Jon Langford kicks off the Mekons' 40th anniversary with intimate series of house shows

In July, the Mekons bandmates plan to celebrate their 40th anniversary in grand style, hosting the three-day Mekonville festival in rural Suffolk, England. First, however, singer and songwriter Jon Langford is kicking off the celebration in a far more reserved fashion, performing solo and acoustic in a series of intimate house shows.

“It seems like a weird anniversary, 40 years. I didn't intend to [make a career of music] in the first place, so this is just an attempt to go back and cover some of that ground,” Langford said of the current tour, which hits Columbus on Friday, March 3, and features the musician and visual artist performing selections spanning every era, genre, band and project from his multifaceted career. “I'm the common link between all these songs, so maybe I should just sing them. The songs are not going to sing themselves.”

Langford said he was further prodded to launch this string of dates by the current political climate, noting that the role of the musician should always be to speak up loudly at any sign of injustice.

“It makes me think … what do I actually do that's any use? And possibly it's singing these songs,” he said. “Music isn't this wallpaper. The musicians and what they're saying is as important, or possibly more important, than the people getting up and making dogmatic speeches. It's time to put your head up over the trench and say what you think.”

Langford developed this mindset growing up in an industrial town in post-World War II Wales — a time, he said, when the United Kingdom adopted socialist policies designed to foster a greater good. “I had a free education and free health care and I benefited from all of that,” he said. “I don't know where that's all gone now; it's a great mystery.”

This constant erosion, in part, helps keep Langford engaged. Indeed, the Mekons' most recent full-length, Existentialism (Bloodshot), from 2016, sounds as restless and urgent as anything in the crew's extensive catalog, the bandmates stomping through a series of boozy singalongs that traverse oceans, combining elements of British folk and insurgent American country.

“We love the new technology … but we thought about the early stuff we made, and it was just the energy, and the technology was just by the by,” Langford said of the recording, which took place almost exclusively live, with the band huddled around a single microphone at the Jalopy Theatre in Red Hook, Brooklyn. “Rather than spend months with Pro Tools pushing that technology as far as we could, which we did with other albums, there was a real effort to really engage in the moment.”