Posted in music | pictures on August 3, 2009

words by Andrew Frisicano, photos by Paul Bachmann

M. Ward

Saturday's balmy weather welcomed M. Ward to the Central Park SummerStage for one of the last stops on his tour behind his latest record Hold Time. Ward hits the road with Monsters of Folk this fall (a tour with two NYC stops), but at SummerStage the well-placed spotlight was all his (with not even his She & Him collaborator to be found).

He did share time with his band of skilled musicians, and many of his influences, to whom he paid musical tribute throughout the night. Ward opened with a solo acoustic rendition of "Sad, Sad Song," hitting the kick drum part out with his right hand. With the band on stage, M. Ward's smokey, paper-thin voice shared time with his golden riffs and the group's rich, early rock n' roll sound. That vibe - an early '60s kind of rockabilly swing - streamlined many of Ward's often idiosyncratic arrangements into a headliner-worthy set of hits.

Ward's unmistakable reference points along the way included Jerry Lee Lewis chops at the piano (where he sat for maybe half a dozen numbers) and Chuck Berry licks on guitar (with a cover of "Roll Over Beethoven" even). But maybe even more impressive than Ward's axe skill is his ability to cobble together a compelling 20-song set with very few lulls. All that in just under an hour. Add two encores, and the show still ended well before its 10pm curfew.

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Floored By Four, in their debut performance, opened the evening with set of extended jams. Mike Watt casually walked along on bass, while Nels Cline, bold and upfront, ran his guitar through an array of effects that tweaked the sound in a number of novel ways. Keyboardist Yuka Honda layed down a harmonic foundation that at times veered into Twin Peaks territory. The group's set, like its members, walked the line between contemporary rock and more experimental forms. Perhaps most boldly, drummer Dougie Bowne ditched rock's inviolable constant beat at times, subbing unpredictable flurries of texture.

The commaraderie between Cline and Watt was evident as they joked around and cued chord changes with a head nod and a smile. (They've played together before in groups that include Watt's Black Gang and Banyan.) A clear highlight of their set was the closing jam, "Maggot Brain," a song periodically revisited by Watt and last on his solo debut Ball-hog or Tugboat?. The tune's opening incantation, delivered from Watt (who also sang the band's second number) set the stage for Cline's searing lead. His nickel-plated, sunset tone cut through several layers of crowd and foreshadowed (possibly surpassed) the guitar mastery to come.

More pictures, and a bunch of videos, below...

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

Mike Watt, Nels Cline , Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne

M. Ward

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M. Ward- Jailbird live at Central Park Summer Stage 8/01/2009

M. Ward- Hold TIme live at Central Park Summer Stage 8/01/2009

m. ward: to go home summerstage, 8/1/09

M. Ward- To Save Me live at Central Park Summer Stage 8/01/2009

M. Ward- Roll Over Beethoven live at Central Park Summer Stage 8/01/2009

M. Ward- Poor Boy, Minor Key live at Central Park Summer Stage 8/01/2009

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Comments (28)

can anyone post this 20-song set list?

Posted by nates | August 3, 2009 9:35 PM

M Ward is just a small step away from total jam band irrelevance. Am I the only one who feels like this roots thing must end, very soon now.

Posted by Anonymous | August 3, 2009 9:55 PM

jam band irrelevance? so you don't like the grateful dead. good for you.

Posted by Anonymous | August 3, 2009 10:28 PM

ugly bros, boring music

Posted by Anonymous | August 3, 2009 11:04 PM

listen, we all know no one can compete with dan deacon since he's a fierce cougar so stop comparing everyone to him.

Posted by Anonymous | August 3, 2009 11:27 PM

I don't know what these lowlives above are talking about but the show was awesome and everyone had an amazing time dancing and singing along.

Posted by Anonymous | August 3, 2009 11:42 PM

Heard that BV's photographer, along with a bunch of others, got booted from the photo pit by SummerStage people (they claim it was all M. Ward being a tight-ass).

Posted by Anonymous | August 3, 2009 11:43 PM

what a beautiful guitar ward is holding

Posted by sdcdss | August 4, 2009 1:30 AM

>>everyone had an amazing time dancing and singing along.

And then we packed up the VW and drove on to the next show. Awesome, dude.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2009 8:09 AM

@11:43, I got to cover the first 3 songs for both acts, I didn't see anyone booted from the pit, all went as planned.

PB

Posted by Paul | August 4, 2009 9:16 AM

M Ward doesn't jam. And, considering jambands single-handedly were responsible for starting the Bonnaroo festival in 2002, I'd hesitate to denounce the entire genre as irrelevant. But you've really got the cliches down pat! Kudos!

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2009 9:37 AM

Floored by Four was sloppy but interesting at times.

I watched Sean Lennon to the right of the stage watching Nels Cline, his mouth hanging open as he shook his head.

M. Ward's set was good in terms of getting people amped, but I would've rather seen a more deliberate, quieter set of his better material. He can only stretch his rockin' material out so far.

Posted by nick | August 4, 2009 9:38 AM

Let's keep Bonnaroo out of New York. Please. Leave that shit to the hacky sack college kids . . .

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2009 9:39 AM

The dude has talent - I'm sorry he does not used processed beats and calls that music.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2009 9:40 AM

I don't like going negative, but especially in comparison to M. Ward's set, Floored by Four's set was just awful. Boring, wonky, self-gratifying at best. Thank goodness it was "free."

In contrast, I thought M. Ward laid down one of the best sets of the summer. I always assumed his voice would be his achilles heel on stage, but turns out it was one of the most intriguing elements of the performance. And man can he play guitar. They had their share of "sound" issues, but those were resolved after a few tracks and the band really fed off the enthusiasm of the crowd and appeared to be having a great time.

From listening to his subdued, ambling records, I'd never have expected the high energy and "shredding" I saw on Saturday. So many "roots"-based acts these days -- M. Ward, Those Darlins, Oakley Hall -- have a country/southern/delta sensibility to their music on record, but then in the live-setting they are as amped as any punk band I've seen, only tighter with the musicianship. Keep it comin'!

Posted by Ryan | August 4, 2009 10:16 AM

long live mike watt

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2009 10:21 AM

Look, I know you guys think I'm a real dick cheese burger, or whatever...

Posted by Milo | August 4, 2009 10:38 AM

"A clear highlight of their set was the closing jam, "Maggot Brain," a song periodically revisited by Watt and last on his solo debut Ball-hog or Tugboat?. "

I guess the writer doesn't realize that "Maggot Brain" is from Funkadelic/Eddie Hazel, and that it's considered one of the greatest guitar jams ever?

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2009 10:39 AM

zzz

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2009 11:56 AM

M Ward Setlist
--
Sad Song
One Hundred Million Years
Post War
Chinese Translation
Rave On (Buddy Holly Cover)
Never Had Nobody Like You
Hold Time
Jailbird
To Save Me
Poor Boy, Minor Key
Poison Cup
Fool Says
Magic Trick
Big Boat
Bean Vine Blues (John Fahey Cover)
Fisher Of Men
Requiem
Roll Over Beethoven (Chuck Berry Cover)
--
Helicopter
--
To Go Home

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2009 12:37 PM

watt/cline set was disappointing. they had a hard time keeping up with the crowd chatter. i left to go see dean and britta.

Posted by hippyster | August 4, 2009 1:09 PM

What's with the bar band blues hats on M Ward's sidemen? "No beards on my bandstand - you think this is the goddam House of David ball team!?" Alas, Buddy Rich died for nothing.

Posted by anonymous | August 4, 2009 1:25 PM

floored by four were underwhelming, with two exceptions: (1) the second song w/ watt on vocals, (2) maggot brain.

too bad they didn't have more actual songs, like that second one.

one last thought: minutemen would have been an even greater band had watt been the vocalist. heresy, i know, but his singing voice is sooooooo good.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2009 2:18 PM

Wow, I'm surprised BV posters would be so anti-Ward. That's like coming out against authentic music with emotional and artistic depth that values songwriting/chops. It just makes you look ignorant & shallow. I feel sorry for you.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2009 3:19 PM

3:19 that because most BV readers are pretentious hipsters that listen to teenage music that made from a plastic box.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2009 4:25 PM

Let the products sell themselves. fuck advertising commercial psychology, psychological methods that sell should be destrooooooyed because of their own blind involvement in their own conditioned minds, the unit bonded together, morals, ideals, awareness, progress, let yourself be heard!

If you don't know where that came from, for instance, you should probably be listening to a few of the old masters.

Posted by Anonymous | August 4, 2009 7:53 PM

i liked m.ward better on his two solo numbers, he was much more interesting without the band... the rest of his set with the band was flat and not very compelling... anytime a band has to quote Chuck Berry to try and get the crowd worked up just means that something is lacking...

it was hard to hear nels during the quiet moments of his set, because everyone was talking, either to each other or their cell phones...
maggot brain gave me chills...

Posted by Anonymous | August 5, 2009 12:30 PM

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