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They’ve still got the blues

Christie Bolsen | Thursday, October 14, 2004

On Friday night the Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and South Bend communities will have the opportunity to make a positive difference in hundreds of lives-simply by listening to blues rock at Heartland.Award-winning band the Fabulous Thunderbirds will be playing a benefit concert for the Center for the Homeless, along with up and coming blues star Nick Curran and opening act Eddy “the Chief” Clearwater. All profits from the show will go to the Center, which successfully transitions homeless people into jobs and home ownership every year.The band has been playing quintessential American music for the past 25 years, and the band’s sound has evolved from its beginnings as straight blues into a blend that now includes more genres and has more energy.Frontman and founder, Grammy-nominated Kim Wilson, is the only remaining member from the original lineup. The band achieved Billboard success in the 80s with hits like “Tuff Enough,” “Wrap it Up” and “Stand Back.” Wilson and the band have also been nominated for several WC Handy Awards, and Wilson won in 2004 for best blues song of the year.The Vegetable Buddies Nightclub, a legendary club that used to bring musical acts to South Bend, had the Fabulous Thunderbirds perform three times in the 70s and 80s. Shortly after, the band opened for a Rolling Stones tour.Andy Panelli, a Notre Dame graduate who now promotes shows that contribute to worthy causes, is confident that the show will be worth attending.”Members that will be playing are recognized as some of the world’s great blues musicians in this rock band,” Panelli said. “It’s going to be a tremendous night of blues and rock music over there. I would encourage everybody to come out and have a great time and do something good for a very worthy cause at the same time-it’s going to be a great evening.”Adding to the talented lineup will be Nick Curran, who won the 2004 WC Handy Award for Best New Artist Debut. The young guitarist and vocalist incorporates R&B into his rock and blues music, interpreting classic songs as well as crafting his own. His albums “Doctor Velvet” and “Player!” have earned him national and international critical acclaim.The musicians will be playing for more than the audience, in a way, as all proceeds will benefit the Center for the Homeless. The Center has had strong ties to the Notre Dame community since its inception. Founders Dave Link, former dean of the law school, and D’Arcy Chisholm approached University President Father Edward Malloy for help when they needed more funds to refurbish an abandoned men’s department store. Malloy went to the Board of Trustees and asked for a $1 million to purchase and rehabilitate the building to begin the center-a brave move, since he was early in his tenure as president at the time.”It has a full continuum of services for individuals and families to help break the cycle of homelessness, of addiction, of dependency,” Lou Nanni, vice president for University Relations and former executive director of the center, said.An example of services for children is the occupational therapy program that works with newborns. The center has the only full time Montessori program in a homeless center, and works with children ages 3 to 5 before kindergarten. It also works with the South Bend school system to help children once they begin school, attending to details like making sure they are picked up on the bus first and dropped off last so it is not obvious that they are homeless.”For adults, there are emergency assistance, crisis management, life skills, job training and home ownership programs, and all services are located at the center,” Nanni said.Nanni stresses that the center is not only the best model in the country for helping individuals and families break the cycle of homelessness, but it also draws strength from its relationships with the university and the community. The concert Friday is one more chance for the center to benefit from these relationships, and in turn continue its important work in South Bend.The benefit concert will be Friday, Oct. 15 at Heartland, 222 South Michigan St. Tickets cost $22 and are on sale at Heartland by calling 574-234-5200 or Ticketmaster at 574-272-7979. Tickets can also be purchased at the Web site, www.ticketmaster.com. The Vegetable Buddies production is only open to those 21 and older.