M. Ward at the Belly Up Tavern

I miscalculated how long it would take me to get into the Belly Up Tavern.

I assumed getting there at 9pm when Jenny Lewis’s new band Nice As Fuck (NAF) was due to start would work out. Little did I know, security at the Belly Up was now wanding and checking bags–definitely an important procedure but also one that slowed down entry. Note to future Belly Up patrons: Get there early!

When I finally entered the venue, I spent a couple minutes trying to figure out where the band actually was. Then I realized NAF set up on the floor. Everyone was crowded around them and I couldn’t see Jenny Lewis or her band mates drummer Tennessee Thomas (The Like) and bassist Erika Forster (Au Revoir Simone). This setup can make a more intimate experience because it places the audience and performer closer to one another. However, at a huge venue like the Belly Up with a super group like NAF that will draw a large crowd, floor setups don’t work very well.

Besides their setup, Lewis and company played a great, energetic set. NAF’s songs recall post-punk influences and sound personal and intimate because of their construction of bass, drums, vocals and sometimes synth. Lewis’s vocals stand out with the drum and bass composition and make you realize that she’s a truly great singer. The music is no frills just like their promotion of their album–the band hasn’t hired a publicist and their album and t-shirt designs are simple text reading “NICE AS FUCK.”

Singer-songwriter M. Ward played after NAF finished. Ward is more commonly known as the collaborator of movie star/musician Zooey Deschanel in their folky indie band She & Him. Ward is currently on tour for his new album More Rain (2016). His music is bluesy inspired Americana full of Ward’s ripping guitar solos and sweet harmonies.

Ward isn’t a flashy performer, but he’s definitely very comfortable onstage. He worked the crowd with some banter and confident stage presence. His backup band consisted of a rhythm guitar player, drummer, bassist and keyboardist. The band was a solid backing group that didn’t upstage Ward’s stage presence or guitar solos. All band members sang harmonies–a really nice touch to Ward’s folky set.

Towards the end of M. Ward’s set, Jenny Lewis joined him on stage for a duet. They told the story of how they decided to have NAF open on M. Ward’s “More Rain” tour. Ward walked into Tennessee Thomas’s New York City shop The Deep End when NAF was having its second practice. From what he heard, Ward knew he wanted to have the band open for him despite them not having complete songs yet.

It was the last show of NAF’s run with M. Ward on his “More Rain” tour which is a shame because we could have totally watched these two bands back to back again.

By: Lara McCaffrey