Okkervil River Combine Poetry and Violence at Lollapalooza

August 2, 2008 11:30 PM ET

Okkervil River got things off to a murderous start. The Austin band opened with "The President's Dead" and immediately continued on a bloody pace with the violent wishfulness of "Black." Yet to frontman Will Sheff and a horde of attentive onlookers, it was all just part of a literary act in which sharing misery with company became reason to celebrate and shed any ill will. Rarely has dismay sounded so joyous. Sheff introduced an Ivy League literary seriousness to jangly street-busking pop, rhyming lyrical couplets and chronicling character predicaments as he told stories of loss and retribution. By the end of the performance, he'd loosened his tie and sang with the intensity of a spurned preacher, promoting the escapism of "Unless Its Kicks" as universal truth.

More Lollapalooza Coverage: Rock 'N' Roll Diary

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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