I'm choosing to see the glass as half full. And from that perspective, 2011 was an amazing year for music in the Buffalo area.
It really didn't matter just what it was you were into -- from country to heavy rock, indie to pop, you could find it here this year, in clubs or on arena stages. You would really have to be a total Scrooge to find too much to bicker about.
One of the most positive occurrences on the live music scene involved the move from Lafayette Square to the Erie Canal Harbor Central Wharf for many of the Thursday at the Square shows. This, commingled with the fact that the Fun Time Presents team returned to its partnership with Buffalo Place meant that we saw one of the strongest Square and Rocks the Harbor seasons yet.
Most significantly, it turns out that the Wharf is an absolutely fantastic concert venue. There's plenty of room, the sound is well above average for an outdoor venue, the view is outstanding and the whole thing feels like it flatters us as Buffalonians and offers visitors -- be they the performers or traveling fans -- a positive encounter with our downtown.
I'm all for moving all of the free Thursday shows to the Wharf. Lafayette Square was great, but it has served its purpose. The series has outgrown that venue.
I'm also 100 percent behind building a permanent amphitheater on the Wharf site. In fact, that particular locale is begging for it -- imagine if some of the shows that end up out at Darien Lake were instead redirected toward our waterfront? Talk about encouraging people to come downtown. It just seems like a no-brainer. A proper balance of the free and "soft-ticket" shows would get a serious shot in the arm from some full-price major shows, or perhaps even a festival.
From Sloan to the Tragically Hip, Alice Cooper to Flogging Molly, the Wharf saw some incredible shows over the summer of 2011. Imagine what we might be offered if a permanent amphitheater operated in that locale between spring and fall of each year?
On the local music front, this past year scores even higher marks. In the 21 years I've called this place my home, I've never felt as strongly that I was in the midst of an original music renaissance as I did in 2011. There are so many fantastic young bands working consistently in town, and they represent a stunning variety -- from roots music to indie-rock, singer-songwriter to jam band, DJ to acid-jazz combo. In 2011, I had my mind blown by practitioners of all of these idioms.
There is a hub to the activity, and it happens to be in Allentown, right around the corner that houses Nietzsche's, the thriving Duke's Bohemian Grove Bar, Allen Street Hardware and the Bend. You can park your car there for happy hour and take in a broad array of outstanding music by midnight, without leaving the neighborhood.
The rebirth of this area perfectly complements what has long been going on over at Mohawk Place, too. Taken together, these clubs represent a thriving independent music scene, one that some seriously world-class musicians call home. The many bands doing first-rate work in our area during 2011 included Aqueous, Funktional Flow, Roger Bryan & the Orphans, Dotsun Moon, Mark Norris & the Backpeddlers, Johnny Nobody, the Mourdant Sisters, Universe Shark, Peanut Brittle Satellite, Slip Madigan, the Skiffle Minstrels and the Stay Lows.
The fact that local promoters like Fun Time Presents, Eclective Collective and MnM Presents are sharing bookings for some of the same rooms has been a great boon to the music lover. All of these promoters know, love and live music, and it shows in their respective bookings.
All of these disparate events are converging presently, and I predict a perfect storm in 2012. Our status as a secondary market for major touring bands is starting to be questioned. Our prowess when it comes to producing deeply talented musicians, songwriters and performers is beyond questioning. I am feeling incredibly hopeful about the coming year.