The Mountain Goats at Front Porch Music Fest 9-1-12 - photo by Eric O'Donnell

Livermore’s Wente Vineyards, venerable for hosting big-name artists like John Fogerty, Sheryl Crow and Dianna Krall, went indie Saturday with a double-bill of The Mountain Goats and The Dodos.

The Front Porch Music Festival, named after wine grower Karl Wente’s southern rock and bluegrass band, featured seven bands in all, including folk singer Jerry Hannan and former American Idol contestant Jason “Wolf” Hamlin. The $30-ticket was a fraction of the price to see more popular names such as Foreigner or Journey.

It was a picnic-on-the-grass-and-drink-wine kind-of-day until San Francisco’s The Dodos took the stage and the younger fans crowded around.

“I was curious what this show would be like; we’ve never been in Livermore before,” singer-guitarist Meric Long told the crowd.

Earlier in the afternoon, Long said he enjoyed spending time at Del Valle, the state park and lake south of Livermore.

“It seems like a secret,” he said. “It’s beautiful, there’s lots of vineyards; it’s quiet. I like places that aren’t known.”

Long said he and drummer Logan Kroeber are slowly working on a new record. It’s been a year since the Dodos’ last major tour. In October, the Dodos will be opening for Calexico and will test out some of their newer songs.

The Dodos at Front Porch Music Fest 9-1-12 - photo by Eric O'Donnell

“It feels like we’re going in a different direction but it probably sounds the same more so than we think,” Long said. “With our last record, we started writing our songs together; in the moment. Lyrics were the last thing (to be added). I’m trying to reverse that process this time around.”

Despite the sizable crowd, The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle turned the evening into an intimate sing-along.

Darnielle dueled with an uncooperative microphone stand and told stories and jokes between songs.

“The reason I rarely ever play this song is because it has a lot of words, and they’ll bury me in the cold hard ground before I use a teleprompter,” he said, before digging in to “Sax Rohmer #1.” He then proceeded to forget the lyrics for the third verse and needed the help of fans to find his place in the song.

“Going to Maine” was introduced with the following caveat: “I’d hope that I’ve improved as a songwriter over 18 years. I don’t want people for hating on me for saying it’s a dumb song.”

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