Part of the appeal of older Mountain Goats albums was the intimacy brought out by the simplistic performances. Each track showcased singer/songwriter John Darnielle bleeding through his guitar into a cheap boom. Part of the appeal of newer Mountain Goats albums - including their latest Heretic Pride - is that, while the production value has increased, the songwriting value has not been affected.
I'm 22 years old and less than two weeks away from finishing my Bachelor's degree — the last thing I need is another good excuse to waste away the sunlight with a backpack full of Tecate Light (the old weight-loss plans take no days off). It's mostly just because I'm not a very complicated person, y'know? And so it seems like a near certainty that the Mifflin Street Block Party — the biggest daytime drinking party this side of Lambeau Field — would be right in my wheelhouse. But the whole thing about Mifflin is that I hate Mifflin. The Block Party follows a pretty infallible formula, and it takes a whole bunch of out-of-town idiots to muck up something as elegant as a holiday dedicated to nothing but drinking beers on the street in the middle of the day. But that's exactly what happens. Things get out of control, and then Big Government has to intervene before something really awful happens. This is the same thing that happened to the Halloween party on State Street. Once the blue and whites were called to make sure storefront windows stayed intact and gave Frank Productions the authority to start charging entrance fees for attendees to see bands whose biggest accomplishments were their inclusion on ""Now That's What I Call Music Volume 3,"" the whole dynamic changed and now every October Freakfest makes Madison look like the set for a commercial for Red Bull. So if you're approaching the gradual takeover of the notorious block party with equal parts skepticism and horror, you're not the only one. Wisconsin's government is on a roll these days of doing things that piss me off, but there are several reasons to think this event might actually be different. The first is that City Hall had the good senses to enlist Majestic Live to cover the details. Instead of assigning musical acts that focus their careers on wooing high school pompom squads, Majestic Live has earned a decent reputation over the past few years of bringing to Madison a healthy flow of bands that honest-to-goodness do not suck. And not only do this year's scheduled artists not suck, but they're familiar faces, too. Majestic Live's whole plan seems to have been forced into hasty development, and there's a good chance they didn't have the luxury or foresight to nab any national touring bands for the bill. But as it is, they compiled an impressive set of tried-and-true Madison acts — it's almost as if they're daring us to stay sober to catch F. Stokes. But from where I'm sitting, the quality of the groups is of secondary importance. The main point is that these acts are by and large from Madison. By keeping the focus on Madison, Majestic Live seem to reinforce the ""block party"" and ""neighborhood"" aspects of the binge-drinking marathon. So when so-called friends from out of town come to steal our furniture, break our windows and pee on our lawns, at least they'll be doing so at an event that is distinctly our own. And maybe if we continue to book local bands and continue to reinforce that the Mifflin Street Block Party is an event made by student residents, for student residents; and maybe if we reject the corporate interest in exploiting a few thousand intoxicated pedestrians; then maybe it will turn out that the Mifflin Street Block Party doesn't actually suck. But there is one last reason for optimism, and that's because I'm leaving soon, which means even if this whole ship goes to hell, I won't be around and forced to deal with it. Kyle secretly plans to attend every Mifflin for the next 10 years, crowdsurfing down the street like a wayward octabong. Want to join him? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to set up plans.