On a surprisingly quaint Thursday in San Francisco’s always-bustling Marina District, under the majestic regal red surroundings of the Palace of Fine Arts, M. Ward performed to a sell-out crowd of dedicated fans with an arsenal of neo-folk ballads that wrenched at the sappy side of even this unfamiliar and rather tough-skinned rocker.
M (Matt) Ward got his footing through years of involvement with the group Rodriguez, and has been at the solo game since about 2001. He has also guest-appeared on stage and in the studio with numerous well-known acts, including Bright Eyes, Cat Power and Beth Orton.
But it was She & Him—Ward’s pairing with actress Zooey Deschanel—that really broke the long-time indie-rocker onto the big stage. After Ward and Deschanel recorded a track together for the film “The Go-Getter,” the two decided to carry on with She & Him, and since then, Ward’s solo career has seen a huge growth in attention.
Tonight’s performance is twee, for certain; but even for a guy who prefers abrasive music, I have to say Ward is a very talented guitarist and writes some really magnetic lyrics. A little sleeping romantic in me couldn’t help but be stirred a bit by “I’ll Be Yr Bird” when Ward proclaims “I ain’t no Bob Mould/ I’m not your DJ on late night radio/I’ll be the first one to ask where you were/I’ll be your bird”; and the more upbeat “One Hundred Million Years” had me admittedly tapping my toe, thinking of Kelly Stoltz and the more energetic offerings of David Dondero.
In addition to the serenity of the show—in such a beautiful venue filled with adoring fans, was the groups the band(s) had invited to tour with them to raise awareness for social change. I walked past a table in the lobby with merchandise that was labeled Invisible Children and thought there was a third support act that I was unaware of, but (after interrupting a rousing game of C-low) I was informed that IC is actually a group touring in support of a film entitled “The Rescue (of Joseph Kony’s child Soldiers).”
“The Rescue…” documents the forced military service of 20,000+ Ugandan children in leader Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance rebel army. Invisible Children is distributing the film to raise awareness and funding, in hopes that they will be able to force the prosecution of Kony, and thus free the under-age military slaves.
At the next table is Oxfam, an environmental awareness group that focuses on the needs of women, particularly in developing nations and the effects of climate change on us all through those lenses, lobbying heavily in the United States and with the United Nations.
For an indie-rock show, I am pretty impressed with the consideration of the artists to bring these folks on tour with them.
If you’re in the neighborhood, you can check out these awesome causes when you catch M. Ward March 18 (Central Presbyterian Church-4AD & SXSW) and 19 (Auditorium Shores at Our Lady Bird Lake) at SXSW Festival in Austin Texas, and April 17 at Coachella in Indio, CA. For more information on tour dates, Invisible Children and Oxfam, check out the links below.