The year 2013 kicked off with Mohawk Place closing its doors after 23 years as the cornerstone of the Buffalo independent music scene. So, yeah, things got off to a fairly lousy start. Losing Mohawk felt like losing a clubhouse where you met your friends and family. It had been easy to take the club for granted, and assume it would always be there. When it was officially announced that all was not well at Mohawk, it truly felt like the party was over.
Once the reality had set in, and all involved – both fans and musicians – realized that we had little choice but to move on, hope began to creep back into the local music scene. The Waiting Room opened at 334 Delaware Ave., and many familiar faces from the Mohawk Place days were there manning the bar, booking the events, running the live sound and snapping up tickets to the shows. This, it was immediately apparent, would be a classier affair than Mohawk – a distinct urban indie-rock vibe pervaded from the get-go, and it was clear that what would endure would be the spirit of Mohawk Place. A building is merely a building without that spirit, after all.
Across the street from the Waiting Room, at Ani DiFranco’s Babeland complex, some changes were afoot as well. Concert promoter Dan Smalls Presents from Ithaca took over booking for Babeville’s Asbury Hall and Ninth Ward, and bigger, nationally touring indie rock acts with hipster cachet began to show up on the Babeville roster.
The action around Canalside became impossible to ignore even after the seasonal outdoor concerts at both Canalside and the outer harbor had run their course. New builds of the magnitude we’re seeing around the First Niagara Center can only be perceived as positive for a music scene that thrives on an influx of new blood. The Iron Works opened at 49 Illinois St., and began booking a cross-section of local original and cover acts, as well as touring nationals – something we would like to see more of in the coming year.
In September, 107.7 FM Alternative Buffalo went on the air, promising to provide what had been missing for years – a contemporary alternative rock radio format that, it is hoped, will mirror the success of stations in Toronto and Rochester. Having this station in town means that we are likely to see a jump in the bookings of hip alternative acts, of the variety that would normally skip over us in favor of Toronto and Rochester, where they receive radio support unavailable here. Clubs like the Town Ballroom and the Waiting Room will be much more likely to book such acts now that Alternative Buffalo is here. In fact, we’re seeing this happen already, with bookings like St. Vincent (April 12 at Babeville) and the War on Drugs (April 13 in the Town Ballroom) announced recently.
So 2013 crawled into town bringing with it the stench of despair, but as it leaves us, a sense of (only mildly cautious) optimism pervades.