Dave Carlock: Livery contributes to area music scene

Published 8:20 am Friday, May 31, 2013

I was checking out Lark’s BBQ’s new location on Main Street last week when in bounced Leslie Pickell with her perpetual smile, sunkissed cheeks and hair. “Hi Dave!” she said, and we proceeded to catch each other up on our respective worlds. Leslie is one of the owners of The Livery in the Benton Harbor Arts District and she told me I needed to check out New Orleans’ Joe Krown Trio last Sunday night. “These guys are incredible and you should be my guest,” she said as she proceeded to let me know the showtime.

One of the Benton Harbor Arts District’ sunbeams, Leslie has been one of the “faces” of The Livery since its opening in August of 2005. It was The Livery that captured my imagination and made me see what was possible in the Arts District when I came to visit in 2007. A live music venue with a clear sight-line concert capacity of around 175, there’s even more room for beer lovers downstairs at the bar and in the outside beer garden if you want to catch some fresh air. (Fresh air indeed: Smoking is kept outdoors by Michigan’s 2010 anti-smoking law, for any of you Indiana residents looking for a smoke-free music venue.)

Known for its microbrew beers and Dead-loving vibe (look for the large Jerry Garcia photo portrait adorning the side stage wall), The Livery converted a century-old horse livery stable into one of only two purpose-designed live music venues in the Twin Cities area. With my recording studio located just around the corner, I’ve been in close proximity to attend several open mics in the past and even recorded a live DVD for the improvisational funk/fusion band Gun Metal Black on its stage.

Tonight, the stage size was perfect, allowing the three-piece that served as the house band for the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans to spread out and get comfortable, with band leader Joe Krown’s chopped-and-cased B3 and Leslie’s cabinet downstage behind him. Guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington strummed jazzy chord voicings on a Gibson hollow body electric over grooves from Funky Meters’ pedigreed drummer Russel Batiste Jr. while the B3 swirled, celebrating and emulating the feeling of the microbrew in your blood.

The soundman was on it and got the band sounding good in the room only a few songs into the first set, bringing Wolfman’s voice up and filling the room with throaty New Orleans blues. A few handsful of Memorial Day partiers were ready to have fun and danced on the unlit concrete floor illuminated only from the lights onstage.

One song led smoothly into the next, and, after about 45 minutes, the masterful players thanked Leslie from the stage for bringing them to Benton Harbor to large applause from the room full of Livery family old and new while Mikey G shouted a few spirited interjections into the roar.

As they launched into another song, the smiles on the audience’s faces sprung from imbibed music and spirits that either tagged along with NOLA’s ambassadors or sprung from brewer Steve Bartel’s latest flavor of invisibility serum. Like a more casually dressed derivation of Motley’s “Nightlife,” the room was moving. In the safely dim room, the community celebrated together in collective temporary immunity, an unspoken trust in one another to see but not see, to feel through not feeling and to become one with the blues as everyone lost their own.

Thanks, Leslie, for the invitation, for continuing to bring the music you’re passionate about to the area and for being such an important part of the Arts District for the past eight years.

Dave Carlock is a 26-year veteran of the entertainment business whose work as a recording engineer and producer, touring musician, and songwriter made him Googleable. His continuing work as an Independent Content Creator of Sound and Image has earned him a Grammy Award certificate, two Platinum Record Awards, and a Paragon Award in advertising. Currently, he brings national and international artists to make records and music videos at his production studio in the Benton Harbor Arts District.