San Luis Obispo, California, is a strange specter—nestled beachside, with a downtown straight from Mayberry, it’s a charmingly rustic town with a population halved between bawdy university students and intractably conservative retirees. That these factions openly war with each other, across white fences and in aggressively misspelled newspaper editorials, is just a hint of the cynicism underneath the idyllic surface; this was also the site of the shockingly violent Mardi Gras riots in 2004, which culminated in ravaged streets and more than 200 arrests (one of which yours truly narrowly escaped). It’s small wonder that bittersweet, verbose Mountain Goats singer John Darnielle hails from the town and still references it often in his songs; Heretic Pride, the folk-rockers’ last/umpteenth album, was laced with anxious ruminations and spry West Coast rock pulse. Can’t fight those roots; contradiction becomes him. With John Vanderslice culling from his sweeping new Romanian Names.

Fri., March 27, 8 p.m., 2009