Stand With Standing Rock Benefit Concert & Silent Auction

This weekend, musicians, artists, and community members from South Bend and beyond will be coming together to support the gathering at Standing Rock and its efforts to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Stand with Standing Rock Benefit Concert & Silent Auction takes place this Sunday, January 29th at LangLab in South Bend. The event will feature a variety of entertainment, with twelve bands, twelve acoustic artists, three DJs, and multiple comedian MCs.

“It’s going to be music packed, all day long,” said Dena Woods.

She, along with fellow organizers Jenni Miller and Eli Kahn, have been awed by the support offered to them by the local community. The performances, beginning promptly at 2pm, have all been donated. The acoustic stage will be surrounded by auction blocks with work offered by local and regional artists, as well as goods from local businesses. Throughout the community, everything from water for volunteers to supplies for promotion have been contributed.

“It’s bigger than we ever thought it would be,” said Miller. “It’s pretty amazing. It’s a testament to the kind of place South Bend is.”

Miller is a local artist herself, operating out of a studio space at LangLab. The venue, which also operates as a small business incubator and a studio home for artists, is the appropriate fit for such a community oriented event. LangLab gives artists a reduced rate space to work and developing businesses a low-rent option to get started and grow before heading out into the broader region. Purple Porch Co-op, a community owned cafe, grocery store, and farmers market, got its start inside LangLab.

“It’s a supportive place,” Miller said. “It’s home.”

She appeared entirely unhindered by the immense effort and the lack of sleep that has been the price of planning the event in such a short period of time. She pointed to her experience managing bands, organizing past events, and serving on the board of directors for Habitat For Humanity as valuable when planning the benefit event.

Woods and Kahn also have their share of experience in planning events in the area. Those familiar with the local music scene would have a hard time missing any of their names throughout the years. They were quick to point to their volunteers, the community donors, and, most importantly, the Standing Rock gathering itself, as the focus.

Planning for Stand With Standing Rock began after Kahn found himself emotionally affected by imagery from the Standing Rock Gathering, with native tribes and their allies in peaceful protest being assaulted with fire hoses, gas, and rubber bullets.

“Some of these images we’re seeing,” Miller said. “It’s hard for me to think about without crying.”

We discussed the current climate in our culture and the need for every citizen to find a way to step into the fray and help better the world. Miller pointed to the daunting task of each individual figuring out what they can do to make change, but knowing she had to do something.

“I’m an artist, I’m poor, how can I help?” she said. “We’re just trying to do this the way we know how. The way we know how is to spread love through art and music.”

“We all felt moved enough and angry enough,” Woods said. “It’s about doing something for what’s right and fighting against what’s wrong. I may be one person, but I have this within me and I’m going to give it to fight for what’s right. Obviously, a lot of causes that are extremely important that need to be fought for right now.”

It’s their hope to raise a significant amount of money at the event to donate to the Standing Rock gathering for supplies and to also raise awareness. They are also hoping to inspire others to take similar action for other causes.

“If you want to do something, do it,” Miller said. “Revolution doesn’t have to be violent.”

“You don’t need permission from anybody,” said Woods. “If you are upset about something, empower yourself and do something about it.”

The event, according to Miller, is about showing that South Bend stands with Standing Rock.

“We have to be there for each other no matter how far away we are,” she said.

Stand With Standing Rock takes this place this Sunday, January 29th from 2pm until 8pm at LangLab in South Bend on High Street. Information on the event can be found at the Stand with Standing Rock Benefit Concert & Silent Auction Facebook event page. Those hoping to volunteer for the event can contact the organizers via the Facebook page. Information on the Standing Rock gathering itself can be found at standwithstandingrock.net.

2016 Didn't Suck That Much (At Least Not Musically)

There’s a rule in music…well, there’s a rule in my musical world:

If they hang out with Josh and Garth of The Rutabega, they make damn fine music.

This has held true through numerous events and opening acts. Really, the only exception I can think of is myself and, well, I don’t make any music at all. The rule certainly applies to what I deem my favorite find of 2016 (I really should come up with a name for this…the Golden Needle Award? The Drop Of The Year? Or maybe I shouldn’t).

I’m speaking of Jake Simmons & The Little Ghosts. I caught them while playing with The Rutabega at McCormick’s in South Bend and, while the late night show was making me feel a bit old, the music of JS&TLG revived me in a way I haven’t felt since I was a punk-ass kid watching Dave Kirchgessner of Mustard Plug hang from that weird bar above the two-inch stage at the original Intersection (cheers if you remember what I’m talking about).

JS&TLG make solid rock music, with high-energy dives into punk rock, blues, and, seemingly, whatever the hell sound they deem appropriate for each song. The bleeding guitars are best played on high volume and, hey, don’t be shy about singing along. Jake’s lyrics traverse the realms of quirky, angry, and sentimental, never once feeling anything but genuine.

As is often the case for me with my end of year favorites, most, if not all of the JS&TLG music I’m speaking of was released prior to 2016, but , hey, this was the year that I discovered it (you could chalk this up to my being slow and behind, but I prefer to blame it on the massive amount of great music being made today).

I’ve put together a Jake Simmons mixtape for you to check out some of my favorites. Make no mistake, though, as anything short of picking up the entirety of every release is simply shorting yourself of rock and roll greatness. And why would you do that to yourself? Check out that mix tape over on Spotify:

AtND Jake Simmons & The Little Ghosts Mix Tape

As for the rest of 2016, well, many claims have been made as to the negative nature of the year thanks to numerous deaths of our heroes, bad news stories, and the embarrassing and horrific election of Trump to the White House, but remember, nothing is all good or bad. Whatever else aside, 2016 certainly was a solid year for good music:

(Note: If you’re playing catch up, click on the album or song title to purchase the music from Amazon and help AtND pay the bills at the same time!)

Car Seat Headrest gave us Teens Of Denial, a rock album that finds new depth with each listen.

Amanda Palmer has found a prolific stride thanks to her reliance on Patreon, using the direct support of her fans to give us a constant supply of new and excellent music. It was by fortunate coincidence that AFP’s tour had hit my region the weekend after the election (not to mention the death of Leonard Cohen), giving me a place to process my shock, disappointment, and upset. The concert featured an emotional evening of music, with sing-alongs, scream-alongs, stomping, and crying. Amanda brought along guests, inviting Peter Sagal of NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and the Vice President of Illinois’ Planned Parenthood to deliver messages of love and action. Her husband, author Neil Gaiman, was in the room as well. He performed a reading (with Amanda backing him musically) of Leonard Cohen’s “Democracy” before spending much of his evening with their son in the back of the room, teaching him to walk a few feet from where I was standing (I put my fanboy away and just watched the moment in awe). Speaking of that reading of “Democracy”, you can pick that track up and, in the process, help out PEN America’s efforts to defend free speech by going here.

The Avett Brothers gave us their best album in years with True Sadness. You can check out my review of that here. I saw them too the weekend after the election, a last minute addition to my concert schedule that was the usual emotion packed evening from TAB, heightened so by current events. With protestors expressing similar feelings just around the corner from the Van Andel Arena, the crowd roared in defiance the line “your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected” during “Head Full Of Doubt, Road Full Of Promise“.

Swet Shop Boys brought us the Indian/Pakistan/American hip-hop album Cashmere, full of anger and commentary about our culture’s treatment of those of Middle Eastern descent (and not to mention all of those sick beats).

If you somehow missed it, Drive-By Truckers certainly broke new ground with American Band, giving us the American rock album we desperately need in our current culture.

And Charles Bradley gave us Changes, reminding us the true meaning of the word “soul” and recording an amazing cover of, oddly, Black Sabbath.

And we can’t forget all of the awesome coming from Grand Rapids’ The Crane Wives, giving us the epic Foxlore when I was still busy singing along with Coyote Stories and Safe Ship, Harbored. Watch for them in 2017. I expect amazing things.

Justin Wells returned from the ashes of Fifth On The Floor with one of the best American rock albums I heard all year in Dawn in the Distance, about his life as a musician, an outcast, and a father.

PUP gave us The Dream Is Over, a mischievous, loud, and ultimately fun punk rock record worthy of losing one’s voice while screaming along and playing far too loud.

So much good music. So whatever the “dumpster fire” view of 2016 you may have, remember unrest and upset makes for some fine music and certainly gives us a soundtrack for fighting the battles ahead. And, oh, do we have battles ahead.

I want to thank you all for another great year of support. Remember, if you love what we do, you can support us directly at our Patreon campaign or visit any of our sponsor links.

Let’s finish 2016 with our heads high and our hands ready for the battles of 2017. Until then, here’s to life.

We Need The Flobots Now

there is a war going on for your mind

Image by Flobots

In 2007, revolution was in the air. The destruction of the Great Recession was mounting and eight years of leadership under President George W. Bush had exhausted the United States overseas and at home. Inspiring hope and bringing out a new generation of voters and activists was the candidacy of eventual President Barack Obama.

At 25 years old, I found myself caught up in those energies. I had recently moved back to my hometown in Michigan, making my first “adult” stamp in the world by purchasing a house, by getting my hands into my community, in hopes to be a part of the positive change.

We were fighting for new leadership. We were battling the destructive flames of the economic crisis, of too much war, of too little care for those in need. We were battling other activists who grew from mistrustful positions, where anger and fear held a deeper root than compassion.

The Flobots released Fight With Tools in that time, bringing a message in music befitting the moment. The message was of action, compassion, and hope. Their mixture of hip-hop, rock, and the beauty of the viola was coupled with their message of motion and activism. They met their words with action of their own, creating activist networks and community organizations in their home state and across the nation. Their music was motivation. It was the soundtrack of the revolution, a call not to arms, but to ideas. It was music that made me feel I could take on the world.

And here we are again, though, in many ways, the script seems turned around. In 2007, there seemed a light beyond the darkness, signs of hope on the horizon. This time around, we seem to be heading into the blackened woods, with consequences more grave than before and an ending unsure. But we do not despair. We act.

shake off that rubble, break free from your standstill

More than ever, it becomes important for each of us to step up and act. Though it has always been a constant in my playlist, I’ve been playing Fight With Tools as much as that original period, the power of music motivating me when I despair, when my energy lags or when my direction is unsure.

stand up, we shall not be moved

And, fittingly, the Flobots are working on a new set of music. The crowd-funded double album NOENEMIES was in the works long before the election, but the release (up in the air, but likely in the early days of the Trump administration) could not be more timely.

The power of art and music is undeniable, through sharing the stories of those different than us and uniting us in a shared chorus. We need art like Fight With Tools. We need the Flobots, now more than ever.

the way that it is is not how it’s gonna be

The Crane Wives at The Living Room Series

The Crane Wives, The Living Room Series At The Hanson Theater, Benton Harbor, Michigan, September 30th, 2016

The promise of The Living Room Series at the Hanson Theatre has been the intimate experience brought by the small performing space and the universal emotions in the Americana music played there. This season’s debut, featuring The Crane Wives, elevated that closeness and brought the audience an evening unlike those experienced in standard music venues.

The Crane Wives, from Grand Rapids, quickly found their footing in the relaxed space. Early on, they referenced their own uncomfortableness in the room, it’s rounded shape leaving them “surrounded” by listeners and the quiet audience creating a void for them to fill between songs. Their admission immediately connected them to the audience and soon there was a regular banter, including a “Question & Answer” dialogue. This brought the strength of their music to the fore.

They are the most human of musicians; honest, flawed, and willing to acknowledge their own fears and divisions. Their lyrics are open, personal, and vulnerable and they brought that trait to the conversation with spectators. We were given insight to the stories behind the songs and the lifestyle of music the foursome lives, one they referred to as greatly familial, stating “we’re married to each other & each of our partners as well.”

Throughout the evening, we heard selections from the most recent of The Crane Wives albums, 2015’s “Coyote Stories” and this year’s “Foxlore”, as well as earlier cuts from the already growing library from the six-year old band. Their sound continues to expand with each release, blending the traditional sounds of folk and Americana with the energies of rock and pop.

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=anytheneedr04-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B0185INCJY&asins=B0185INCJY&linkId=b2c1e14435a18ad13f9289415480bad6&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=anytheneedr04-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B01DAKAMAY&asins=B01DAKAMAY&linkId=d6f90a5a18ed70400edf6b46297acde4&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffffThe Mendel Center rounded out the evening with an expanded attraction in form of food and beverage. The Livery was in the house serving up three of their craft beers, along with a selection of food samples from kitchen manager Becky Wehmer. Pizza fans were treated to standards such as pepperoni, but also unique topping combinations such as Thai BBQ Chicken and the uncommon deliciousness of “Taste Likes Stuffing”. Beer lovers were offered a presentation prior to the show, discussing the history of the Livery, one of the oldest craft breweries in the region, and their beer-making process.

With an evening full of local flavors and music, The Living Room Series has kicked off a solid new season. Music fans should keep an eye on The Hanson Theatre, as they are quietly building some the best seats for live music in Southwest Michigan.

Check out the latest released from The Cranes Wives on iTunes & Amazon and watch their tour schedule on TheCraneWives.com. Updates on The Hanson Theatre and The Living Room Series can be found at The Mendel Center website.