Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear

8:30 p.m., August 19, 2016 | JCCC Fieldhouse in the GYM Building.


Due to weather concerns, Friday evening's Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear concert will be moved to the JCCC Fieldhouse in the GYM building, which is located on the west side of campus. The concert will go on as scheduled in the new location, 8:30 pm, Friday, August 19. Follow the campus road signs to the GYM parking lot. You can still bring your chairs, blankets and picnic baskets (but no pets or alcohol, please)! Part of Johnson County Community College's Light Up the Lawn summer concert series.

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear are a modern soulful/folk music duo from Independence, Missouri.

The band's debut album "Skeleton Crew," produced by Jim Abbiss, known for his award-winning work with Arctic Monkeys and Adele, captures Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear in their most natural setting. The two tracked most of the tracks live, sitting across from one another in the recording studio. They didn't use a click track. With help from a handful of session musicians, the two Wards captured the sound they'd been making since those coffee shop days.

At home, Madisen and Ruth Ward are family members. Onstage, they're the leading members of Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, a soulful folk band whose sound is anchored by twin guitars and two big, booming voices.

The music started in Kansas City, where Madisen grew up watching his mom perform cover songs at local coffee shops. Before long, he was writing his own tunes, mixing the old-world influence of his family's folk records with the unchained, energetic stomp of modern-day rock 'n' roll. The two began playing entire shows together, ditching the cover songs in favor of Madisen's original material. Both sang, both played guitar, and both watched as their band's audience slowly grew.

For years, though, they kept a low profile. This was honest music, performed by a band of blood relatives with no record label, no manager, no budget. Still, it was hard not to notice Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear. Onstage, they were solemn one minute and electrifying the next, able to command an audience's attention with little more than two acoustic guitars and Madisen's super-sized baritone vocals. Madisen Ward & Mama Bear's songs spin tall tales (and a few biographical truths) about life in the Midwest. They unfold like short stories, with Madisen — who grew up writing fiction — preferring to cut things off before any sort of ending can be reached. The goal isn't to paint a concrete picture for the audience. It's to hand the audience the paint brush and allow them to finish the design.

"Most of the musicians I've really loved have very unique and slightly awkward voices," he says. "Voices that stand out among the rest. When we were playing those early shows, I'd think, 'Belt out something that makes people set their coffee down and really pay attention. Do something to make them stop in their tracks.'" — Madisen Ward