Part 2: Midway draws musicians
MISHAWAKA, Ind. — I ntrigued by the inquiry of a band wanting to practice at the Midway, Albertina and her sister entertained the idea of developing a more music-oriented venue.
Albertina offered the band a spot to play on a regular basis and, soon, word of mouth led other musicians to her door.
Though blues has always been the focus, she has played host to a variety of musicians, both traveling and local. She speaks fondly of South Bend drummer Billy “Stix” Nicks, who is as legendary for his charming, humble personality as he is for his skill on the drums.
He plays the venue regularly, both with blues and jazz bands, as well as with his renowned Motown Machine band. Though she and her daughter have been known to seek out musicians by attending concerts and festivals, many bands reach out to her to play the venue. She has also found support in the local music culture, with regular references from WVPE’s Ole’ Harv on the weekly Blues Revue and from local music writers such as Andy Hughes.
She told me the tale of a local photographer who once came in and politely asked permission to take photos during the performances. He came in days later with a handful of photos for Albertina. After returning with his camera at the next concert, Albertina asked him if he planned to continue every week.
“He said to me ‘if you’ll let me.’”
Of course, Albertina did and now the walls of the venue are covered in photographs of past performances and legendary appearances. The pictures stretch across The Midway, lending a physical representation to the incredible history of the tavern. Together, she and I sorted through nearly a century of memorabilia, including autographs, pictures and promotional documents. She even brought out intact licenses and liquor permits dating back to the 1930s. Poring over the collection, I could not help but consider the need for a local music museum. Her thoughts, though, are focused on the future and the ongoing happenings at The Midway.
“When you’re in a small place like this, you don’t usually pay much attention to the world. You know it’s there and you know there are a lot of changes in the world, but you just hope you can keep going,” she said.
She points to the changes around her, from competition in other local nightlife options to a younger generation unaware of the music and the venue itself.
“It’s amazing that this place is still alive,” she said.
She credits The Midway’s longevity to the foundation created by her mother, to the quality of musicians desiring to play the venue, and to the core group of customers who regularly visit.
She has no plans to stop and is hoping to instill an appreciation for the music in audiences going forward, “keeping the blues alive” for each new generation.
The Midway Tavern is doing just that, keeping audiences aware on Facebook and the Web. You can follow them at facebook.com/The-Midway-Tavern-dancehall the upcoming shows and stories from the past at themidwaytavern.com. You can also browse the library of photos and documents from the Midway by visiting anywheretheneedledrops.com/themidwaytavern.
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.
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