M. Ward: Live in Portland

M. WardM. Ward and Musée Mécanique at the Doug Fir

Portland, Oregon, February 14, 2009

When everyone is talking “Buy Local” Portland is living it like nobody else. Everywhere you look are signs and bumper stickers imploring you to Support Local Businesses, and that applies to music. When people here tell you to Grow Your Own, it’s not just weed they’re talking about.

M.Ward is Portland’s own and everyone knows it. Sure, he moved to New Hampshire for a while but he’s back now and everyone just acts like that New England excursion was just an extended vacation but now he’s home…where he belongs.

Valentines Day is one of those times where we’ve marked a special date on the calendar to tell those closest to us how important they are to us. The Doug Fir was chock full of friends and musicians and scenesters (in the best sense of the word) who all showed up to share the love. They were all there. Guys wearing their dads’ old vests, girls drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, everyone was there.

M. Ward’s profile has been raised recently with a couple years of glowing reviews and his recent collaboration with actress Zoey Deschanel as She & Him have brought to a dull roar an already growing chorus of love for the man who has worked with Cat Power, Beth Orton, Bright Eyes, The Court & the Spark, Jenny Lewis and My Morning Jacket and made them all a little better. And what’s not to love? The guy clearly loves rockabilly but avoids camp and instead infuses his decidedly romantic leanings with a little rough and tumble reverb and growl.

At 36, M. Ward is just now tasting the good life of indie rock in America and is clearly savoring every bite. It’s a moment that wasn’t lost on the crowd gathered in the basement of Portland’s hippest restaurant. Everyone was clapping and jumping and singing at the top of their voices as one of their own—own of OUR own—basked in the affection of his friends and family.

There’s a huge sign in downtown Portland that stands as a reminder and a rallying call for its residents. As M. Ward raised his hand in a final wave you couldn’t help but think: Made in Oregon.


The opening band was a case study in Portland indie rock today. Musée Mécanique is maybe a bit too precious for some. There are lush harmonies, soaring melodies, bookish lyrics…and a singing saw. It’s quirky and earnest and bordering on cute, but aren’t those the elements that make up great pop? Their Wikipedia entry says that main songwriters, Micah Rabwin and Sean Ogilvie have been writing and performing music together since childhood and that childhood curiosity comes through in their music. Like the best nursery rhymes, Musée Mécanique’s music speaks to the darker elements of childhood, most of which I am sure is my own internalized perception but just the same…

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