We’re going to the Midway Tavern today in Mishawaka, Indiana. Basically a township that makes up the South Bend area of Indiana, home of the famous Notre Dame University. We drove through the campus on our way out and I had to show Yoshi and John ‘Touchdown Jesus’. TJ is a giant mural on the side of a campus library building that so happens to be in the direct trajectory of Notre Dame’s football field. In other words if you were to stand in one of the end zones of the field and look towards the opposite end zone you would see the image standing in the distance. The stadium, built in the 30’s originally, is not one of those elevated designs but rather the squat-oval affairs of the time, with the wide band of fan seating, giving it the appearance of a bicycle velodrome when viewed overhead. Upon you’re looking to that said opposite side you can see in the background the TJ image. The picture depicts the resurrected Jesus so his arms are outstretched as if receiving the rays of God, his dad, God’s light shining down upon him. This has been humorously taken to appear as Jesus raising his arms to signify a touchdown, since the pose looks much like a referee’s actions of the same. The Catholic Church, although with a dreadful past history at times with their religious stands on practices and doctrine, does exhibit a bit of fun and levity with this particular image, albeit unintended, but it’s in good fun and spirit with their passion towards athletics. Other than the campus in the area, South Bend is but a quiet little town in Indiana. I will make mention too that when Tailspin Headwhack came out back in 97’, gosh it was so long ago, I was getting quite a lot of airplay from the local radio station there. Usually when that happens my agency would pounce on the opportunity and book you a gig so as to take advantage of the local populace’s appetite on my aural offering with the hopes in getting them to reciprocate with their paid attendance at my show. Unfortunately this did not happen and I was never booked in the area; until now.
I’m looking at my phone navigating our way to the club and we take a left off the main street and we’re getting into a very ‘neighborhood’ looking area. ‘There’s a club here!?’ I remember saying out loud. I also start to curse Apple Maps because they still haven’t come up to snuff with Google Maps on accuracy and just being up-to-date on info and correct all the time, but the app works so flawlessly with the phone and its other features that I just acquiesce to its operation and let it take me there. Most of the time the app gets me there just fine. Sure enough there it was, Midway Tavern. Famous ‘Home of the Blues’ for almost 40 years. We park in front and I decide to reconnoiter the setting since we’ve never been here. You know, find out where to load in the equipment, take a look at the stage etc. Immediately it’s like stepping back in time when you enter. The place still has much of its original layout and décor inside, with the bar area being the first part of the structure and in the back is the performance area. It looks like this could’ve been a club set up as a local social gathering place for people of Germanic origins. The images painted on the walls are traditional Teutonic dress of people dancing. You know the look, we mistake it for those Alpine mountain climbing guys, the shorts, suspenders, white shirts, high knee socks and hats with a feather in it. Maybe you hear ‘yodeling’ in your head when you look at them. This place does have a stage. It has the charming old style façade too with its curved shaping as if announcing to the patrons – ‘gaze towards here to be entertained.’ I love it. I’m eager to get started.
We load in and there’s really nobody here except the bartender and he’s busy with his duties up front. We’re set up now and I ask the bartender about the soundman and when we might expect him. ‘That’s me’ the bartender replies, ‘Oh, OK’ but we still have to basically do mic placement to get this going. It’s a very small PA and I’m not really worried cuz’ it looks like the right stuff for this size of room. We go through a very cursory sound check and wait for our frozen pizza that the bar provides us as our meal. Today, I guess, we are a pizza-band. Since John and I try to be economical on the road and save our latter meal of the day for the club’s meal, if one is provided, we’ll wait and often times we’ll get pretty hungry up to that point. This is one of those days and we ravenously set upon this ‘Tombstone’ offering when it is set before us. Yes it’s hot and yes it burns the roof of my mouth but I’m hungry and my need to satisfy hunger far exceeds my wanting good tasting food. Funny how hunger increases the flavor of what would normally be repulsive or bland food to me. That done, people are starting to show up and we get ready to play.
We start up and it’s an intimate gathering seated close to us but that deters us not from our full frontal assault upon their senses. Everybody is sounding good and Yoshi is starting to get his ‘legs’ underneath him. He’s more comfortable with the songs. It’s not easy for him. He had to relearn much of the catalog and adjust to our ‘American’ way of playing. It is different from Japanese rock players. Plus the way we shift it over to a ‘jam’ or ‘conversational’ method in our execution of the songs you have to be listening all the while to adjust and respond to our stage environment. My gig requires quick musical feet from time to time. He’s getting it though and he’s been sounding better every gig. We finish up the night in our usual fanfare and we say our good-byes to some of our fans that have made long trips and to the new ones in the area. The owner says we’ll be back and I really hope so. This atavistic venue has been a joy to play and experience.