Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: The Mekons

The love of The Mekons
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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 punk–post-punk–posteverything 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 Jones–referencing 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)

THE MEKONS

Fri/5, 7:30 p.m., $15

Swedish American Hall

2170 Market, SF

www.cafedunord.com

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.

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