The Mountain Goats, The Annuals,

Natural History Museum, June 6

It's packed again for First Fridays at the Museum. There's a line of people waiting to get into the room the Annuals are playing in – some are just trying to make sure they get in before Mountain Goats play, but North Carolina's The Annuals definitely have their own cadre of fans here.

After a couple of songs, it's easy to see why. With just one full length (2006's Be He Me) and a few EPs out, the six member group shares some definite sonic similarities to breakouts Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene. That is, they make a joyful sound under the heavens, and the audience was eating it up.

Last month The Dodos had the opening spot for First Fridays and also used two drummers. Tonight, The Annuals are doing it too. It seems pointless on paper; plenty of huge rock bands do just fine with a single drummer, but as the hall filled with noise, it was hard to argue with its effectiveness. There was some serious pounding going on here, with even lead singer Adam Baker joining in on when he wasn't singing, playing guitar or keyboards.

The Annuals' songs begin with strong melodies and wind their way down carefully crafted paths, but at some point they just explode out in a frenzy of sound, but not noise. They don't lose control, and they don't lose the song.

Adam Baker and Anna Spence are both just cute as buttons, and it's a little difficult not to stare. Well, sure they're on stage, and the crowd is supposed to stare at them, but honestly, if this whole indie rock thing doesn't work out, they could find work as models or actors. I'd wager the band will work out though. There's no reason the Annuals shouldn't end up on the A-list of Pitchfork, and playing the big spots. They're finishing their second album now, which they want out in the fall and will be back through L.A. again this year with Minus the Bear. See them now.

Daytrotter has a nice four song live set with The Annuals you can get here.

From two and a half drummers down to zero, there's a definite shift in gears from The Annuals to The Mountain Goats, but no less quality songs. John Darnielle is as relaxed and comfortable with the crowd as can be, telling stories, holding discussions, weighing the pros and cons of requests shouted from the crowd.

Darnielle and his bassist Peter Hughes start their set with “Jenny,” from the 2002 record All Hail West Texas. The song finishes with the wonderful line, “God damn! The pirate's life for me!” which we dutifully shouted out on cue. There are so many Mountain Goats albums, the bulk of which are simply made up of Darnielle's voice and guitar, without a lot of memorable audio signposts, that it's easy for them to become a jumble in my mind. That is, it's a lot easier to recognize songs by The Pixies than The Mountain Goats.

“Game Shows Touch Our Lives” from his first 4AD album Tallahassee and “Orange Ball of Hate” follow, and the crowd is right there with him, mouthing lines and yelling out the follow-ups to particularly devastating couplets. “People say friends don't destroy one another,” sings Darnielle. “What do they know about friends?!” the crowd sings back. On record it's sad and chilling, and Raymond Carver-esque. But with several hundred of us joined together examining Darnielle's unhappy characters, misery has a lot of company.

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