The Well Basement a hidden treasure in area music scene
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — As I sat with Patrick Quigley at Chicory Cafe in South Bend, one of the region’s strong supporters of local art and music, the conversation quickly turned to the topic of the renewed vigor of the music scene in recent years.
“There are people who care a lot about South Bend as an art community,” he said.
Quigley plays in multiple local bands and books shows in the area. As I continue to explore the music and art community, he is among a recurring list of names I encounter, all of whom seem to have started their involvement out of a desire to search out what they found lacking in local entertainment.
“People started booking shows that they want to see because they weren’t getting what they wanted,” he said.
He recounts his start in helping to energize the local punk and hardcore scene after Ugly Mugs, the venue for such music, closed. He and friends, out of their own desire to have a new home to play their music and to see the bands they wanted to see, voiced their concerns and eventually connected with people with the resources to assist.
They would find business owners who offered PA systems and spaces in the back of their stores, as well as other musicians to play music and further grow the network. Quigley described “two parts of the equation,” with the first being the fans and musicians who want to build a particular scene and the second being those who have the resources and are willing to provide them.
“We have lots of people in town that are there behind the scenes, who provide the resources but don’t get the recognition,” Quigley said.
South Bend and the surrounding area has a rich music community, with venues and musicians creating pockets of particular genres and styles. Coffee shops play regular hosts to acoustic music while the city hosts festivals and music in various parks. Individualized scenes exist for the hip-hop community, on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, and, in Patrick’s area of interest, in basement punk and hardcore shows.
The people who are building these scenes work as promotors and networkers, bridging the gaps between each to create a cohesive music community. “We all talk” to make sure traveling bands coming to the area are connected with the appropriate venues and local musicians, Quigley said.
Patrick’s name has most commonly come to me in reference to The Well, a coffee shop in South Bend’s River Park neighborhood. Though already known for hosting independent bands and acoustic singer/songwriters, Quigley, after being contacted by the venue two years ago, has helped turn the shop’s basement into a home for punk, hardcore and metal bands, both local and touring. His description of the venue is “like your friend’s basement that was renovated in the ’70s,” with just the right amount edge needed for the music played there.
The Well Basement is entirely donation based. Audience members are charged no cover, instead provided with the opportunity to donate to a tip jar that goes almost entirely to the musicians. With the venue and Patrick, who often operates the sound system, taking no part of the donations, there is almost no overhead to the operation for the musicians involved. The system gives people “a sense of ownership,” because audiences know that shows can only continue with their ongoing support.
“Some people can give a lot and some people can’t, but everyone is welcome whether they can give or not,” he said.
Another distinct feature of The Well Basement is Patrick’s particular passion, all-ages music. He recalls the years after he graduated high school, when the area’s multiple all-ages shows gave younger crowds unable to go to bars a place to experience punk rock and independent bands. As that particular generation grew or left the area, “all ages venues weren’t as important any more” and many closed or changed.
This left a void for the next generation, one which Patrick hopes to fill so they can have the same chance to experience music that he had. He wants spaces where “bands can come through and play to high schoolers” and audiences of any age. He also wants to get the new generation involved in booking shows and building a scene of their own.
The success of The Well Basement goes hand in hand with the success of regional music as a whole. Both are dependent upon the continuing efforts of musicians, audiences, and community members that have built the scene that exists today. It is Patrick’s hope to take advantage of the current energy, encouraging it to grow and sustaining it for the new generation as “a place where community comes together.”
The Well Basement has multiple upcoming shows, including an all-ages, alcohol-free Halloween event on Oct. 31, featuring touring bands and local favorites. Information on that and the venue can be found at Facebook.com/TheWellBasement.
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.