Please note this is a 14+ show.
“I can trace all my songs to a specific moment,” M. Ward told a New York Times writer in February of 2009, as he was about to release, Hold Time, his acclaimed third release for Merge Records. “Sometimes it’s as insignificant as a friend of yours saying something, a turn of a phrase. Other times it’s like an epiphany moment or just something beautiful that you see.”
A Wasteland Companion forms a diary of sorts, of the singer and guitarist’s journeys here and abroad since Hold Time was released three years ago. That action-packed period has included tours and full-length discs with Monsters Of Folk (his ongoing collaboration with Conor Oberst, Jim James and Mike Mogis) and She & Him (his celebrated duo excursion with singer Zooey Deschanel) as well as leading his own band. Despite the greater demands on his talents as performer and producer, Ward made sure to build in time away from his hectic touring schedule so he could visit studios along his various routes. He’d call upon whomever was in town to join him – such longtime musician friends as Mogis, Deschanel, Giant Sand’s Howe Gelb and P.J. Harvey producer John Parish or new players with whom he’d been keen on working, like Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and Doctor Dog bassist Toby Leamen. Ward made states-side stops in Austin, Los Angeles, Tucson, Omaha and New York City. While he was playing in England, he took off to record at the Toy Box in Bristol, where he was joined by Parish to cut the track for “Primitive Girl,” which he later completed at Arc Studio in Omaha with Mogis.
Though Ward laid down tracks in so many different locations, with an ever-shifting roster of players, he’s nonetheless managed to create a seamless disc. It feels more like a shared reverie than a literal travelogue, documenting an emotional landscape where the moods shift as dramatically as scenery outside a tour bus window. As with Hold Time, there is a dreamily romantic, yearning quality to some of this work, accentuated by Ward’s gravelly yet gentle voice. But the tone grows darker, more ruminative, at the disc’s mid-point, though it never becomes quite as bleak as the album’s name might suggest. The spare guitar-and-strings arrangement of the title track evokes a stark windswept plain before seguing into the intriguingly claustrophobic, electric-guitar shuffle of “Watch The Show,” which could have been inspired by a half-awake hotel-room viewing of David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. Conversely, “Wild Goose,” which comes late in the set, is all about wide open spaces, boasting a downright angelic arrangement, with orchestra bells, layered vocals and gospel-style hand-claps, Ward likes these abrupt tonal shifts: “There should be some surprises, some sharp turns. That’s what my favorite records, like the Beatles’ White Album, have built into them. You’re not really sure what you’re going to hear next.”
Tickets for this event are available from the venue box office, and can be purchased at face value if payment is made in cash.