The Bowery Presents
M. Ward

M. Ward

Yo La Tengo, Wyatt Cenac (of The Daily Show)

Tue, August 7, 2012

Doors: 6:00 pm / Show: 7:00 pm

Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park Bandshell

Brooklyn, NY

$35 advance / $37 day of show

This event is all ages

Benefit concert to support free programming at Celebrate Brooklyn! a Performing Arts Program of BRIC Arts | Media | Bklyn.

Rain or Shine

M. Ward
M. Ward
“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.

For this self-effacing artist, who has created most of his recorded work in or near his Portland, Oregon home, this was a unique and ambitious undertaking, designed to take him away from his comfort zone. As Ward admits, “Between now and when I made Hold Time there has been a lot of traveling which requires a lot of reckoning with what to leave behind and what to carry – material and otherwise – and thinking about what I want versus what I need, creatively and otherwise. I wanted to get a reflection of that on the album. It was a process of stripping away my security blanket, which is the same four walls I always record in.”

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, esp. on the solo track, “There’s a Key,” recorded at The Magic Shop in lower Manhattan, and the gorgeous, piano-driven “Crawl After You,” cut in Portland with his frequent cohort, the multi-instrumentalist and engineer Mike Coykendall. (Amanda Lawrence also contributes a simple heartbreaker of a violin solo on that one.) 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.”

In spirit, A Wasteland Companion has Austin, Texas as its departure point. Opening song “Clean Slate” is dedicated to Alex Chilton of Big Star, who passed away from heart failure in March 2010, merely days before he was to perform at South By Southwest. Ward and several other artists agreed to step in to make sure the show went on, transforming the evening into a moving tribute to the Memphis rock legend. As Ward recounts, “Alex was supposed to have been there. Everyone agreed that it would be better to have people playing his songs than to have an empty room. It was a very memorable night, a very heavy night. So ‘Clean Slate’ seemed like a good place to start the record.” As if to cap the journey that A Wasteland Companion represents, Ward returns to Austin for SXSW this year, to play his new songs and launch his tour.

On a rollicking cover of Austin-based Daniel Johnston’s “Sweetheart,” Ward pays tribute to another indie rock icon, mashing up country rock twang with girl-group sweetness as he duets with Deschanel. (“I believe Daniel’s entire catalog needs to be listened to,” Ward notes. “It’s just ripe for elaboration.”) He also delivers an exuberant rendition of “I Get Ideas,” an early fifties pop number adapted from a Spanish language hit and made famous by Louis Armstrong. Says Ward, “It’s a song I’ve loved for a really long time. I tried covering it with my band and it’s turned into something we did every night.”

Ward doesn’t have much to say about the evocative album title he chose (though he does acknowledge that he’s inspired by T.S. Elliot’s epic poem of almost the same name). But if words might sometimes elude him in conversation, his songs invariably succeed in speaking volumes – about where he’s been both as an artist and a traveler and about the many fellow artists who have facilitated his journey since old pal Gelb released Ward’s first solo effort, Duet For Guitars #2, in 2000.. As he concludes, “whenever you come back home - photos always seem to fall short of telling the whole story of places you’ve been or people you've met. I love the idea that music can tell a truer and maybe more balanced story."

-- Michael Hill
Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo is one of the most beloved and respected bands in America. For nearly thirty years, Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew have enjoyed success entirely on their own terms – travelling the world, dominating critics lists, doing a Simpsons theme, playing the Velvet Underground in I Shot Andy Warhol, even creating a holiday tradition onto themselves with their yearly series of Hanukkah shows at Hoboken, New Jersey’s legendary club Maxwells.

Their track record has been so stellar, their consistency so weirdly effortless, that it’s sometimes a little too easy to take them for granted. Do not make that mistake with Fade. If ever a Yo La Tengo record “mattered” - musically, emotionally, even historically - this is that record.

Fade is the most richly textured, thematically cohesive album of the band’s career. Sonically, it recalls high-points like 1997’s I Can Feel the Heart Beating As One and 2000’s …And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out - a tapestry of fine melody and elegant noise, rhythmic shadow-play and shy-eyed orchestral beauty, songfulness and experimentation.

But Fade attains a lyrical universality and hard-won sense of grandeur that’s rare even for them. It weaves themes of aging, personal tragedy and the emotional bonds that keep us sane in times of crisis into a fully-realized whole that recalls career-defining statements like 'Blood On the Tracks' or 'Call Me' or 'I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight'.

“Nothing ever stays the same / Nothing’s explained”, the band sing in unison on the lushly reflective opening track 'Ohm', then add, "We try not to lose our hearts / Not to lose our minds". It’s a very direct sentiment for a band who usually prefer private intimation to forceful expression, and that’s exactly what makes the song’s sense of struggle-against-resignation feel that much more earned.

This is the first time Yo La Tengo have worked with producer John McEntire, best known for his essential Chicago post-rock band Tortoise as well as his work on great albums by diverse artists from Bright Eyes to Stereolab to the Spinanes. He’s helped the band hone a set of songs as richly diverse as they are seamlessly sequenced - flowing from the low-key shimmy of 'Well, You Better' to the autumnal Sixties melodicism of 'Is That Enough' to the muted motorik kick of “Stupid Things” to the cozy-duvet distortion of 'Kiwi,' right on through to the cagey groove, horns and strings of the beautiful album-ending ‘Before We Run', in which Hubley and Kaplan sing “Take me to your distant lonely place / Take me out beyond mistrust.”

If you’ve got the guts to go with them, you won’t be let down.
Wyatt Cenac (of The Daily Show)
Wyatt Cenac (of The Daily Show)
Wyatt Cenac was born in New York City. After three years of big city life he had enough and moved to Dallas, Texas. Missing the big city life, Wyatt moved to North Carolina. After four years, he realized he got on the wrong plane and moved to the big city of Los Angeles where he would spend the next bunch of years doing comedy and getting into debt.

While in LA, Wyatt spent three seasons as a writer on FOX's animated show "King of the Hill" and also did stand up at shows like "Comedy Death Ray" and "The Tomorrow Show." To avoid his debt collectors, Wyatt spent most of his time performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade and Improv Olympic, where he did shows like "Rap Crisis Center," "The Armando Show" and did a regrettably terrible Barack Obama impression that found its way onto the Internet. In 2008, Wyatt starred in the film "Medicine for Melancholy" which was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards and lost all three (Thanks a lot, "Synecdoche, New York").

Wanting to return to the big city he gave the finger to as a toddler, Wyatt moved back to New York in 2008 to join the news team of "The Daily Show" as a correspondent and writer. He forgot how cold it gets in the winter.

Wyatt’s one hour stand-up special “Wyatt Cenac: Comedy Person” aired on Comedy Central last year.
Venue Information:
Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park Bandshell
Prospect Park West and 9th St.
Brooklyn, NY, 11217
http://www.bricartsmedia.org/performing-arts/celebrate-brooklyn