Bands in Vans: Mark Ward and the Bard

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The latest installation in our Bands in Vans series features road musings from local singer-songwriter Mark Ward, who has embarked on a three-week solo tour to California and back. (Read his first post here.)

I learned a couple of things on Wednesday: 1)  It gets really hot in Ashland, Oregon … like 104 degrees hot. and 2) Ashland loves their Shakespeare.

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As I arrived in Ashland for my show at the Tease restaurant on Wednesday evening, I was greeted with all things Shakespeare and a rising thermometer.  If you were not aware Ashland, Oregon hosts an annual Shakespeare festival … which runs ten months out of the year!  There is Hamlet in the park, Romeo and Juliet in the theater, Macbeth in the streets, Midsummer Night’s Dream in the bathroom … you get the picture.

Inevitably, my show was up against a rendition of Hamlet in the park.  I think Hamlet won.

The place I performed was this deliciously classy little restaurant name Tease. The restaurant had a nice atmosphere with low-lights, a rope curtain in the middle of the room, a large front window which allowed for some great pedestrian watching and a male bartender sporting a sweet salt and pepper ponytail.

I am not sure if Ashland actually has any locals: the people I met were all retirees from California with the exception of a Bikram Yoga instructor from Huntington Beach. She was touring a bunch of different studios up and down the west coast. It also seemed that Ashland had a healthy hippie population. There were several hemp stores and organic food places. All in all, Ashland reminded me of Sandpoint, Idaho (except there was way more Shakespeare, but I think you can say that about any place compared to Ashland).

After the show, I hung out with the owners of the restaurant for a little bit and then headed south to Yreka, California, which was where I was staying Wednesday and Thursday nights. Yreka is a small town with a rough edge to it. You can tell by the empty storefronts and haggard faces that the economic troubles have hit this town hard. Many of the trades that helped maintain Yreka for a long time are now non-existent. A trip to the local Wal-Mart is an experience within itself that is beyond description.

Finally, on Friday I performed at this little mom and pop bookstore in Sacramento, California. The bookstore’s name is Borders (OK, so not exactly mom and pop). I will be honest, my expectations for this show were not too hopeful. But I was pleasantly surprised by the interest I received from a crowd who were immersed in their books and laptops. They were very welcoming and I was able to sell several CDs and made some new friends…

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Next stop: Santa Cruz!!