Like most things in life, living in my hometown can be pretty paradoxical. It’s a small, rust-belt city of an inverted economy, not especially long on the propagation of independent voices in the arts. With this being the case, the populace tend to lap up a pretty considerable amount of lowbrow sexuality from tenuous institutions such as music, and be relatively slow to adhere to expansion or progression within this sphere.
At the same time, though, our open mic can be frickin’ amazing. The musical outplay at the McCormick’s event has the potential to balloon out into an incredibly eclectic mix of music, from hip-hop, to jazzy jam-rock, to metal, classic rock and back. The phenomenon reminds me of a snake that’s getting strangled and so screams louder and louder or that concept mentioned in that Aloha song of “Right before the end / They say that it accelerates”.
So on the Monday nights at McCormick’s we have just an explosion of music. Well, I’m sitting here on a Sunday, so that doesn’t help me out too much. And as recently as five years ago, this other pub called Cheers used to hold this weekly “blues jam” on Sundays at four, which was kind of like a house band/open mic hybrid, featuring a band that was pretty low on the ambitious spotlight-hogging element (they’d let you get up and play wit’ ’em if you wanted). This latter part isn’t all that important, I guess, but it is somewhat interesting and does help to galvinize the event as something singular, which indeed it was. Now, on the other hand, Cheers is owned by these people who deny that the bar was ever even open on Sundays, let alone held these jams. Somebody’s got dementia, that’s for sure. But now they stage karaoke every night, I’m pretty sure.
Cheers also used to hold metal shows on a pretty regular basis, the now-defunct Anchor Inn held punk shows (I was lucky enough to catch a spirited Still PI**ed at Reagan set circa 2010), the Wander Inn used to do a bunch of stuff and this random building on Lincoln Way staged punk shows until some chick socked this dude in the eye with a beer bottle (not sure if he was groping her or whatever) and they cancelled the whole circus.
And this cancellation has applied to the whole town, it seems, aside from, again, that one, minute little weekly event of the open mic at McCormick’s, which does though comprise a commendable node of musical depth. But I feel like a walking exhibit, relating and gyrating in 2021 and carrying all of these events in my mind. I remember jazzy, Moody-Blues-influenced classic rock bands at the Rum Village Inn with an expedited, disciplined approach to songwriting. I remember when The Whistle Pigs performed original folk-rock and not sleazy covers of “Brick House,” although their last performance was pretty applicable to the audience, one of whom was this fat 50-year-old dude who told me “I can tell God’s great because he invented tits.” But that old world of South Bend music that exists inside my head is kind of like “The Great Curve” by Talking Heads, arguably the perfect song — it’s a relic of a bygone era when bands infused their music with an orgiastic amount of rhythm, character and originality, but, at the same time, its enjoyment is somewhat contingent on an askance disposition before the ubiquitous “fast food culture,” so to speak, that often pervades our society these days. So you can learn to enjoy fast food, which I think is kind of advantageous, too, sometimes, and if you’re into the whole discernment thing, the fleeting element of “quality” is yours to behold, often entailing a glance into the past.
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