I must admit, I was getting pretty nervous. The first rush of summer concert announcements left me nonplussed. It seemed that we were going to get only classic rock and country shows here, and a lot of repeat offenders, to boot. This is all well and good – obviously, there is a strong market for this kind of thing in our town, and I enjoy most of these shows. But it’s a question of balance – if this is all we’re being served, there remains a significant portion of the concert-going marketplace that is going to go hungry. Diversity, as ever, is the key to a healthy culture, to say nothing of an interesting summer concert season.
And then, right at the eleventh hour, things started to change.
Artpark has some very interesting shows, particularly during its Wednesday series, including the Flaming Lips and MGMT.
The Thursday at Canalside season opens Thursday with a double bill of the Hold Steady and Hollerado aimed squarely at the indie-rock populace that took such a hit this year with the closing of Mohawk Place. (The Hold Steady and Hollerado might bewilder the casual Canalside concertgoer, but the indie-rock aficionado – the very group given to protesting most vocally the abundance of “same old things” that hit our market each summer – should take this one as a gift.)
Primus (June 9), the Tea Party (July 14) and Rusted Root (Aug. 25) will play free shows at Gratwick Riverside Park in North Tonawanda. These are all great bookings.
Darien Lake added shows featuring Jane’s Addiction and Alice in Chains (Aug. 11), as well as the Allman Brothers with Steve Winwood (Aug. 23), thereby bringing balance to its summer roster, which already boasted a healthy representation of country and mainstream pop.
And then the schedule at the Outer Harbor concert site started coming into focus. In the past week, promoters for that series announced that a double-bill featuring Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson (June 14) would join the roster alongside Guns N’ Roses (June 5), the Tragically Hip with Grace Potter & the Nocturnals (July 19), Mac Miller (July 21) and Flogging Molly with the Lowest of the Low (Aug. 2).
And finally, the Outer Harbor season’s linchpin – the mighty Black Keys (July 8). This is a coup for the sophomore run at the Fuhrmann Boulevard site.
Now, with the addition of these shows, I can finally see the big picture. And it’s a pretty one.
What’s the principal criterion for judging the 2013 summer lineup a success? For me, it comes down to the depth and breadth of genres and subgenres being represented. To the classic rock and country staples, we can now add metal, indie-rock, hip-hop, R&B, Celtic punk, jam bands, blues, prog-rock, freak funk, new psychedelia, and even a little bit of good ol’ rock ’n’ roll.
Surely there will be some complaining from naysayers, and that’s their right. But this is really much more than a case of “Well, it could have been worse.” This lineup is a healthy one, and speaks to the broader musical culture in the region. Most aspects of that culture are represented, but it is necessary to view the widescreen version of reality – the balance between bookings at various venues – to really understand what’s going on here.
I should note, too, that it is possible to enjoy what’s being offered here without taking out a second mortgage. Like many of you, I go to an awful lot of concerts. It’s true that, when I’m working and reviewing a show, I do not have to pay for my tickets. But I go to plenty of gigs that I’m not officially covering, because I just can’t get enough. So I’m aware of the economic realities of being a music junkie. Having blown much of my summer travel budget on tickets to see Paul McCartney at Fenway Park in Boston, I’m going to be watching the bottom line closely. (Well, my wife will be watching the bottom line.)
Between the free and heavily discounted shows in the region, and the more reasonably priced big-ticket gigs – Bob Dylan, Wilco and My Morning Jacket on July 18 at Darien Lake, for example, or the Outer Harbor shows, which all come in well under the concert industry average price – it’s possible to have a rich summer concert experience this year without being rich.
It’s upon us, then. Another three months of rabid concert activity. Could the season have been better? Sure, always. But I’m more than pleased with how the 2013 summer concert scene has shaped up.
Have fun out there!