It should have been a summer music festival. It ended up feeling more like a fall music festival. But that was all right. We know how to roll here in Buffalo.
The Hamburg Music Festival was established in 2009 and has spent the time since attempting to grow into a major regional attraction, a given, a must-do for every music-lover in the region. As Saturday’s happening made plain, the festival is well on its way. Despite the inclement weather – 50 degrees, as I all-too-duly noted in my regular garb of a leather jacket and T-shirt, proof of my recurring inability to plan ahead – a healthy crowd showed up to Hamburg’s Memorial Park for the main stage events throughout the day.
The whole shindig kicked off at 2 p.m., and by 7 p.m., downtown was packed. A host of area bars participated in the festival, hosting bands throughout the day and into the evening, and a shuttle transported concertgoers between the Memorial Park main stage and the ancillary downtown bars throughout the day.
The cold weather didn’t seem to matter much to the hundreds who gathered at Memorial Park to hear a wide variety of Buffalo-based talent, in a stream of music that included forays into southern rock, post-fusion jazz, singer-songwriter fare, jam-band freak-outs and blues.
Early on, 2 Left Boots gave the crowd a blend of classic rock and southern fare, blurring the lines between the rock and country idioms to apparently winning ends. Gruvology reminded us all that Buffalo is indeed a jazz city, and that its surrounding environs also are open to the idea of broad harmonic content giving way to virtuosic improvisation. Guitarist Bernard Kunz and keyboardist Walter Kemp led Gruvology through a stellar set of uber-hip charts that married funk to straight-ahead jazz. The crowd dug it, as they should have.
Grace Stumberg and her killer band brought down the house with a set that displayed a startling maturity, as these young musicians rather effortlessly married Stumberg’s lovely songs to deep blues and funk grooves. By this point, the weather had ceased to be an issue. The music had become a source of heat, and everyone zipped up their leather jackets and got on with it.
Downtown, the participating clubs welcomed a steady stream of visitors, and by 8 p.m., Main Street was jammed with festivalgoers. As if the Hamburg Music Festival had willed itself into becoming our own little version of the Austin, Texas, annual to-do known as South by Southwest, music lovers crammed the streets and flooded the bars, all in support of local musicians.
I don’t know about you, but I plan to be back next year.