Live Review: M. Ward with Port O’Brien, Showbox at the Market 3/6

M Ward

review and photos by Brian Cullen

Sometimes music gives me insomnia.

Friday night at Showbox at the Market, California natives Port O’Brien opened for the Northwest’s own M. Ward (ok, technically he’s from CA too, but you had your chance; he’s ours now). Almost immediately Van, Cambria and the rest of Port O’Brien sent my jaw packing for the floor with their catchy, bluegrass infused folk rock. To say that front man/guitarist Van Pierszalowski’s delivery of these songs -- many of which were penned aboard commercial salmon boats in Alaska -- is honest and heartfelt might be the understatement to end all understatements. Frontman, he is. Frontin,’ he is not. Homeboy’s ability to belt out a red-faced chorus is matched only by the sincerity of his slower, twangier vocal deliveries. It was about halfway through “Fisherman’s Son” that I started thinking, “This song is going to get stuck in my head.” I haven’t slept a full night since. The final nail in the coffin that is sleeplessness came during the band’s signature closing number “I Woke Up Today.” After distributing pots, pans and metal spoons to the audience, Port O’Brien launched into one of the most raucous and memorable foot-stompers these ears have ever heard. Please send Sominex.

Port OBrien

Port OBrien

Port OBrien

Primed and ready for more, the sold out audience welcomed headliner M. Ward with open arms. I don’t know that I have ever seen that many smiling Seattlites collected in one room. From the weird hippy guy next to me eating dried fruit to the Samoan-Kirk-Hammett-with-John Waters moustache, M. Ward had us all eating out of the palm of his hand. Have you SEEN this man work over a guitar? As I stood there watching I actually thought to myself, “That guitar is so lucky.” And that voice? It conjures thoughts of wood burning stoves, his and hers passports, and sleeping in. It’s hard to write about him without sounding like I’m in love. Floating back and forth across the stage, from guitar to guitar, then to the piano, Ward performed with the confidence and accuracy of a thousand man-crushes realized. After just over an hour onstage and two encores (“Vincent O’Brien” and an insanely perfect rendition of “Roll Over Beethoven”) it all came to a close. What a night.

M Ward

M Ward

M Ward

M Ward

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4 Comments

  1. k8
    Posted March 11, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    My two companions and I went to the Green Room in the middle of Port O’brien’s second song. Dude’s voice was hurting my friend’s ears. Don’t the Waifs have a song called Fisherman’s Daughter? Not sure if you’ve seen M. Ward before but this performance did not compare at all to his raucous Bumbershoot set last September. I thought the slow, heartfelt numbers at the beginning were the best part of the show. The band was tight as usual and his guitar-playing impressive as always, but the show lacked energy and spark for me. I did like the Buddy Holly cover ‘Rave On.’ Roll Over B was a weird closer, but I was in the hot dog line at that point. Thank you Beck for taking everyone over to the mainstage during the Shoot so I could see a much more affecting M. Ward show than I experienced at the Showbox.

  2. Posted March 12, 2009 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Brilliant review. I thought the show was riveting, and I loved how M. Ward started with the sweet and soft and then built to the rollicking encore. Maybe your man-crush has something to do with the intimacy with which he performs...it’s like he’s inviting us into his living room where he is making excellent music with all of his dorky friends, and we can just cop a squat and be wildly entertained.

  3. Posted March 12, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I agree. Great review by Mr. Cullen. Well-written, funy and accompanied by great photographs. I don’t even like music.

  4. Andy
    Posted March 13, 2009 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    i will agree with k8... this m. ward show lacked something, maybe because the last three times i saw him, i was in the front row and could feel more of the energy. that being said, it was not at all disappointing. : )

    can’t wait to see him at sasquatch too

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