Guillermo Prieto/
Aimee Mann and The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle. Credit: Guillermo Prieto/

There was another capacity crowd at Pappy and Harriet’s on Thursday, June 4. At the door was chief doorologist Beth, banding ticketholders as she smiled.

I’d never seen Beth actually stay to see an entire show. This changed when Aimee Mann came to Pioneertown.

Beth was stage right for Mann’s performance with the Mountain Goats. Aimee Mann first hit it big with her band ’Til Tuesday, which had the high-rotation MTV video hit “Voices Carry.” (For the youngsters reading this: MTV actually played music videos a long, long, long time ago.)

As Mann entered through a side door, she commented, “They sure packed you guys in,” and went straight into “The Moth,” from her 2002 album Lost in Space. Mann would often pause to tune her acoustic guitar, at one point saying, “This is the tuning part of the show. I would like to blame the tuning problems on the desert air.” The sound coming from the wedges was spot-on—but I suspect that Mann is a perfectionist.

Mann showed pure poise as she ran through her 12-song set, including two songs from the soundtrack of Magnolia, including “Save Me,” which was nominated for an Academy Award.

Two-thirds through her opening performance, John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats came onstage to sing chorus for Aimee Mann’s song “Labrador.” Mann ended with a delightful cover of “One” by Three Dog Night. As I looked over to the side of the stage, I saw Beth with a smile that was pure bliss.

The Mountain Goats are lead by Darnielle, and their show highlighted songs from a new record, Beat the Champ (Merge). Darnielle is part raconteur, part vocalist and evidently part professional-wrestling analyst: The Mountain Goats latest release is primarily about pro wrestling. The band kicked things off with “Southwestern Territory,” the first track on the latest album. Darnielle, while introducing the song “Animal Mask,” said, “This is a song about surviving; this is about a battle royale. What happens is that 18 dudes kick each other’s ass at once, and you must make friends to survive.” 

I am not sure if “Heel Turn 2” is a Jungian interpretation of wrestling or life, but I do know the song is about a wrestler who turns from good into bad in the middle of a wrestling match: “Drift down into the new light, Without any reservations, you found my breaking point, Congratulations, spent too much of my live now trying to play fair, throw my better self overboard.”

Paying homage to Pappy’s Western roots, Darnielle said as he introduced “Billy the Kid’s Dream of Magic Shoes”: “This is an old country song for sure.” It’s a song about Billy the Kid coming to terms with being filled full of holes—but he does not care because he has special shoes. 

I would bet Mil Máscaras and André the Giant are smiling from the stars above about the fact that The Mountain Goats “get it.”

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Guillermo Prieto

Guillermo Prieto is a graduate of the University of California, Irvine. That also happens to be the location of his first concert—which cemented his love of live music. A desert dweller for a quarter-century,...