By Nick Wort
Drawing in both touring and local bands, South Bend’s music scene is host to one of the area’s most unique and interesting venues: The Pool.
“The pool is actually a swimming pool. It’s in the old South Bend Central High School,” said Dena Woods, co-operator of The Pool. “[The high school] closed down, and in the early ’90s it was renovated into apartments.”
The Pool has been run by Woods and the other operator of the venue, Gus Bennett, for the past two years. According to Woods, the venue was started by Bennett’s desire to host events in South Bend.
“He’s just a very ambitious kind of guy, and he decided that he was going to start hosting events at the pool because it’s a very large, interesting and unique place. And it can accommodate a lot of people” Woods said. “The first music show was super tiny, maybe 20 people showed up there was no furniture in there at all.”
“It was just the notion of wanting to do something cool in south bend, that’s how it started out,” added Woods.
Because The Pool is part of a residential apartment complex, Woods and Bennett have had to put some rules in place for both the musicians and the audience.
Bands have to play unplugged, or with very little amplification, and audience members are asked to park in the street instead of the residential parking lot. Guests are also asked to be quiet in the hallways of the apartment complex.
Though the area is residential, the neighbors have been fairly support of the venue. The apartment has no neighbors on either side, and there’s an abandoned auditorium above it.
“The management group that owns the property now is really supportive, they help to notify the neighbors when we’re having shows and the neighbors have started to embrace and even attend the shows,” Woods said. “We try to make sure that we put in enough restrictions and train our audience to respect our neighbors.”
The Pool has been a hit among the artists that play there as well as the fans, according to Woods. Many of the touring musicians have recommended the venue to other musicians and their fans.
“The thing they always say is they can’t believe people actually set quiet and listen to them play, because there’s so many times when you go and people don’t pay attention when you’re playing,” Woods said. “They love that people are actually tuned in and paying attention to the music.”
Woods also noted that The Pool has been very beneficial to the local music scene.
“When I started getting really passionate about the music scene a few years ago, you could go see original bands at smoky bars and you could go see cover bands at other bars,” she said. “But there wasn’t a very cool place to see a show where there was no separation between artist and audience. The pool has created this very intimate and remarkable place for the audience members to be up close and personal with the artist and the artist gets to be a real person.”
The Pool plans their shows around touring acts, and then adds local bands for support. The shows are donation based, with the money going to the bands playing. Though the venue has been a success so far, Woods does have some concern for the future of the venue.
“I encourage people to come out and really patron the fall shows. Our lease is up in December, so we’re kind of waiting to see what will happen,” Woods said. “Potentially, we could be going on hiatus after December but hopefully there will be some renegotiations and we can work out [a way] to be able to stay there.”
More information on The Pool and a schedule of events can be found online on their Facebook page, by searching “The Pool, South Bend” and asking to join the group.