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The Bergamot at Notre Dame

| Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Bergamot WEBMary McGraw | The Observer

From South Bend to South by Southwest, The Bergamot’s music spans states and genres.

South Bend natives Jillian Speece and Nathaniel Paul Hoff of “indie pop/rock/folk” band The Bergamot are performing at DeBartolo Performing Arts Center on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

I spoke with Jillian and Nathaniel, who are now married and live in Brooklyn, in separate phone interviews Wednesday.

As musicians who first took on the South Bend music scene (if you could call it that) back in 2003, they were both excited about the progress and development it has seen. With venues like The Pool and The Birdsell Mansion attracting students and community members to engage in the local arts, and initiatives like The Bridge Project and Sounds by South Bend contributing to that fervor, the South Bend music scene is thriving — and in stark contrast to the musicians’ memories of early gigs.

The first show the two played together was at a loft in Francesco’s, an Italian restaurant near Marian High School.

“There wasn’t really any place to play [in South Bend] besides Fiddler’s Hearth — and that was mostly for Celtic bands,” Jillian said. “So Nathan talked to the owner [at Francesco’s] and told him that he would bring out a lot of teenagers and their parents to eat at the restaurant and charge a cover so he could pay the owner.”

With entrepreneurial enthusiasm like this at only 17 and 15, Nathaniel and Jillian have always been believers in a “brute force” tactic. It is this mindset and work ethic that has taken them from greasy South Bend restaurants to venues like The Brooklyn Bazaar.

Excited to play again in South Bend, this time in a state-of-the-art facility, The Bergamot have been through 13 three-hour rehearsals and a few live shows in preparation for Saturday’s concert.

Statements like those should inspire you to get out and hear live music. However, if you are “busy,” studying preemptively or planning to give in to your eight-year-old self’s begging to go and see Jesse McCartney play the SUB concert Saturday, you can check out their self-proclaimed “indie or alternative pop, rock and folk sound with jazz influences” on YouTube or their website. However, be wary of streaming their music.

The Scene staff has addressed streaming and its influence on, and sometimes exploitation of, indie bands. To be honest, Spotify was the first place I went to listen to The Bergamot, but front man Nathaniel has been working on an art piece exploring that very industry.

Titled “kNOw Spotify,” the piece explores the dynamic of big name artists, “the one-percent,” who benefit from streaming while the other 99-percent come away with micropennies.

“We get statements from Spotify and for 500 plays we make like .0038 pennies,” Nathaniel said. “I love the exposure, and it’s a great concept, but it seems a little lopsided to me.”

He encourages listeners to do their research on streaming and make an informed decision on whether that is how they want to experience music and support musicians.

“The project isn’t about “no” as in N-O, it’s more “know” based on educating yourself on the services,” Nathaniel said. “I understand, as an independent musician, that our album will go up on Spotify because we don’t have a choice, like Taylor Swift, to make a stand. But I do believe there is no reason to ever pay somebody in micropennies — it’s just insulting.”

Support The Bergamot, independent artists, the South Bend music scene and live music with your full dollars (15 for students) Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Extend your experience and get your “Scene in South Bend” on by eating at Rocco’s, The Bergamot’s favorite local restaurant, beforehand.

“Our first hangout of all time was at Rocco’s,” Jillian said. “We had our high school graduation parties there, birthdays there, we even had our wedding rehearsal dinner there. The Julius Special salad is our favorite and we always order a classic cheese pizza with extra marinara sauce.”

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About Erin McAuliffe

I'm Scene's editor and a senior Marketing & Journalism student. To quote the exquisite Sadie Dupuis, "I'm not bossy — I'm the boss."

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