A performer from Rust Belt Songwriters at a previous concert. Submitted photo
A performer from Rust Belt Songwriters at a previous concert. Submitted photo

Archived Story

Rust Belt Songwriters II at The Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph

Published 11:43am Friday, November 29, 2013

Michel Dasse is “hoping that by Saturday, everybody’s going to be sick of football and family and looking for an escape.” That escape can be found at a concert organized by Dasse: Rustbelt Songwriters II.

Dasse, performing under one of his many pseudonyms, “monTe micHel bLeu,” will be sharing the stage with three other Midwestern songwriters: Andy Willey, Malcolm Cumming and Larry Platz.

“This is a perfect time for this performance,” Dasse said. “It fits together well in a kind of thematic way because both Andy and Malcolm are from southwest Michigan but no longer live here. They both live up in Grand Rapids now….Thanksgiving is associated with homecomings, and it’s kind of a homecoming for them.”

It’s also a homecoming of sorts for monTe and Larry, in that they both performed in the first Rust Belt Songwriters concert last year.

The concert will be presented “in a format that came about with the TV show, Austin City Limits. It’s also a pattern that I borrowed from Reily O’Connor, to whom I’m indebted,” Dasse said.

“In the first half of the show, we’ll each play a very brief set. For the second half, we’re going to just line up four chairs on stage and take turns, and hopefully chat a bit about how the songs came about,” Dasse said.

For his fellow performers, Dasse has nothing but praise.

“I’m a fan of [Andy and Malcolm]. I felt like it was a real coup that I was able to get both of them for this show,” he said.

Dasse calls Willey “a kind of a godfather of the acoustic music scene in this area.”

Many folks in southwest Michigan may remember Andy’s mid-1970s band called Hickory Creek.

“It was the ‘house band’ and [they were] also the founders of The Silver Fiddle Coffee House that was held in the Methodist Church basement in St. Joseph,” Dasse said. “Andy moved to Grand Rapids in the late 1970s and has been a strong force in the Grand Rapids music scene ever since. His band The Willeys were very active in the Midwest through the ‘80s and ‘90s, with five CDs to their credit.”

As for Malcolm Cumming, “I first heard Malcolm at a Livery open mic about four to five years ago. Molly Moon aptly described him then as ‘a genius.’ He was about 17 years old, and his original songs tore my heart wide open. They were raw with emotion, and crafted so well,” Dasse said. “His songs are so emotive and autobiographical.”

Dasse counts Larry Platz among his best friends.

“I first heard Larry’s music at a concert at The Battell Center in Mishawaka in 2005. His songs were so powerful and far-reaching that I felt as though someone had reached inside of me and turned me inside out. It was as though he was telling my own story. I personally consider his songs to be as good as they come, from anyone, anywhere,” Dasse said.

“About a year ago, Larry was diagnosed with a terminal illness, yet he perseveres, working at his craft, writing about it honestly, and is perhaps doing more performances this past year despite the obstacles of his health, than [in] any years previously, Dasse said. “Larry’s 2012 album Where The Long Road Ends finds favorable airplay on the likes of the South Bend NPR affiliate WVPE’s The Back Porch.”

His music can also be heard and downloaded at http://www.reverbnation.com/larryplatz.

Finally, of his alter ego, monTe micHel bLeu’s, musical journey, Dasse said, “I started playing music as a teenager, and I’ve been in and out of the music scene in Michiana ever since. Around the Millennium, I gave it up. I said, ‘That’s it. I’m getting too old.’ I sold everything. But after a while, I realized there was something missing in my life, and it was music.”

In 2011, he released a 12-song CD entitled “Songs Between Truth & Lies.” His music can be heard and downloaded at http://www.reverbnation.com/montemichelbleu.

Rust Belt Songwriters II will be taking place on Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph, Mich. Tickets are available at the door and online at www.boxfactoryforthearts.org/calendar/#rustbelt. They are $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and children 12 and under will be admitted free.

An added bonus is that concert-goers, while supporting locally-connected musicians, will also have a chance to jump start their holiday shopping in a way that supports local artists.

“Right now, we have an extended gift shop,” said Ali Hansen, Executive Director of the Box Factory for the Arts. “We have reasonably priced artistic gifts for holidays. People can shop at intermission or before the show. So, come early and shop!”

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