M. Ward – Tickets – Aladdin Theater – Portland, OR – September 20th, 2012

M. Ward

M. Ward

Mike Coykendall

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Aladdin Theater

Portland, OR

$22.00

Sold Out

Minors -21 permitted with parent or legal guardian

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
Mike Coykendall
Mike Coykendall
Mike Coykendall was raised near the dead center of the contiguous 48 states of America in rural Norwich Kansas. He began playing drums in junior high at the age of 12 and shortly thereafter learned how to play guitar. An older brother showed him how to play songs like "Day Tripper," "Johnny B. Goode," and "Interstellar Overdrive."

In 1984 Mike started a band in Wichita Kansas named Klyde Konnor. Not long afterwards Mike bought a used Tascam 144 four-track tape machine from an ad out of the Penny Power (the local used goods resource). As Mike stated " I'd already read about this thing and I knew in my heart if I had one of these I could really get some of this creativity I was feeling out." Shortly thereafter he became obsessed with recording using all his free time to record in the basement performing & recording all the instruments. This was the first shades of multi-tracked, solo, multi-instrumental Mike Coykendall recordings. This technique would later resurface on his solo records Hello, Hello, Hello and The Unbearable Being of Likeness.

Wichita's KMUW radio station had a late night underground music program entitled "After Midnight." Mike submitted a Klyde Konnor demo cassette and not long afterwards the recording was being played on the air. The band was asked to play a fundraiser for the radio show with five other local bands. This was his first window into being a part of a scene of musicians who played all original material. Klyde continued to gig and make records between 1984 and 1991.

During this time, Mike also experienced a re-connection with traditional country music. He got a paying gig as a drummer in a local country band. It was there he learned to bend and break many of his rock habits to adapt to country music forms and styles. As he puts it "I learned to slow down the beat, play a loping rhythm or a country waltz." It was in this setting that Mike came to understand the cross-generational appeal of certain songs and styles.

In 1990 Mike married his wife Jill who would become a consistent musical collaborator for the years to come. After receiving a severance package from a job lay-off Mike and Jill decided to leave the heartland for San Francisco. They arrived in SF in 1991 and right away he began recruiting for his next band that would become the Old Joe Clarks. During this time in SF Mike struck up a friendship with RIchard Buckner who would have the Old Joe Clarks open for some of his shows and who came to be a champion of the band. As a three piece with Kurt Stevenson, the bands' first CD Town of Ten was recorded in 1996. Chicago label Checkered Past Records released the record in 1997. The record went to number 16 on the Americana charts and was well received by critics. In 1999, the band (now a six-piece) recorded and released Metal Shed Blues which was also released on Checkered Past Records.

While in San Francisco, Coykendall bought a 1/2 in. 8 track tape machine and began recording "quiet" records for friends in the his one bedroom apartment. Around this time he first heard a hushed six song tape from a solo artist named Matt Ward. Later to be abbreviated to M. Ward. In 1999 the Coykendalls decided to move to Portland, Oregon where Ward had moved a few months earlier. Before leaving a mutual friend told Mike he should call Matt when he got to Portland. He followed up on that friendly rejoinder and the two artists began playing shows in Portland and recording together.

By 2000 the Coykendalls had established themselves in Portland and it was during this time that the Old Joe Clarks recorded their third studio record November. He opened up his home studio (Blue Rooms) for business working as an engineer, producer, and musician for hire. It was then he came to realize that he was a skilled and creative musical facilitator. It was in this studios\ that he came to record and perform on such records as Richmond Fontaine's Fitzgerald and Post to Wire, Tin Hat Trio's Book of Silk, M. Ward's seminal record Transfiguration of Vincent, Transistor Radio, POST-WAR, and Hold Time, … to name a few.

In 2004-2005 Coykendall recorded his first solo record entitled Hello, Hello, Hello. His years of creating unique songs and recordings playing all instruments himself came together in the time that now could be spent in his own studio. After the finish of this record he needed to recruit a band to play all of his original compositions. So, out of a fertile field of Portland musicians he recruited Matt Brown, Scott Hampton, Scott DeMay, and Nathan Anderson Jr. This band would serve as the foundation for Mike Coykendall and the Golden Shag. From this band Nathan would be tapped to tour with M. Ward and Matt Brown for She & Him. Nathan Anderson Jr. has since left the band to be replaced by Jill Coykendall on bass. The scope of composition which Mike writes from ranges from elements of Beatlesque Brit-pop to full-blown psychedelic romps, plaintive heartland ballads to hard-driving four to the floor rock & roll. Streaks of John Lennon, Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd rest comfortably beside rootsy acoustic elements that point more to Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zant.

During 2005-2006 Mike began steadily touring with the M. Ward band putting on outstanding live shows where he would switch the bass and rhythm guitar duties (plus his outstanding whistling!). From these tours Coykendall began to connect and collaborate with a national and international world of recording artists and performers such as GIllian Welch, Bright Eyes, Jim James, and Victoria Williams. Many of these artists were people that M. Ward brought into the studio to produce himself including Zooey Deschanel with She & Him. Mike went on to play multiple instruments on and engineer both She & Him records Volume One and Volume Two and he currently plays acoustic guitar in the touring band.

Meanwhile, he continued to record local Portland artists Blitzen Trapper who would come to break wide open with the 2008 release of their record Furr on which Coykendall recorded "Black River Killer" and "Lady On the Water." He would then go on to record all of 2010's Destroyer of the Void with Blitzen Trapper.
Since recording and touring with the M. Ward and She & Him bands, Mike Coykendall has been on Late Night with David Letterman three times, Conan O' Brien twice, Craig Ferguson three times, and an episode of Austin City Limits. It is a rare thing for an artist to share in so many circles great and small and to take it all in stride. Firmly transcending the title of journeyman or sideman Mike Coykendall is a multi-dimensional artist and a sharing and thoughtful creative force. Bandleader, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, recording artist, and producer… It seems that the Great Spirit put the talents of many into the body of one man and he happens to be from the plains of Kansas to keep him humble.

Mike Coykendall and the Golden Shag have released 2010's The Unbearable Being of Likeness on Field Hymns records. They have consistently played exceptional live shows throughout the Portland area and have henceforth toured California and Washington to support the record. Mike is currently wrapping up work on a "double" length record to be released sometime in 2011. After that he plans to continue touring on his own or with accomplices. So…stay tuned.