Sounds of the City
Best concert bets for February
Jason Mraz plays Fallsview Casino February 1 and 2.
Thursday, February 1
Marshmello @ Riverworks: Sorry, introverted would-be DJs, but if you want to make it in today's electronic dance music scene, two turntables and a microphone just won't cut it anymore; ever since Deadmau5 you've gotta have a gimmick, and that gimmick generally involves wearing something ridiculous on your head. In the case of this still-anonymous super-producer, it's—you guessed it—an oversized, cartoonish marshmallow. Kids today! It's clearly working, because Mr. Mello's reputation has skyrocketed since this show was first announced, so expect an enormous crowd. BYO hot chocolate.
Buffalo Fun-a-Day 2018 @ Sugar City: Dreading the gloomiest, yet shortest, month of the winter? Inspired by the like-minded Philadelphia art collective Artclash (who have been doing it for fourteen years now), the democracy-minded funsters on Niagara Street issue a call to artists and crafters of all media, skill levels, and ages—this means you!—to "do something you think is fun or interesting, do it every day in February and document it in some way. It could be drawing, photography, swimming, pillow making, or anything you can imagine. The project can either be twenty-eight individual pieces or one piece." Register online (it's free), and then display the end results at the gallery on March 22.
Thursday and Friday, February 1 and 2
Jason Mraz @ Fallsview Casino: The mellow, good-humored California pop/folk singer-songwriter who catapulted from coffeehouses to arenas in the early years of the new century hits the Canadian side of the Falls for a pair of shows. I'm not the world's biggest fan myself, but I've always appreciated the fact that his last name can be repunctuated "Mr. A-Z," as he did in the title of his second album.
Friday, February 2
The Music of Wayne Shorter @ Pausa: My hat is off to saxophonist Jon Lehning not just for assembling a stellar group of local players to pay tribute to the jazz legend known for his work with Art Blakey, Miles Davis, and Weather Report, but for titling the concert "Wayne's World."
Tuesday, February 6
PROJECT Trio @ Kleinhans's Mary Seaton Room: Meet the new face of chamber music in the age of social networks. Bassist Peter Seymour, cellist Eric Stephenson, and beatboxing flautist Greg Pattillo became YouTube sensations on the basis of their wildly eclectic repertoire, which ranges from Beethoven and Brahms to Mingus and Brubeck to Guns N' Roses and Twenty One Pilots—to say nothing of covers of TV cartoon and video game theme songs, as well as original compositions rooted in hip hop. Pattillo is easily the most animated flute master since Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, an influence made explicit when he performs Bach's "Bouree" while hopping around on one foot. Novelty act or gateway to "serious" classical music and jazz? You decide, but only a total snob would deny their charm, humor, and virtuosity.
Wednesday, February 7
Science & Art Cabaret 20.5 @ the 9th Ward in Babeville: This long-running series exploring intersections of visual art, the humanities, and the sciences is always free, always eye-opening, always fun, and always packed to the visible rafters. (Pro tip for academics everywhere: You will reach lots more people when beer is involved.) While most installments feature multiple speakers addressing a broad topic from the narrower perspective of their specific discipline, this one spotlights Joe Nickell, a former stage musician turned skeptical investigator/debunker of "paranormal" activity, revisiting cases from his past, including the "Amityville Horror" site and Toronto's allegedly haunted Mackenzie House.
PICK OF THE MONTH: Thursday—Sunday, February 8-11
The Wooster Group @ UB's Center for the Arts Black Box Theater: Looking beyond mere music (though that is part of the mix), I'll just come right out and proclaim this the most exciting cultural event of the month, if not the season. The NYC-based Wooster Group is, hands down, the most innovative and influential experimental theater company of the last forty years (perhaps you have heard of a couple of their founding members, Willem Dafoe and the late Spalding Gray). Their first appearance in our area in decades would be news enough, but it gets even better: Current members of the group are in residence at UB this semester, and they are presenting four performances of a new work with the epic title THE B-SIDE: “Negro Folklore From Texas State Prisons” A Record Album Interpretation, in which three company members "stage" an LP of prison songs and spoken word pieces recorded in a segregated African-American jail in 1965 by UB professor Bruce Jackson. Take my word for it: If you tried to see a show by the Woosters in their home city, especially in a venue of this size, tickets would be sold out long before it opened, and they would cost a pretty penny. This one's free—and the tickets are, in fact, all gone already, but there's a waiting list should more become available. You can also read more about the project in the February Spree.
Thursday, February 8
Critt's Juke Joint @ Town Ballroom: Powerhouse sax player, keyboardist, and vocalist Eric Crittenden and his top-notch band pay tribute to the Memphis record label Stax (think Isaac Hayes, the Staples Singers, Otis Redding, and most of your favorite soul music of the late 1960s and early 1970s) in what is bound to be a high-energy evening.
Friday, February 9
Marilyn Manson @ the Rapids Theatre: One of my all-time favorite Onion headlines, from way back in 2001, was "Marilyn Manson Now Going Door-to-Door Trying to Shock People." Hey, he'll be in the neighborhood, so think twice if your doorbell rings unexpectedly.
Jaimoe's Jasssz Band @ Buffalo IronWorks: The oddly named drummer for the Allman Brothers now fronts his own oddly named band. Before his tenure with the Southern rock legends, he was a member of Otis Redding's touring group, and the mix of soul, R&B, blues, and jazz on display in his current septet led him to call their 2011 debut album Renaissance Man.
Richard Cohen @ Hallwalls: Given how easily Americans of multiple political persuasions tend to throw around the term "fascist" in regard to their own leaders this century, it might be a good idea to learn a little more about what the term really means by examining the first half of the last century. Thus this free afternoon lecture by a professor of Jewish Studies at UB on "Capitalism, Globalism, and Fascism."
The Wazmopolitans Play Songs of Love @ Pausa: I already admired Buffalo drummer extraordinaire David Wasik, but assembling a group called "the Wazmopolitans" to play romantic bossa nova and samba classics the weekend before Valentine's Day seals the deal.
Sunday, February 11
Joe Ford Quartet @ the Buffalo History Museum: The acclaimed Buffalo-born saxophonist, composer, arranger, and educator who played and recorded with McCoy Tyner from the 1970s through the 90s and has served as sideman with the likes of Lester Bowie, Abdullah Ibrahim, Freddy Cole, and many others, returns to his hometown for the latest Buffalo Jazz Collective "Second Sunday" matinee. As Ford notes in a biographical statement, “People who haven't seen me as a leader will be surprised. My music isn't about hooks and gratuitous soloing. It has a wide variety of styles allowing the quality of the songs and musicianship stand out… All the styles I grew up with and have played professionally—funk, gospel, classical, avant-garde and jazz—are within me. Though I've been playing professionally for many years, every note I play is brand new, providing a current overview of what I'm about at the present time."
Tuesday, February 13
C. J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band @ Sportsmen's Tavern: C. J. is to Clifton Chenier as Ziggy is to Bob Marley and Femi is to Fela Kuti—the son who carries on his genre-defining father's legacy with a balance of respect and innovation. If you're a fan of zydeco, the accordion player and his band are the real deal.
Wednesday, February 14
Atomic @ Hallwalls: Spend Valentine's Day with a Swedish/Norwegian free-jazz band whose sound has been compared to "synchronized swimming among man-eating sharks." If that's a little off-putting, consider this: "They seem to hurtle in freefall spirals before raising merry hell with free improvisations, looping and diving amid each other's vapor trails, and managing to recalibrate simultaneously their alignment and launch into the next composed passage without batting an eyelid." In other words, probably not first-date material, but if you're already in deep with someone who loves sonic adventure, go for it.
Saturday, February 17
Jacob Jay Quintet and Shaun Doyle @ Pausa: Vocalist Doyle joins forces with trumpeter, flugelhorn player, and bandleader Jay and his ensemble to revisit the work of Chet Baker.
Monday, February 19
A Flash of Dark book launch @ CAO Masten Resource Center: Join editor Scott W. Williams and some of the contributors to the first volume of A Flash of Dark, a new anthology series devoted to science-fiction-themed poetry and flash fiction. Gary Earl Ross, Eve Williams Wilson, Julio Montalvo Valentin, Maria Sebastian, Josh Smith, Rebekah A. Williams, and Dana Kemp will read passages from Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture.
Wednesday, February 21
PVRIS @ Town Ballroom: Between you and me, I can't wait for this fad of all-caps band names with a V serving as an upside down A to end, but hey, the kids seem to think it's cool this week. I'm cutting these folks some slack for bringing the Michigan-based singer-songwriter Flint Eastwood (get it?) on tour with them. Now that's what I call a good name.
Thursday, February 22—Saturday, February 24
Jen Kirkman @ Helium: If you know her from her work behind the scenes and in front of the camera on Chelsea Lately (RIP), her frequent appearances on Drunk History and @Midnight (RIP), her Netflix specials, her podcast, or her books and albums, you are already aware that Kirkman is a sharp-witted, keen-eyed observer of contemporary life with great comic timing. She's doing five sets of standup on this visit to town.
Saturday, February 24
Andrew Bird @ UB's Center for the Arts: No stranger to Buffalo (he was signed to Ani DiFranco's Righteous Babe Records for a while and played a mind-blowing show at Soundlab back in his early solo days), this singer/songwriter/violinist/whistler is practically a one-man answer to Radiohead, crafting exquisite music that is both brazenly experimental and broadly popular. He's also got fantastic taste in collaborators, and his live shows are even better than his acclaimed studio recordings. In recent years he's expanded his talents to audio-art installations, livestreaming works in progress, filmmaking, and even op-ed writing for the New York Times—all of which bodes well for his latest tour.
Ron Ehmke is a writer, performer, and media artist you can learn more about at everythingrondoes.com.