The best thing about you standing on the stage, is that it's you, and you're standing on the stage.
Are you aware how long so many of us have waited for this? Maybe we were still in single digits when the first cassettes came out, but yes, we do know about those long winters holed up in the house, writing down good reasons to freeze to death and not answering the phone. We tried to fill the time while we waited for you by listening to hours of incomprehensible poetry, which despite myriad pretensions is still not above ripping off lines from Jeff Mangum. We've left a lot behind to make it here, including a zip-lock bag of urine somewhere near 11th and Hennepin. You've left behind Ames and California, wandered from Georgia to Reykjavik, somehow ended up in North Carolina (probably because of its proximity to the Basics factory) and finally found your way to us. You may have been too drunk to remember your last visit and you may get too drunk to remember this one, but we, though also drunk, shall not forget.
Should we be surprised by your short stature, your boyish gait, your clothes a bit baggy, as if chosen with concern for growing room? Someone more secure, someone more confident, could never make music that shows such incomprehensible longing, music that strives against the very physical confines that give it form. Your guitar strains, your voice cracks, and your limbs flail as you try to articulate desire and need and beauty and suffering and sadness far too fierce to contain. Your eyes rage like an Oregonian forest fire, and they are scalding and they are heavenly. Show me Satan's fingers and I turn away; show me the rubble after a hospital bomb and I say how terrible; but show me your eyes and I am heartbroken, I am inconsolable. No, don't try to perfectly tune the guitar it would be absurd. An idolater who executes a Mountain Goats song with technical perfection betrays its very purpose. No, don't speak of your guitar pickups. We imagine you roaring up the driveways of our respective ranch-style houses with six packs of Bartles and Jaymes. That's possible when you're wearing shoes which appear to utilize Velcro, doing an impromptu cover of Barracuda, not when you remind us what a skilled musician you really are.
John, I'd call you a self-indulgent performer, but how unconscionably insolent would it be for intruders like us to direct you in your confessions, your prayers and your pleas. How wrong for us to interrupt you as you tell stories from the freezing loneliness of a motel room in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where, in the time it took for your friend to take a shower, you wrote a song that makes me wonder who told you about my dream last night and why you understand it and I don't. We have nothing but gratitude for this privilege. At a sold-out show in a rock venue, what words, what voice but yours could inspire a reverential silence so complete that amplification becomes wholly unnecessary? You really got a hold on us, too, John.
By Nathaniel Hopkins 07, Adam Lozeau 08 and Brett Defries 08