We think a lot about musicians and their world surrounding shows. But what about when the shows are over?
I can imagine that life on the road puts you in some weird situations.
I know it did for M Ward. And that the weirdoes were we . . .
Newport Folk was over. Darkness had come to Fort Adams.
I was standing in the Quad, the grassy area within the walls of Fort Adams, where the mvyradio broadcast center was. Most of the mvy staff was long gone. The Quad stage was empty, dark. The hospitality tent was empty, dark. There were a few random crew people walking too and fro, but mostly everyone was gone.
Barbara and Jess had just said goodbye. Jess, still adrenalized from the day's excitement, was headed to The Newport Blues Cafe, where Ryan Montbleau was playing, and where Deer Tick and Friends would be playing later. Barbara, who'd given her all to her many, many interviews, was headed back to our owner's house, for some food and a glass of something to relax with.
Joe, mvyradio's owner, and I were the only ones left. We'd pulled the last of our wires and cables and connections and such from our tent, and were loading them into his Tahoe.
"I'm going to run out front to say goodbye to the NPR folks, and then we're out of here." I was happy for that. In my younger days, I would have been off with Jess. But in my more prudent 40s, I was ready to head to the house and raise a quiet toast with Barbara.
So there I stood in the dark, drinking a beer, when someone who'd been crossing the Quad, changed his course and approached me.
"Are you guys, by chance, heading toward downtown, and if so, can I catch a ride?"
"Yeah! We're leaving in a minute. Hop in!"
"Do you know where the, um, Blues Cafe is? I'm supposed to play with some friends there."
"Really? That's where I'M headed!" I said, much to my own surprise.
"Yeah, I know," I smiled. "Hey Joe," who'd just returned, "This is M Ward. Can you drop us in town?"
So here's M Ward, somehow left behind on the grounds of a venue he just played, in a town he's not familiar with, in the dark, and he's left to figure out how to rejoin his friends, so he hops in a car with 2 strangers.
I'm sure he's been in this situation before. In fact, I bet he finds himself in this kind of situation more often than you or I. He seemed to know how to handle it.
He made small talk. Asked us our names and what we did. Joe gave him a detailed explanation of how we had fitted the whole of Fort Adams for wireless broadcasting, and Matt dropped in several, appropriately timed, "Oh wow"s.
He asked where I grew up, and when I said the North Shore of Massachusetts, he guessed Newburyport. Turns out he lived for a while in Newmarket, NH. We had a conversation about The Stone Church there, leading the conversation to where I really wanted it to go---his music.
I started grilling him about his upcoming projects, and he referred to "this other group I'm in" (yeah, that would be She & Him) and how they just finished a Christmas album. And he's working on a new solo record.
While all this is going on, I'm texting Jess, ("We're driving M Ward to town!"; "Bring him to me!" she replied) and he's texting his manager.
"My friends are at a restaurant near the club. Do you think you could get me near there? I don't mind to walk."
While all this conversation and texting is going on, Joe, a longtime Newport resident, is channeling his inner cab driver, trying to avoid the traffic clogging the post-Festival streets.
Matt has his GPS working on his phone, saying, "I think you can go down this street . . ."
"We don't want to go down that street. That's going to be a nightmare," instead banging a hard left and racing down a narrow Newport alley.
It was a little bit of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride for a few minutes, but after another alley (so thin that we were up on the curb for a moment), and a cut through a parking lot, we suddenly popped out right next to the restaurant.
I told Matt that I looked forward to seeing him play later and he thanked us kindly for the ride.
Joe then dropped me off at Newport Blues where I regaled Jess and Julie and Ryan and Jason Spooner (where did he come from?!) and anyone else I knew, with my tale of riding with M Ward.
Meanwhile, M Ward was somewhere with his manager in a Newport restaurant, no doubt not talking about his ride, as it was just another ride in another town after another show as part of a life on the road.
Hear the song on Youtube.