Last week, the annual Night-Life Buffalo Music Awards honored a slew of area musicians, bands and clubs, and rightly so (see full list of winners on Page 22). The BMAs have traditionally concentrated on cover bands – though they do honor original musicians as well – and a club scene that largely emphasizes the suburban rings. This is necessary, and to be commended.
However, there does exist another musical culture in Western New York – one that concentrates on clubs and bars in the downtown area. Within that culture are some of the finest musicians I've encountered since making Buffalo my home in 1990. These are musicians, and music-related folks, who don't often get much in the way of credit for their hard work and commitment to craft. But they all enrich our lives and our experience as Buffalo music lovers.
I've always adored an underdog, and have long clung to the belief that you have to lift a few rocks and dig around a bit in order to really get a sense of the landscape. Bearing this in mind, I'd like to offer a tip of my hat to some musicians, behind-the-scenes folks and bands who might not otherwise end up on a podium accepting an award.
One caveat: I don't really believe in the word "best" when it comes to music and musicianship.
"Best" works in sports, where you can examine someone's stats, weigh in a bit of the "human factor," i.e.: team spirit and so forth, and then let the numbers speak for themselves. Music is an art, not a sport, however. It is an often esoteric art form that connects with listeners in a subjective, individual and emotional manner.
For example, if you love heavy metal, you might think Guitar Player X, who shreds like Beelzebub with his tail on fire, is numero uno in the picking department. A blues purist likely finds all that flash offensive, and prefers a player who can tell a story with three well-chosen notes from the pentatonic scale. A jazz loyalist probably doesn't think much of any player who employs amp distortion at all, especially if they can't swing.
So one listener's "best" might easily be another listener's "worst," and neither of them would necessarily be wrong.
Let me then throw some kudos in the general direction of a handful of musicianly folk who have moved me with their gifts over the years, without resorting to the exclusionary "best" label. Music isn't like sports, after all. In music, everyone wins. (Note: A few of the artsists mentioned below have been honored by the BMAs in the past. Most, however, haven't. All of them can be seen performing in and around Buffalo regularly, so check the Gusto listings, and get out there and show them some love!)
Original band: Aqueous, Universe Shark, Funktional Flow, Roger Bryan and the Orphans, On Beta and Slip Madigan.
New original band: The MKGs; Randall and the Late Night Scandals; the Sleepy HaHas.
Bands that shouldn't have broken up: Chylde; Girlpope
Producer: Justin Rose, GCR Audio
Arranger: Richie English, GCR Audio
Guitarist: Ron LoCurto (various); Mike Gantzer and Dave Loss (Aqueous); Adam Bronstein (Universe Shark); Mike Hogan (Workingman's Dead); George Puleo (Gamalon); Bernard Kunz (Gruvology); Michael DiSanto (Verse, Critt's Juke Joint).
Bassist: Zuri Elise Appleby (various); Evan McPhadden (Aqueous); Eric Wise (various); Jim Wynne (various); Andy Vaeth (Backpeddlers); Donovan Cudmore (Little Mountain Band); Jerry Livingston (various); Rob Peltier (Irving Klaws).
Drummer: Corey Kertzie (Big Leg Emma); Nick Sonricker (Aqueous); Deshawn Jackson (Critt's Juke Joint).
Keyboardist: Rocco Dellaneve (various); Eric Crittenden (Critt's Juke Joint); Kevin Kukota (Sonic Garden, Garcia Preservation Society, Vegetable Men).
DJ: Mike Cutler, aka DJ Cutler; Bearskin Rug; Big Basha; DJ LoPro; Optimus Prime.
Rapper: Chae Hawk; Billy Drease Williams.
All of these folks are first-class musicians. Part of what makes the Buffalo-area music scene so thrilling, in my estimation, is that these musicians represent just the tip of the iceberg. Which leads me to believe that I should make this whole "Tip of the Hat" thing a recurring feature. Thoughts?
Rock class announced
On Tuesday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame revealed its official list of inductees for the class of 2013. In the performer category, they are: Heart, Albert King, Randy Newman, Public Enemy, Rush and Donna Summer.
In the nonperformer, Ahmet Ertegun Award category: Lou Adler (producer, promoter, and owner of the fabled Roxy Theatre) and Quincy Jones (producer, composer, arranger, musician).
Immediately upon the announcement, opinions began to ricochet across the social media-sphere. They ran the gamut from the stubborn insistence that the rock hall means absolutely nothing, to bemoaning the fact that "Queen of Disco" Summer was given the nod in a forum that is nominally all about rock music.
All of this virtual banter is fun and interesting, though inconclusive and not likely to cause much in the way of change. My reaction? I'm truly bummed that Deep Purple and the Meters – two of the bands that had placed on the short list this year – didn't make the final cut. And I'm more than thrilled that Rush and Public Enemy are going in.
On a side note, a good friend of mine insisted that the rock hall can't be taken seriously until it inducts songwriter/performer/bandleader/guitarist/visionary Todd Rundgren. I can't help but agree. So who's with us? Shall we get a petition going?
The 28th Annual Rock and Roll of Fame Induction Ceremony will be May 18 on HBO.
If, like me, you're enough of a geek to want to witness the ceremonies in the first person, you can find ticket purchasing information through www.rockhall.com.
In other award show news, it's apparently a big deal that, when the nominations for this year's Grammy Awards were revealed last week, Justin Bieber didn't get a single nod. Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun, couldn't control his urge to Tweet like a twit: "this time there wont be any wise words, no excuses, I just plain DISAGREE. The kid deserved it. Grammy board u blew it on this one." Aww. The poor kid.
It might help ease Bieber's pain to realize that, as of Dec. 1, his "Believe Tour" – which is set to continue through the summer of 2013 – has already grossed more than $40 million.
The tour stops July 15 at First Niagara Center. Tickets are $39.50 to $95 and go on sale at 10 a.m. today (box office, Tickets.com).