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.
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.