M. Ward has not played in Milwaukee since 2008. Since then, we had much discussion on the bloggerhood, especially when Pinko of the California (at the time) Punkos turned me onto this song:
Man I love that song. Which I find especially lovely because of it’s unusual structure, recursive lyrics, and extended coda.
So when we saw that he would be playing at the gorgeous and fine Pabst Theatre, I got tickets of course I did.
There were two very fine opening bands, a poppish group featuring Jenny Lewis called Nice as Fuck, who wandered down the aisle to their stage in front of the stage to the JEM! theme song, and they performed a great song called “Put Your Guns Away” and the crowd responded enthusiastically, in this post-Orlando week.
Because, boys did we need to have some music. Last Sunday, after reading the news, we went to Locust Street Days to see The Mosleys and the Whiskeybelles, local awesome musics. It was a good tonic, but reading the way the NRA, the Republicans, and Donald Trump responded took more. I mean, after the retching.
I am not sure about the actual name of the second band. The Pabst listing is: “Erika Forster from Au Revoir Simone & The Like’s Tennessee Thomas” but I think the band has an actual name, although I did not catch it. But Ms. Forster alternated between very quiet introspective folk songs, country ballads, and full-on guitar squall freakout worthy of Sonic Youth. Sometimes in a single goddam song…talk about being right the hell in my wheelhouse…
So. Given those songs up above, and especially, M. Ward’s new album More Rain, I was not sure about what the show would sound like. I thought it might be a very quiet, folky, jazzy night and tell me if you wouldn’t think the same thing.
But M.Ward hit the stage with an instrumental, that got very noisy halfway through. He had Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows, the Minus Five, Robyn Hitchcock and REM on bass. I missed the name of the second guitarist, but Ward’s Gibson was front and center and really loud.
He played a lot of really great songs, a couple of covers, a Monsters of Folk tune, and that Chinese Translation song up above….and they were all a fuck of a lot louder than on those albums, which I now consider to be overproduced. And the instrumental outdo on that song got WAY longer and WAY louder than on the album , and it made this zombie happy…
M. Ward is a very under-rated guitarist, not the least for being able to tell when to lay back. But in the live venue, he doesn’t do that, mostly. Also, I love his songwriting, because it borrows from rock and R&B from everywhere, and puts it together in unconventional ways, with no choruses, or refrains that occur in weird places. Again, right in my wheelhouse.
He came back a couple of times for encores, and every one of the bands acknowledged the beauty of the historic venue they were playing, and the crowd was super enthusiastic for all of them. It was a great end to week following a tragedy, and I think the artists believed it and did what they could, which is often just what we need and it is what we kind of need from our artists. And, in some ways, it was just what we needed. And My! Didn’t we have a wonderful time!
Pretty good warmup for Summerfest….
Also, thank you Pinko Punko for turning me on to him…..