Much has been said about the success of the first full season of Thursday at the Harbor, but nobody ever imagined this.
Thursday's Salt-N-Pepa concert filled the idyllic waterfront venue past capacity, to the point where event organizers had to turn people away and open extra exits to allow streams of fed-up, stroller-pushing concertgoers to leave.
Others lined up rows deep at the barriers along Main Street, content to catch whatever echoes of the music they could.
Donny Kutzbach, of promoter Fun Time Presents, estimated the crowd at 15,000.
"We had 12,000 for the Tragically Hip," he said, "and this makes that crowd look small."
Both a vindication of how magnetic our waterfront can be when the stars align and a sign that the free concert series has some serious kinks to work out, this show suffered from what we can most definitely label as a "good problem."
When was the last time we had to worry about too many people wanting to spend their evening at the harbor?
And it didn't hurt that the music itself was excellent.
While deadline constraints kept me from seeing much of Salt-N-Pepa's headlining set, a love of hip-hop's golden age was apparent all night long, thanks in great part to some inspired opening sets from longtime local turntable master DJ Cutler.
Cutler, who is also a member of the rap group Pseudo Intellectuals cut up long strings of old-school classics in what amounted to a propulsive time machine of a performance. From Gang Starr to MC Lyte, the Pharcyde to the Beasties, Cutler's record bin was overflowing, his rhythms on point, his passion for the music infused in every break.
Rapper and Buffalo native Chae Hawk also turned in an impressive opening set, full of energetic, emotional verses that cut a steady swath through some moody electronic beats. The crowd might not have been immediately receptive to his more dramatic, less party-hearty approach, but by the end, the talented, introspective Cleveland Hill alum had completely endeared himself to the masses.
Then, after Cutler's second set, which had to be extended thanks to the headliner's late arrival, Salt-N-Pepa took the stage.
"You came out deep for us tonight," marveled Salt (aka Cheryl James). The hip-hop pioneer then added that when she walked on stage and saw the sea of people, she started crying. As the duo (sans Spinderella, their long-time DJ) led the crowd through the refrains of old-school classics like "Rappers Delight" and "O.P.P.," the venue exploded with approval.
I've been to plenty of country shows over the years where the emcees make the feasible claim that nobody loves that style of music like Buffalonians. But on Thursday night, as one of the largest crowds of the summer busted out the words "Hotel, motel/Holiday Inn" in unison, you could make a different argument about what genre we love the most.
"Hip-hop is in the house tonight," added a clearly impressed Sandra Denton (aka Pepa).