Mountain Goats bring unique concept album to The City 

click to enlarge Mountain Goats address professional wrestling on their latest album “Beat the Champ.” - COURTESY LISSA GOTWALS
  • Mountain Goats address professional wrestling on their latest album “Beat the Champ.”

Scantily clad, masked characters hell-bent on hurling themselves into others are not the most relatable individuals: Professional wrestlers often are viewed with curiosity rather than empathy.

But Jon Wurster, drummer for the indie rockers Mountain Goats, who are touring to promote their latest album “Beat the Champ,” says there is something universal about the solitariness that accompanies small-time professional wrestling.

“On the surface, wrestling is all about showmanship and bravado, but deep down, these are just people who have lives and families, and they’re looking for a connection. They struggle with the same darkness and pain that everyone else deals with," says Wurster, who appears with the band in concerts next week at the Fillmore and Great American Music Hall.

“Beat the Champ,” a brainchild of Mountain Goats’ chief songwriter (and wrestling enthusiast) John Darnielle, is a concept album that touches upon the tumultuous lives of various professional wrestlers from the last half-century.

Unlike his band mate, Wurster wasn’t much of a fan of professional wrestling growing up, but he says Darnielle’s enthusiasm for the project was infectious. “He brought in all these vintage wrestling magazines and tapes that he had as a kid,” says Wurster. “Next thing I know, I’m starting to feel completely attached to these guys.”

Darnielle’s highly thematic songwriting style has led to Mountain Goats’ concept albums about heavy topics such as domestic abuse, marital strife and religious doctrine. The albums often contain recurring characters, such as Chavo Guerrero, the wrestling superstar and centerpiece of “Beat the Champ.”

“It’s strange, because we perform these songs so often, and these characters become a part of our lives, and then they’re kind of gone,” says Wurster. “That’s just the nature of playing in this band.”

Wurster actually met one of those characters when he starred in the music video of “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero” alongside the veteran wrestler. “I don’t know how he found out about us, but he was super enthusiastic to be a part of the video,” says Wurster. “Here he is, in his 60s, and he’s still jumping off the top ropes.”

Along with his duties with the Mountain Goats, Wurster drums for indie stalwarts Bob Mould and Superchunk. He’s also one half of Scharpling and Wurster, a comedy duo that has a weekly radio act.

“I basically have no personal life,” says Wurster. “But it definitely keeps things interesting. I’ve become really good at scheduling.”


Mountain Goats

Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. June 1

Tickets: $30

Contact: (415) 346-6000, www.ticketmaster

Note: The band also plays at 8 p.m. June 2 at Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.,

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Will Reisman

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