I used to think this was such a self-deprecating title The Curse of The Mekons but over the years I've come to a much different conclusion about the declaration being made by these punkpost-punkposteverything spark plugs on their landmark 1991 Blast First album. Now celebrating their third decade together as a band, the Mekons do indeed suffer from a curse: their ability to switch effortlessly from style to style, sometimes even within the same song, without a single slip. Oh, affliction of afflictions! What a curse it must be, having to decide whether to blow listeners' minds with a punk, a reggae, or a country song or a tune in any of the myriad other forms they've mastered....
With their latest, Natural (Quarterstick), the infinitely charming Jon Langford and Sally Timms purveyors of some of the finest concert banter you'll ever hope to hear lead the rest of the scrappy brigade through a dozen distinctively skewed takes on rootsy campfire folk. Timms gets flat-out spooky on "White Stone Door," a drifting specter of a song heightened by sobs of violin. Meanwhile, Langford's Brian Jonesreferencing folk-reggae rouser "Cockermouth" is sure to be an instant crowd favorite, an ode to roamers and wanderers that speaks volumes about the anything-goes spirit that makes the Mekons so extraordinary. (Todd Lavoie)
Fri/5, 7:30 p.m., $15
Swedish American Hall
2170 Market, SF
Also Sun/7, 2:05 p.m., free
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Star Stage
HARDLY STRICTLY BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL
The free festival happens Oct. 5, beginning at 3 p.m., and Oct. 6 to 7, starting at 11 a.m., at Speedway, Lindley, and Marx meadows in Golden Gate Park, SF. For more information on all of the performers and events, go to www.strictlybluegrass.com.