Sounds of the City
Best concert bets for April
Superorganism plays the Rapids Theatre
PICK OF THE MONTH
Friday, April 6
If you're a fan of the time-honored strategy of artsy young people opposing the consumerist nature of mass-produced pop music by deliberately sounding and/or looking as uninterested-in-yet-fascinated-by bourgeois notions of "success" or "talent" as possible (see also: the Velvet Underground circa 1966, punk rock and hardcore from the 1970s through today, riot grrrl in the 90s, and so on), then have I got a bleeding-edge act for you. Gather eight to ten such individuals from around the world, most of them cohabiting in a London flat, unleash them on YouTube, and watch the fun. (Instantaneous Backlash Alert! "This video looks like what old People [sic] think the internet is," sneers one particularly snarky Mean Girl commenter on YT after watching a seemingly infinite litter of seizure-inducing intergalactic cats attempting to swallow and regurgitate the bored-looking vocalist who is DEFINITELY NOT A HOLOGRAM in the self-reflexive, self-fulfilling "Everybody Wants to Be Famous," which as we went to press had been viewed a million and a half times.) My hunch is they're poised to be the Chumbawamba of 2018. And I say that as someone who will always love, or at least admire the gumption of, the Chumbawamba of 1997. The live show is all but guaranteed to be a big, sloppy, DIY spectacle, and thanks to inspired sponsorship from 103.3 The Edge, advance tickets are only a buck and three pennies—while supplies last.
Monday, April 2
You kids today think you're sooooo cool with your trendy DJs wearing their high-tech climate-controlled mouse helmets and marshmallow masks and whatnot. I'll have you know, Mr. Head here first put a KFC bucket on HIS head way back in the late 80s or early 90s, before any of you brats were old enough to EAT fried chicken, dammit. Call it a cheap gimmick, call it a brilliant DIY marketing idea, call it both—but there's no denying the guy is a whiz on the electric guitar, equally at home in funk, avant-jazz, electronic, and shreddy metal (I should copyright that last one). And let us never forget that brief, shining moment in bizarroworld history when he was packing stadiums as an official member of, yep, Guns N Roses.
Friday, April 6
The museum has a bunch of cool-sounding events tied in to its current exhibition "We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85," including the latest edition of the always-fun "Art of Food and Drink" series, a First Friday regular highlighting local establishments whose artistry does not hang on gallery walls. The guest presenter is Chef Shetice Williams of Cake Crazy Bakery, who will create and serve tasty treats inspired by works in the show. See April 19 below for another event, and check the AKAG website for several more.
Sunday, April 8
Twenty albums into the multi-act career of one of the most revered songwriters of his generation, and I am just now catching the gag that his backing band is “the Dukes of Earle.”
Thursday, April 12
The shaggy-haired poet, one-time radical bookstore owner, Manson biographer, musical-instrument inventor, and founding member of the Fugs pays his latest visit to Buffalo with "Cassandra," a fully staged two-act music, video, electronic, poetic drama, paying tribute to the fabled—and cursed—prophet of the Trojan War. The one-night-only production kicks off "The Last Detail," a weekend long mini-festival of proscenium-breaking concerts, which also includes an "audio aquarium" by the inimitable Joe Rozler in the gallery's atrium on Friday, April 15; the latest installment in Charles Haupt's popular "Musical Feast" series Friday evening; some of the last music composed by the late, great Tony Conrad, performed by the Open! String Ensemble on the afternoon of Sunday, April 15; and more.
Friday, April 13
Michael Barclay, author of The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip, reads from and discusses his unauthorized but comprehensive-sounding examination of the group's three-decade-long career, followed by a live performance by everyone's favorite cover band, the Strictly Hip.
One of two free talks this month in the ongoing "Queer Art Lecture Series" cosponsored by the gallery and UB's Department of Visual Studies takes an unflinching look at one of the murkier chapters in LGBTQ history, succinctly summarized in its title, "Queer Pact with the Devil: Queer Artists Collaborating with Nazism in the 1930s & 1940s." (The month's other lecture, to be presented on Thursday, April 5, is by art historian David J. Getsy, whose recent academic research has examined contemporary work by both, celebrated and obscure trans and gay male artists.)
Saturday, April 14
Every three years, Buffalo Arts Studio presents this monster-sized art party fundraiser, and its lineup of WNY-based bands, visual artists, dancers, and installation/immersive/interactive folks is staggering. Where to begin? Here's a very brief selection of well-known names, just to give you a sense of the range: Musical acts include Buffalo Ukulele, Aircraft, Carina and the Six String Preacher, DJ Dr. Wisz, Neville Francis and the Riddim Posse, the Steam Donkeys, Night Slaves, Slyboots, Sparklebomb, and Edreys Wajed. A whole bunch of worthy galleries (including Sugar City, Revolution Gallery, and PineApple Company) will be curating pop-up exhibitions featuring folks like Josef Bajus, William Y. Cooper, Fotini Galanes, Patrick Foran, Craig LaRotunda, Chuck Tingley, and Dana Tyrrell. Then there's belly dancers Fleuron Rouge, the Pure Ink Poetry Slam group, fiber artist Linda Collignon, and collective quilt making with Jack Edson. Names you may recognize from Spree alone include photographer kc kratt, writer/painter Bruce Adams, contributor/artist/curator Gerald Mead, and yours truly (debuting the world's first "Performance Truck" with my partners in Choose Yer Own AdvenTours).
Saturday, April 14 and Monday, April 16
The prog-rock drummer revered for his work with Yes, King Crimson, and Genesis retired from live performance in 2009, then got a PhD in musicology from the University of Surrey. He'll be presenting a lecture called "Give the Drummer Some: Creativity in Popular Music Performance" followed by a concert combining his own songs with compositions by some of his influences, including Webern, Puccini, and Steve Reich, performed by the Genkin Philharmonic and UB Concert Band. (Both the Saturday evening show and the Monday matinee will feature the same content.) The icing on the cake: The whole thing is free
Sunday, April 15
What better way to introduce your kids to jazz, the Great American Songbook, and specifically the music of the immortal George and Ira Gershwin than with this interactive—and they do mean active—all-ages concert sponsored by the Buffalo Jazz Collective, who, with each new and innovative collaborative project they take on, are proving themselves true local heroes. And boy, does our culture ever need them now.
Wednesday, April 18
Best known for his lengthy tenure as a singer and guitarist in Frank Zappa's band (he's the "Joe" in the epic Joe's Garage) and several subsequent tribute acts, Willis has a side career as a solo act playing slightly less freaky rock, jazz, blues, and R&B. He's joined on this tour by former Shalamar vocalist/guitarist Micki Free.
Thursday, April 19
This is gonna be a scene—free evening admission to the museum's thrilling "We Wanted a Revolution" exhibition (see April 6 above), a dance performance by Naila Ansari, and a conversation between featured artist/designer Jae Jarrell and writer/editor Jessica Lynne. In the likely event that the auditorium is packed, you can watch a simulcast from the Cafe.
Friday, April 20
As his ever-evolving band's current press release wryly notes, John Darnielle isn't exactly thrilled with the fact that he's been embraced for the last two decades as a leader of the "lo-fi" movement, but lazy writers are always looking for categories to shove multi-faceted artists into, and that particular adjective seems to have stuck. The group's latest album, Goths, is a loose song cycle celebrating another overused, underexamined descriptor that lazy writers love.
Friday, April 20—Saturday, April 21
The standup, actor, and comics writer pays a return visit to the Cobblestone District. You know that funny guy you liked in that thing you saw? It was probably him, especially if the guy was early-middle-aged, kinda nerdy-handsome, didn't have a lot of hair but maybe a beard and glasses, made a lot of smart pop-culture references, and was not Patton Oswalt.
Saturday, April 21
The museum's long-running "Art of Jazz" concert series continues its well-deserved rep for identifying tomorrow's stars relatively early in their careers with this appearance by Chilean-born, New York-based tenor sax player Aldana. Four albums in and still in her late twenties, she makes no secret of her debt to Sonny Rollins—though the glowing reviews of her latest, Back Home, almost invariably note how thoroughly she has integrated his lifelong influence into a style and sensibility all her own.
The members of this Buffalo-based collective of women writers pays tribute to their mentor, Jimmie Margaret Gilliam. The group formed through a 2004 Just Buffalo workshop led by Gilliam and worked until a year before her death in 2016. A quick glance at the participants in this special reunion—Lorna C. Hill, Geri Grossman, Gary Earl Ross, Cecile White, Kathryn Henderson, and Renee Armstrong—gives you a sense of its star power, not just in the sense of local celebrity but in terms of the brightness and intensity of their individual and shared talent. Guest artists Dr. Jacquelyn Hemphill-Peoples (on piano) and bassist Sabu Adeyola will further add to the once-in-a-lifetime nature of this celebration of one of WNY's most cherished writers.
Sunday, April 22
It's a sad comment on the state of country music in the 1990s that when I say "he was the one without the cowboy hat permanently attached to his head," you probably remember just how rare that was.
Over the course of a few decades, professional contrarian Al Jourgensen's band has had synth-pop dance hits, denounced that phase of its existence, been a chart-topping industrial/metal act, denied it's any such thing, broken up and vowed never to play again, and reunited at least twice since then. Catch this incarnation before they claim it never happened. And if this show doesn't fulfill your desire to revisit the 90s, come back two days later for a completely different aspect of the decade with the split bill of Built to Spill (see what I did there?) and Afghan Whigs.
Saturday, April 28
I make it a rule not to plug shows by bands whose heyday was thirty or more years ago who have lost at least half their original members and/or their main singer, but what the hell. Who wouldn't want to spend a couple of hours listening to some of the catchiest American and British hit singles of the bubblegum and glam eras? Hell, it'd be worth the price of a ticket just to hear the intro to "Ballroom Blitz" played live: "Ready, [complete list of current band members]? Alright, fellas, let's GOOOOOOOOO!!!!!"
Monday, April 30
JazzBuffalo presents a live concert by "the Blue Note 8," a local supergroup of sorts featuring Dave Schiavone, George Kane, Lisa Hasselback, John Bacon, Jr., and (duh) five other acclaimed players, followed by a livestream of a performance fronted by Herbie Hancock in St. Petersburg, Russia. (FWIW, the organization is also observing the Smithsonian's nationwide Jazz Appreciation Month with several shows at Pausa, so visit jazzbuffalo.org for dates, times, and audio samples.)
Ron Ehmke is a writer, performer, and media artist you can learn more about at everythingrondoes.com.