Musician witnesses art spread across Michiana
“Things are happening.”
With those words, musician Dave Dale characterizes the current state of both his music career and the local scene as a whole.
Dale is known for his music across the region. The Niles resident performs on his own, with the Caribbean dance band Le Griffe Mob and with his longtime outfit Elephant Rescue.
Most of his music brings flavors of funk, blues and soul, sounds not common in most local acts. Recent years, however, have seen an uptick in acceptance of artists bringing unique sounds, most recently showcased this past spring by the wide variety of musicians supported at the Sounds By South Bend music festival. More than 50 artists covering a broad range of styles, performed in venues across the city, with Elephant Rescue among them.
Dave sat down with me to discuss the transformation shown by that event and by other factors in the local music culture.
“Three or four years ago, I didn’t feel valued musically. I didn’t feel like people were getting what I was putting out there. Now, the climate is different,” he said.
The change has grown out of a number of factors, in Dave’s opinion. Over the years, various venues have grown their own individual cultures in music, food and art.
Goshen’s Ignition Garage has created a space for music aficionados to gather, both in their love for recorded music and in experiences with live performers, local and national. The Livery in Benton Harbor had an early start in the now thriving craft brew industry, creating a location that draws regular crowds to the Arts District for local beer and music performance. Longtime South Bend eating establishments like the LaSalle Grill and Fiddler’s Hearth have made a name beyond food and drink as places to seek out live entertainment.
He points to these locations, among many more, as little sprouts in a region wide revival, both culturally and economically.
He describes when he first moved to the area, when most of the successful musical acts in the region were cover bands. He contrasts that with a description of a hidden local music scene, a rich one with talented songwriters and artistically-committed musicians in various genres who continue to hone their craft for the love of it. Their efforts are now being recognized by both venues and audiences who are realizing there is much to be offered culturally in our own hometowns.
“We’ve got history here. We’ve had a really rich folk scene. We’ve had a really interesting jazz scene. We’ve got wine and beer and we’ve got venues. It’s not just music. It’s food. It’s arts. Those things support each other.”
Dave describes the challenge at this point as one of how to move forward and take advantage of the current energy. In his mind, the goal shouldn’t be simply one of success for his band or for others in their individual projects. It should be one of unification, elevating everyone in the region to build a culture and a music scene that is specific to this corner of the country.
“I’ve been in multiple scenes where there were a lot of bands that were getting traction.”
He goes on to describe watching many of these bands leave their home area once they found a certain level of success and watching the scene suffer as a result. It is his desire to avoid that, instead seeing those successful bands turn to help each other, for local artists to unite, merge energies, and create a space of their own. The region has its own lifestyle, where community is a part of the culture, and individual artists have their own reasons for staying and creating an art space.
“I have roots here. I have family.”
Dave continues to play his part in the local music scene and regional culture. You can find the latest information on his music by heading to elephantrescue.bandcamp.com.
Justin Flagel is the founder of the web magazine and podcast Anywhere the Needle Drops, where he and others showcase their interest in music, pop culture, creativity and life. Follow their work at anywheretheneedledrops.com. Feedback can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.