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


A Vinyl Story With Tom Moore

10982037_559180010891922_8083795043673093135_nTom Moore is known in the region as a roots-oriented musician, skillfully telling stories on stage with his harmonica, guitar, and vocals. Whether playing with Dave Moore as The Moore Brothers, in other groups, or on his own, Tom has a long history in the world of blues and Americana. In many ways, he’s responsible for my own exploration into the world of local roots music, whether during our earliest days of getting to know each other when he played the blues at the Woodfire in Dowagiac or showing me the magic of the historic Midway Tavern. Recently, after the passing of his longtime friend, Neil Raby, Tom started to tell me the tales of his own exploration of the world of music, framed around the record collection left to him by his departed friend.

“It’s a spectacular collection,” Tom said. “I knew pretty much every record in there. As time went on it had more of a personal quality to it. There’s a story behind every one of these records.”

Tom begins telling me the effect on his life of his friendship, what he refers to as “the Neil Raby phenomenon.” He described the first time he was aware of Neil, seeing him playing in a school basketball game when the two were young.

“He looked like a little version of Freddie Prinze,” Tom said. “He had this long mop of hair flying. He was all over the court. He was constantly yakking to his teammates, to the referees, to everybody. I was just like, what a character. Who is this guy?”

Some time later, Tom would have another encounter with Neil, riding his bike along the road on a hot summer day on a trip to a neighborhood where another friend lived, seeing him standing on the street corner.

“He’s got this immaculate white leisure suit,” Tom said. “He’s got a white beret on, sun glasses. He’s got these white gloves on and a cane and he’s standing there on a street corner with a girl on each arm. That’s the guy! I’ve gotta meet this guy!”

He soon would, meeting as Freshmen at Saint Joseph High School in South Bend. The two became fast friends, bonding over their shared interest in music. At the time, rock blues bands such as Led Zeppelin and Canned Heat were common in their playlists, but Neil was already exploring outside of the style, listening to the acoustic blues of Muddy Waters and Lightning Hopkins. Tom described the evolution of his taste in music, led both by Neil and by the record collections of the parents of their African-American friends.

“The sound was a little more stripped down, a little more scaled down,” Tom said. “Something about that really grabbed me.”

The pair, along with their peers, would find influences throughout their environment. Both their high school and the Town & Country Theater would bring in concert films featuring Woodstock, Santana, Sly & The Family Stone, and The Rolling Stones. They would meet Perry Aberli, who started the Midwest Blues Festival and had connections to Chicago blues labels, going over to his house to hear records from Johnny Shines and Doctor Ross The Harmonica Boss.

“I think for me, it was like ‘wow,’ that’s when music really started to get interesting,” he said.

He described the impact of seeing the same musicians live at festivals he was listening to at home. Neil especially had a habit of picking up the record for the musicians who would be coming to town. When the two went off to Ball State together, Neil’s collection really started to expand. They met another music aficionado, Jeff Harell, and the three would share a house together.

“We’d fall asleep listening to records and wake up listening to records,” Tom said. “He would spin records until three in the morning.”

Tom, pictured with Jeff Harell in front of the collection with the rare copy of Lightning Hopkins Live At The Bird Lounge.

Tom, pictured with Jeff Harell in front of the collection with the rare copy of Lightning Hopkins Live At The Bird Lounge.

Both Tom and Jeff refer to Neil’s impact on their musical tastes as significant. Jeff described Neil’s collection as “a big education” and explained how it increased his awareness of the wide spectrum of blues music.

“He had such a well rounded collection,” Tom said. “It’s kind of like this blues museum.”

Neil never stopped collecting. In addition to vinyl, he had sets of concert posters and other memorabilia. He would move into the world of CDs and boxed sets, but as Tom said, “he always played his vinyl.”

Tom hopes to find a way to bring the joy of Neil’s collection and their stories to music fans. I will bring you more of those stories here in the future. You can keep up on Tom Moore’s latest projects, including an upcoming release from The Moore Brothers, by visiting

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


Getting To Know The Ember Jar


Photo by Jessica Galicia

Abby King grew up in what she described as a “musically gifted family” and started to sing at a young age, performing in choirs and singing on her own for fun. The hobby would stay with her and, as she grew into her craft as an adult, she purchased a ukulele in order to work on songwriting. Taking the leap into performing before a crowd at an open mic led her to meeting Kevin Joiner, with the two forming South Bend’s The Ember Jar in 2011.

She had grown up in South Bend and moved back to the area after the end of a long relationship. She had only written one song and had purchased the ukulele only days earlier when she first attended that open mic. Kevin, who had been dealing with his own setbacks both in relationships and his music career, was working at the cafe, Quincy’s, and ran the event.

“She just blows everybody away,” Kevin said, describing the power of her singing voice. “And the song itself was fantastic.”

“I had never even been to an open mic before and I didn’t know what to expect,” Abby said. “I only came with that one song and I got done and everyone was like ‘that’s it?’ That’s why I wrote my next songs. I figured I better get some more.”

Abby’s instrumentation started on the smaller soprano ukulele, with her efforts focusing mostly on lyrics. She described the instrument as one she was not very serious about, needing it mostly as a tool to help her along with her songwriting. She chose the ukulele for the simple technique it required to play the chords necessary to help her do the work of lyricism. In the early days of The Ember Jar, she would concentrate on lyrics, with Kevin to translating the music to guitar.

“I’m really a singer, a songwriter at heart,” she said, describing her attitude at the time. “I’m not an instrumentalist.”

She described the change that occurred when Kevin purchased for her the larger, baritone ukulele as a gift. The purchase was made because the instrument, more similar to guitar, made it easier to take new music out the writing phase into the transition for the full band. The substitution quickly became a more integral piece of the band, allowing Abby to take over parts of the rhythm, giving Kevin more freedom to expand his role on the guitar.

“I played around with it for a while,” Abby said. “Once I wrote my first song on it, I was totally in love with it. Now I’m excited to play out more.”


Photo by Jessica Galicia

Kevin too came from a musical family, with his mother and sisters all singers and his father a singer-guitarist. His father had him playing on stage as a young child, leading Kevin to a career in songwriting and performance, as well as a variety of other creative pursuits. He points his influences to the wide variety of music he listened to growing up, from the records his parents played to the music he heard when sneaking into his sister’s bedroom to listen to her albums.

The addition of drummer Vincenzo Carrasco has given the band a larger sound, one which their fans are responding to positively during live shows. Carrasco himself came from a musical household, with his mother a professional oboist and his father an enthusiastic dancer. He took up the drums at age 19 and played in multiple bands. He would receive instruction and guidance from local Motown legend Billy “Stix” Nicks and West African percussion master Mamady Kieta.


Photo by Jessica Galicia

Together, the band is showcasing their expanding sound around the local area, as well throughout the Midwest and into the South. They are working on new music that is growing out of the larger line-up of the band and their continued maturation as musicians. You can find more information on upcoming live shows and more from The Ember Jar by visiting


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


Room For All Of Us

Syrian Flyer


I’ve shared this track in the past, but I figured I’d post it again in honor of the upcoming Singing For Syria music festival in South Bend, Indiana. That will be happening this Saturday starting at 10am. It’s a free event with donations being collected for the UNICEF Syrian Refugee Fund.

You can get details on that on the event’s Facebook page.

As for The Mowgli’s, well, how can you not love these guys? This track, Room For All Of Us, is a fundraiser of it’s own, with all proceeds being donated by the band to The International Rescue Committee, an A+ rated non-profit with a mission of helping those displaced by conflict.

You can check it out below and buy it for as a little as $1 on Band Camp.

You can grab the rest of the excellent Mowgli’s catalog on Amazon and iTunes.