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


The Midway Tavern (Part 2 of 2)

Photo by Justin Flagel

Photo by Justin Flagel

(Part 2 of 2, continuing the story from last week)

OleHarvAlbertina offered the band a spot to play on a regular basis and, soon, word of mouth led other musicians to her door. Though blues has always been the focus, she has played host to a variety of musicians, both traveling and local. She speaks fondly of South Bend drummer Billy “Stix” Nicks, who is as legendary for his charming, humble personality as he is for his skill on the drums. He plays the venue regularly, both with blues and jazz bands, as well as with his renowned Motown Machine band. Though she and her daughter have been known to seek out musicians by attending concerts and festivals, many bands reach out to her to play the venue. She has also found support in the local music culture, with regular references from WVPE’s Ole’ Harv on the weekly Blues Revue and from local music writers such as Andy Hughes.

She told me the tale of a local photographer who once came in and politely asked permission to take photos during the performances. He came in days later with a handful of photos for Albertina. After returning with his camera at the next concert, Albertina asked him if he planned to continue every week.

“He said to me ‘if you’ll let me.’”

Midway17Of course, Albertina did and now the walls of the venue are covered in photographs of past performances and legendary appearances. The pictures stretch across The Midway, lending a physical representation to the incredible history of the tavern. Together, she and I sorted through nearly a century of memorabilia, including autographs, pictures, and promotional documents. She even brought out intact licenses and liquor permits dating back to the 1930s. Poring over the collection, I could not help but consider the need for a local music museum. Her thoughts, though, are focused on the future and the ongoings of The Midway.

Photo by Justin Flagel

Photo by Justin Flagel


“When you’re in a small place like this, you don’t usually pay much attention to the world. You

know it’s there and you know there are a lot of changes in the world, but you just hope you can keep going,” she said.

She points to the changes around her, from competition in other local nightlife options to a younger generation unaware of the music and the venue itself.

“It’s amazing that this place is still alive,” she said.PinetopPerkins

She credits The Midway’s longevity to the foundation created by her mother, to the quality of musicians desiring to play the venue, and to the core group of customers who regularly visit. She has no plans to stop and is hoping to instill an appreciation for the music in audiences going forward, “keeping the blues alive” for each new generation.

The Midway Tavern is doing just that, keeping audiences aware on Facebook and the Web. You can follow them on Facebook and find schedules for the upcoming shows and stories from the past at

You can also browse the library of photos and documents from the Midway by visiting


These piece created in part for Justin’s weekly column in Off The Water.


The Midway Tavern (Part 1 of 2)

It is a staple of the local music scene, yet somehow it remains unknown to many. It was by chance that I found my own way to it. Many years ago, in the days of the big bands at the Woodfire in Dowagiac, I came to know the musician Tom Moore. Over set-break discussion, he told me tales of the fantastic venue just off the corner of Smith and West 4th Street in Mishawaka, Indiana, of a blues bar embedded in a building that once housed Prohibition-Era rebellion, and hosted the likes of Al Capone.


The Midway Tavern, known also as Martha’s Midway, uses the tagline “keeping the blues alive” and it is a statement beyond marketing. Friday and Saturday nights, the venue plays host to some of the most talented musicians in the region and those traveling through. On a cold day this recent Winter, proprietor Albertina Wassenhove sat with me to recount tales of the music, her family, and the legend that is the Midway Tavern. She stands before me at a proud 88 years, the survivor of four cancers and a stroke, still working any evening a musician is playing and often on other nights. She was recently the honoree of an appreciation night at the tavern, celebrating her continued energy and involvement. She emphasized to me the importance of keeping busy and interested, telling me how it has kept her young and alive.

“I think people that retire and don’t find something have more of chance of dying than other people,” she said.

Martha83She described to me the history that led her to operating the venue. Her parents, who came to the United States from Belgium in the 1920s, acquired the bar where her father had been a frequent patron. The owner at the time, frustrated with the interactions between his wife and some of his customers, offered them the business and the building, even helping them to finance it. Early on, the establishment became marked with the personality of her mother, Martha. As Albertina explained, her mother did most of the work behind the bar while her father would socialize with the customers.

Albertina described her earliest memories of the venue. Her mother would not allow anyone under 21, including her, inside. Instead, she was forced to peek in from an adjacent doorway. The rule was lifted, however, when music was playing.

“That’s where I learned to dance,” Albertina said.

She became more involved at the age of 21, helping to tend bar and wait tables, along with her husband, stopping only to raise her children. When Martha died at the age of 91, Albertina and her sister took over the operation. Eventually, in 2003, she would come to run the bar entirely herself.

Photo by Justin Flagel

Photo by Justin Flagel

The Midway Tavern evolved over the decades to become the staple music venue it is now. The front section has the bar and holds pool tables and dart boards for the tournaments that occur multiple days each week. The back section holds the stage, plentiful tables and booths, and, of course, the dance floor. Once a space with a dirt floor and a pot bellied stove, it was remodeled in 1933 and remains largely in the same condition as it was then. Over the years, the music came and went, with the room closed for part of the 60s and used as a game space for people playing Belgian versions of bowling, darts, and archery. Albertina opened it back up in the 1980s, after being approached by a local musician.

Midway10“Somebody came in and wanted to know if they could use the back room to practice,” she said. “I thought, gee, that sounds pretty good.”

(Part 2 will continue in next week)



These piece created in part for Justin’s weekly column in Off The Water.


The Moore Brothers

I spent Sunday morning hanging with Thomas and David Moore, of South Bend’s The Moore Brothers, recording an interview for an upcoming episode of Red Chuck Pod.

I first met Tom in the earliest days of my discovery of the local blues scene, in the grand old days of music and dancing at the Woodfire.  He’s long been a staple of the local music scene, keeping the blues rocking and the grooves rolling for over thirty years.

This was my first meeting with Dave Moore.  His skills go well beyond the guitar, as he spends he days as a teacher.  His teaching skills go beyond the social sciences.  He even has a YouTube channel featuring free blues guitar lessons.

The podcast ep will be hitting in May, but for now, check out two cuts from their recent album, Conspirement.

Liquor Jug- The Moore Brothers

Cruel Lovin’- The Moore Brothers

Special thanks to Dennis Wesolowski for taking the photos of the day.