Turn it Down: ‘Night For Nate’ at Moriarty’s showcases Lansing music vets

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Night for Nate

Sunday, Aug. 11 @ Moriarty’s Pub, 802 E. Michigan Ave, Lansing. All ages, 3-8 p.m.

At age 35, Lansing resident Nathan “Nate” Wardell died from complications related to spina bifida, a birth defect that, in Wardell’s situation, required the use of a wheelchair. Since then, Christopher Wardell, his brother and a board member of the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition, has hosted the Night for Nate concert and fundraiser.

The all-ages event, held annually around Nate Wardell’s birthday, Aug. 20, was created to not only celebrate his life, but also support the coalition. In its first two years, the event brought in more than $2,000, which benefits MDRC’s overall operating costs.

Now in its third year, the annual Night for Nate happens Sunday at Moriarty’s Pub and showcases a roster of music scene fixtures. Performances will include anti-folk artist Wally Pleasant, From Big Sur, Matt Carlson & Friends featuring Johnny Aimcrier and Scary Women, a legit riot grrl punk rock group.

According to the fundraiser’s release, “The MDRC cultivates disability pride and strengthens the disability rights movement by recognizing disability as a natural and beautiful part of human diversity while collaborating to dismantle all forms of oppression.”

As for his late brother, Wardell said a preventable series of medical errors and oversights eventually led to early death. However, it’s not just medical issues MDRC battles each day, Wardell said social matters are also a focus.

“Nate lived a tough life. He was a smart kid, but wasn’t given the opportunities to show his abilities and what he could do as a person at a workplace,” Wardell said. “His workplace just wanted to put him on display as a greeter. It’s what we call ‘disability porn’ — that’s exploitation, basically. This is where MDRC comes in. They lobby and advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. A person with a disability is a beautiful person, who deserves to be included in all aspects of life.”

“Night for Nate almost didn’t happen after my dad died in 2017,” Wardell added. “But thanks to the encouragement of my wife, Nicky, it did. We’re in our third year now, and I’m grateful to her for that.”

As for the musical guests, attendees can take in new songs from Pleasant, who earlier this year dropped a new album, “Happy Hour.” Dating back to the early 1990s, Pleasant became a fixture in the local music scene, but he also developed a grassroots following across the country. His long discography of witty, stripped-down folk tunes earned him a semi-cult status, thanks to fan favorites like “Songs About Stuff” (1992) and “Houses of the Holy Moly” (1994). However, fans of his classic tunes shouldn’t overlook his new classic country-tinged album, which exhibits some of his best work to date.

Wardell said his music lineup is essentially a showcase for Lansing’s diverse rock scene, but it also symbolizes how it comes together for worthy causes.

“I love the guys in From Big Sur, and I couldn’t have done this without them,” he said. “They kind of fly under people’s radars, but I think they’re the best band in Lansing. They’re working on a new album which is slated to be released next April, and I can’t wait to hear it. In a way, while I lost a brother, I gained four more.”

Looking to donate? Checks can be made out to: Michigan Disability Rights Coalition.

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