Edgefest in Buffalo has a lot to live up to. There have been some iconic catch-all shows produced by the city’s alt-rock station, 103.3 FM the Edge, over the years, at a broad spectrum of venues. Some have been epic. Some left the attendee scratching his or her head at the end of the night, and wondering what just transpired. (Remember Billy Idol headlining at the old Pier site a decade back?)
Others just feel right. And Sunday’s, held at the Outer Harbor Concert Site, felt right.
A deep Buffalo vibe pervaded, which explained a lot of the positive vibe from the get-go. Buffalo bands composed the majority of the program. But this was no local showcase. Without a killer headliner, Sunday’s show would’ve been a drag – a seven-hour festival held in the blistering heat, at a venue without much shade, and featuring a roster hosting at least one truly insufferable band.
But since Weezer headlines, and the Sheila Divine offered a stellar, if low-key set, all was right in the world.
Things kicked off with a set from local band Dirty Smile, winners of the recent regional Hard Rock Rising Battle of the Bands. Even while the sun beat down with its most visceral power – the band went on at 4 p.m. – Dirty Smile managed to kick up a fuss. Led by singer Megan Brown, the group offered a stirring set of hard rock tunes peppered with soulful inflections. Brown worked the crowd like a pro, and so strong were the band’s chorus hooks – and so readily apparent was the local fan contingent down by the front of the stage – that the group managed to deliver one of the most polished and well-received sets of the day.
Another Buffalo band, the steadily touring Pentimento, offered a well-received set of mildly progressive emo. The crowd was all about it, eating up the band’s blend of emo and groove-based hard rock, and joining in with frontman Jeremiah Pauly, worked to deepen the vibe during what proved to be a taut, tight, and emotion-soaked set.
The Sheila Divine – fronted by Hamburg native Aaron Perrino – followed, and did its best to steal the show. That it didn’t manage to do so is probably because this band has always been low-key, performance-wise, preferring instead to concentrate on the delivery of deeply atmospheric and emotive guitar-based alt-rock in the vein of Echo and the Bunnymen and the Pixies.
Musically speaking, the Sheila Divine answered only to the evening’s headliners, Weezer. Whether playing classics from the late ’90s, or sharing new tunes from last year’s independently released reunion album, Perrino and company slayed it. Full-on bringing it, the Sheila Divine reminded the Buffalo audience why we loved them in the first place.
Sadly, a blemish on the evening’s program came next, in the form of Brand New, the Long Island-born quartet that has been haunting the “screamo” circuit since roughly 2000. So horrible was this band’s set that it pains me to relive it presently, and hurts me even more to recount the fact that, Weezer aside, this was the most well received set of the Edgefest program.
Wow. I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that Brand New is one of the worst bands I’ve ever seen in decades of concert attendance. Horribly out of tune, dedicatedly dirge-dedicated, apparently hostile to anything resembling a melody, and, one would guess, comfortable with the idea of blending emo, metal, hardcore, and punk with an ear for the atonal, the group offered a set that just didn’t seem to want to end. It did, eventually.
And then the stage was cleared for Weezer, perhaps the finest power-pop outfit to emerge from the ’90s, and another band on the Edgefest bill with deep ties to Buffalo, as drummer Pat Wilson is a Clarence native.
Despite some technical difficulties early in the set, Weezer delivered more than 90 minutes of stellar power-pop with a hard rock and alternative edge. The set list was one that any respectable Weezer fan would’ve been pleased with, opening with the knotty “My Name Is Jonas,” moving through the edgy pop-metal of “Hash Pipe,” and settling into a distinctly Big Star-meets-Van Halen groove with “Troublemaker,” “Island In the Sun,” “Beverly Hills” and “Dope Nose.”
With the exception of Brand New’s awful set, Edgefest 2014 was a winner.
Sunday afternoon at Buffalo Outer Harbor Concert Site, 325 Fuhrmann Blvd.