Feeding the fire of Mountainhood

Mission Creek 2008: Delicate rusticity straight outta Almaden
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Thunderpaint the stone horse electric

Do you know the way to ... Almaden? Not many know about that tiny, once-rural cowtown-now-San Jose-incorporated bedroom community. But Michael Hilde, a.k.a. Mountainhood, can map it out for you.

"I've never, ever played a show where I've told somebody that I'm from Almaden and they'll be like, 'Oh, yeah.' No one has ever heard of it," the affable and intense songwriter swears, sitting on a log in a breezy patch of woods at a sandy edge of the Presidio. "But it's a wild town. When I moved there, it was straight-up country. There were stallion farms and on the edge of my block there was a Harley-Davidson bar. Every Saturday night, guaranteed, you'd see two fat, wet guys just duking it out through the window."

Love of home led Hilde to name his 2007 CD-R on Finland's 267 Laattajaa label after his town, as well as the name of his musical project (he switched to Mountainhood after a dream spent communing with Devendra Banhart and Andy Cabic on a star-filled mountain). Home also brought him to City Hall when that biker bar, Feed & Fuel, was about to be torn down. "It's funny because when I went there, right before I was to speak, they were doing this whole bill on whether cops could have the right to bust into illegal immigrants' houses and harass them," Hilde recalls. "And I was, like, 'I can't believe I'm here to, like, talk about saving a bar. There were all these people with translators weeping. So I got up and gave an impromptu speech, and then afterwards, I sat back down, and people were, like, 'You were amazing! What do you do?' I was, like, 'I'm a folk singer,' and they were like, 'Oh, that makes sense. We get it.'<0x2009>"

And folks are starting to get Hilde's brand of cosmic Americana — a blend of delicate Banhart-esque rusticity, 1960s-era transcendental instrumentals, and modern-day home-recorded drone experimentalism. After a handful of lower-fi releases, his next two albums, Thunderpaint the Stone Horse Electric and Wings from a Storm, will be put out this summer on 180-gram vinyl, with stickers of Hilde's impressionistic paintings by Time Lag. Yet despite the fact that Hilde has been building a community of sorts with his monthly Story night at the Stork Club — each performer adds a bit to a running narrative during their set — Hilde seems to cherish his outsider status in the local music scene as he describes one packed Lobot Gallery performance. "I'll never forget their expressions," he says, miming a look of opened-mouth disbelief. "It's stayed that way ever since I started playing here."

MOUNTAINHOOD

July 19, 9 p.m., $5

Argus Lounge

3187 Mission, SF

(415) 824-1447

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