A punk-ska band from Boston, a killer singer-songwriter and his fellow troubadours from Toronto, and one of Buffalo's finest punk rock bands. And the weather never really turned ugly.
How could Thursday's harbor show fail?
It couldn't. And it didn't. Everyone delivered the goods. And even if the bill seemed like an odd coupling on paper, it certainly worked live.
The headliners have by now become the elder statesmen of the movement that yielded such later ska-punk successes as Rancid. Led by vocalist and frontman Dickey Barrett, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones took the stage with an attitude at once welcoming and menacing. Welcoming because they want everyone who has taken the time to come out to their show to have as much fun as they are; menacing because this music is so aggressive, so polished, so in your face, that one can't help but be a bit taken aback.
It's not rocket science. The Bosstones have, in many ways, been writing and rewriting the same song for a few decades now. But it is an absolutely awesome song. And, like AC/DC, this band never needed to fix what wasn't broken.
They took the stage with a trio of hard-hitting ditties -- "The Daylights," from the latest studio album, "The Magic Of Youth," followed in rapid succession by the snarky "You Gotta Go" and the ebullient "The Rascal King." By this point, the crowd had swelled to what appeared to be near-capacity, a torrid mosh pit had broken out in front of the stage and feelings were running incredibly high.
They stayed that way. The Bosstones are nothing if not professional, but even more importantly, the band seemed humbled and grateful for the turnout. Barrett took several opportunities to thank the band's longtime fans.
Ron Hawkins, erstwhile Lowest of the Low singer and guitarist, brought his wonderful Do-Good Assassins to town for the opening slot Thursday, performing tunes from Hawkins' last album, "Straightjacket Love," and offering a preview of the new album the band recently completed. That record will be celebrated with a release party at Mohawk Place in November, Hawkins announced from the stage.
This was Hawkins at his finest, joined by a group of agile musicians who seemed capable of conjuring whatever mood or groove the songs demanded.
The band opened with "Dead Man," moved into "Genevieve" and then dug into a jubilant "Saturdays," a gritty rocker that suggested what it might sound like if Elvis Costello & the Attractions took on Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting."
Hawkins is at his best when he is backed by highly sensitive musicians who serve the song's folk-based melodies with grace. When this happens, we can concentrate on the manner in which this wonderful songwriter marries cliche-free imagery to indelible melody. This happened during the beautiful "Propellers," and even when the band was tackling a rocker like "Wrap You Up and Take You Home," there was an elegance to the interaction between the musicians.
When a hard-working underground punk band like the Wolf Tickets gets a chance to play on a major stage, we who are part and parcel of the Buffalo music scene should rejoice. This group, fronted by singer/guitarist Chris Malachowski, plays street-level punk rock, laced with social commentary and a populist stance.
Aided and abetted by a recently added horn section, the Wolf Tickets played punk the way it was always meant to be played -- with clenched fists and hearts all but bursting with passion and belief.
Thursday at the Harbor with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones
WHEN: Thursday evening
WHERE: Erie Canal Harbor Central Wharf