Goats has just asked us if we want a Stella Artois. I could go on italicising different parts of that sentence, but I think you get the idea. There is a moment of telepathic conversation between us, and it goes something like this: How in the hell did we swing this one?

Let's dial it back.

There's no limit to how far we could dial this back, really. We could trace it back to the first time I heard a Mountain Goats song, some years ago on an internet forum, or the first time I tore the plastic off their album Tallahasse. We could take it back to as little as two years ago, when Emmet and I first became friends over discussing their seminal hit (I use the term "hit" loosely) The Sunset Tree. But that would be cumbersome, and so let's just bring this to May 22nd, 2011. Or, if you'd prefer a visual:

It is 6pm.

We've been in Dublin since threeish, and it's fair to say we've already had a profitable day. We've browsed Tower Records, and pined over the fact that neither of us work there. We're pretty sure we saw Mike Scott of the Waterboys going into a second-hand bookshop, and we've visited the Disney store to enquire over the availability of baby Pegasus plush toys. (Aside: Remember Pegasus from Hercules? I sure do. Horses in Disney movies are always the best, and Pegasus is my favourite. If anyone decides they have an enormous crush on me and wants to buy me a gift, I highly recommend a Pegasus plush toy. I'm not even the kind of girl who's into plush toys, but I really, really want this one.)

Because neither of us are sure if we know where Whelans is, we endeavour to find it early. I think we expected this to be a much harder task then it turned out to be, because by 6.20, we were outside Whelans. Just as our interest was beginning to drift toward the gourmet burger restaurant next door, we heard something incredible. Something clanging, something imperfect, and something that sounded very, very like two musicians playing the opening chords of Heretic Pride. My knees buckle. We are outside on the street, and the band we've spent our entire friendship obsessing over are mere feet away, soundchecking of all things. I don't think it even occured to us that the Mountain Goats soundchecked. Surely their music just sprang fully formed from them, like foam from the ocean? Apparently not.

We stand outside Whelans and visibly quiver in excitement. "Should we.. go inside?"

We go inside and stand around nervously with our ear to the band room door. The people in the bar are looking at us strangely, and in hindsight I can't possibly blame them, as we looked unfathomably lame. No-one drinking in Whelans seemed to have any idea who was soundchecking on the other side of that door, or the magnanimity of meaning behind it. I had forgotten that while The Mountain Goats enjoy a dedicated, fierce fanbase, to the vast majority of Dubliners they might aswel be nobody. For some reason, this heightens my excitement, like me and Emmet are sitting on a majestic secret.

The majesty of this moment soon passes, however, and we begin to realise what utter gimps we're being. The barman is becoming thoroughly disturbed by our bouts of ecstasy with each chord change coming from the unseen musicians in the other room, and the shame of this creeps on us. We leave Whelans and usher ourselves into the burger place next door. I pick up the menu, and I'm already lost in delicious food options. Ooh. I ponder. Hawaii burger.

I look up to find that Emmet isn't looking at his menu. In fact, hes looking straight ahead in an uncharacteristically steely expression I've only ever seen him use when his diabetes is acting up. I look closely at him and realise that this isn't the diabetes talking. This expression says one thing, and it is "Fuck this."

"Let's get an interview with him."

Obviously, there is no question as to the "him" he is referring to.

"You're.. not serious."

The steely expression prevails.

"You're serious, aren't you?"

"Oh come on. When are we ever going to get a chance to do this again?"

I think. This is The Mountain Goats first performance in Ireland in nine years.

"Nine years?"

"Exactly. I mean, you're a music journalist. I'm a music journalist. We have every right to do this. And I've talked to the label."

This is true. Some weeks ago, Emmet emailed John Darnielle's label, Merge Records, about doing this interview. He received a "Hmm, yes, sounds good. We'll get back to you." Of course, they never got back to him. Still, I thought. We are music journalists... I suppose.

"You're right," I eventually reply "screw this."

We leave the burger place and march back over to Whelans, where we plop ourselves down on some stools and endeavour that we are not leaving this building until we get answers, damnit. In a state of panic, we then realise that we don't have questions. Or paper, or a pen to write them down with. Crap. Signalling the barman, we order some wine, a biro and some receipt paper from his till. Now thoroughly convinced we are degenerates, the barman obliges and backs away slowly. We come up with the best questions we can, and keep our scrap of receipt paper dear to us. This scrap of receipt paper will be meant for great things.

We sidle into the band room (which, bizarrely, is not locked) and stand around, attempting to look like we might belong there. It doesn't work, because we are immediately approached by the sound technician, who looks like a hipster Rob Lowe.

I'm not joking, this is exactly what he looked like
This is the first stumbling block in the plan. Hipsters and Rob Lowe individually tend to have schoolgirly affects on me, a combination of the two is going to be lethal.

"Ohmmm, guys? You're going to have to, ohmm, leave? Bands don't like people, ohm, people watching them soundcheck?"

"We.. we're journalists. We've been talking to Merge? The label?"

We quickly adopt Rob Lowe's way of ending everything with a question. It seems to work, because he looks at us very hard, and tells us he'll check it out, before propelling us outside again.

The next hour and a half plays in my head like an old round of Streets of Rage. We are confronted with barmen, bitchy event managers, and miscellaneous music dudes, all who want to enquire as to the legitimacy of our origin. We name-drop our way through the barrage, picking up stray roast chickens as we go.

We pester, and we nudge, and we stand around doorways. Gradually, we notice that people are avoiding us like the bubonic plague, and that we are easily the most annoying people in a thirty mile radius. We concede that it is time to give up. We gave it our best effort, but it was time to throw in the towel. We go back to the burger place and get a (frankly delicious) Hawaii burger. We stand outside, and reason that the gig is going to be excellent anyway. Which is exactly when a very happy-looking hipster Rob Lowe rounds the corner.

"Guys! I've been looking for you!"

Bring. It. On.

I'm sorry John Darnielle. We stole your time through lies, and I hope you will someday forgive us for it.

If you are interested in reading the ensuing interview you can read it here.

1 comment:

  1. Well...that's...I mean. It's difficult to be happy for you when admittedly I'm stupidly jealous to the point where I have the strangest wish for something bad to happen to you just now. Stubbed toe maybe. Jealousy aside, that is every shade of awesome on the bloody awesome scale. Kudos for you skills in deception, as well as confirming my suspicions of what he might say to certain questions. I'd give you a hard time for fan-girling out, but honestly. Who could resist? Well done, you. Also damn you. Well done, and well damned, Caroline.