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Best concert bets for February

Sounds of the City

Elise Davis

Photo courtesy of Babeville



Wednesday, February 20

Elise Davis at the 9th Ward


The fact that she cowrote a song on her latest album with the sensational Maren Morris (“Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” on 2018’s Cactus) was the first thing that caught my attention about this Little Rock-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter. But what kept me listening was her voice—confident yet vulnerable—and her rock-solid writing. In “Married Young,” for instance, she evokes the ambivalence of a lovestruck twentysomething through such crystal clear images as her husband’s Tom Waits albums, the dirty white carpet in a $200 apartment, working the night shift at a fast food joint, and drinking Boone’s Farm from cracked thrift-store glasses. (“Everything was used, but to me it was new.”) If you’re thinking of Lucinda Williams, you’re not too far off the mark—but Davis is clearly on her own path. She strikes me as the rare artist who (like Morris, in fact) is capable of winning over both alt-country die-hards and the far larger commercial country radio crowd. I’m especially curious to hear what her songs sound like when they are stripped of recording-studio sheen and performed with a road-tested band. My hunch and hope is that they’ll be even more powerful.



Wednesday, February 6

Marcia Ball @ Sportsmen's Tavern: Any chance to catch this sensational Texas-born, Louisiana-bred blues and R&B pianist and singer in concert is a no-brainer. Albums don't do justice to her true talents, which is probably why she's been a legend for decades in the South while remaining somewhat obscure elsewhere. Take my word for it: she's something special.


Thursday, February 7

Copernicus @ the Burchfield Penney: No, the (very) late astronomer will not be appearing in person. But science writer Peter Reczek will be, as he moderates a panel discussion amongst scientists, artists, and historians about just how much our ways of seeing and understanding our place in the universe changed as a result of the Copernican revolution.


The Hot Sardines perform at Kleinhans on February 9

Photo © Joseph Cultice/Universal Music Classics


Saturday, February 9

The Hot Sardines @ Kleinhans: Get your Roaring (19)20s on with these NYC jazzbos led by Midleresque singer/washboard player Miz Elizabeth and pianist Evan Palazzo. Sure, there's a rhythm section and horns aplenty, but how many other bands these days can boast a full time tap dancer? I guess the time is ripe for a Swing Revival Revival, and here's the group to launch it.


Love Cadenza @ the Tralf: Buffalo-bred trumpeter Will Holton presents the fifth annual edition of his popular Valentine's Day(-ish) showcase of the city's finest R&B acts along with some visiting stars.


Bobby Militello Quartet Tribute to Dave Brubeck and Chick Corea @ the Kenan (Lockport): The sax player tells stories of his days with Brubeck and plays music from the 1959 album Time Out with his own band, along with selections from Corea's 1978 LP, Friends.


Wednesday, February 13

Galactic @ IronWorks: Celebrate Mardi Gras with a revered twenty-first century New Orleans musical institution. For more than two decades these guys have been perfecting their own recipe for a thick, rich gumbo of funk, r&b, and electronics. One part jam band, one part second-line, they have shared stages and album tracks with the likes of Macy Gray, Mavis Staples, Ani DiFranco, and plenty of NOLA rappers. For this tour they're joined by the High and Mighty Brass Band, reflecting their love of their hometown's time-honored street beats.


Thursday, February 14

Kurt Elling @ Fallsview (Niagara Falls, Ontario): Sad because you missed the boat on Josh Groban tickets at the same venue the next two nights? Weep not: As of presstime, you can still spend Valentine's Day itself with another top-tier baritone. Elling's a source of endless surprises—opening a concert with an a capella version of "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall," recreating a Charlie Haden bass solo with his voice, incorporating classic poetry in his act, covering everyone from Coltrane and Miles to the Beatles and the Guess Who—so this is bound to be a treat.


Tuesday, February 19

Chuck Prophet @ 189 Public House (East Aurora): After making a name for himself in the early 80s with the psychedelia-gone-Americana band Green on Red, this West Coast guitarist evolved into an engaging and prolific singer-songwriter with a thriving solo career. Prophet has a knack for writing vividly detailed narratives set to instantly catchy melodies and compiling them in thematic albums that feel like short story collections. Temple Beautiful, a 2012 release, was a musical portrait of his adopted hometown, San Francisco, while 2017's Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins takes a look at mortality (among other subjects) through the lens of everyday people and the public figures they cherish. Song titles like "Jesus was a Social Drinker" and "If I Was Connie Britton," coupled with his deadpan vocal delivery, may conjure up comparisons to both Warren Zevon (for whom he played guitar) and the early recordings of Jonathan Richman, but he's clearly on his own path.


Wednesday, February 20

Ben Siegel on Fotini Galanes @ Hallwalls: The gallery's inventive spin on the time-honored "artist's talk" format this season invites one WNY artist (in this case, writer and endlessly entertaining social networker Siegel) to talk about the work of another one that he or she admires (Siegel's pick is visual artist and muralist Galanes).


Thursday, February 21

Liza Lou @ the Albright-Knox: The visual artist best known for her incredibly intricate, labor-intensive beadwork (we're talking hundreds of thousands of tiny beads covering entire rooms) gives a free talk about her process, including projects in South Africa (a "security fence" that might hit home in America these days) and a women's prison in Brazil. Everyone who sees her work tends to rave about it ever after, and there's now an example in the museum's permanent collection, currently on display in the "We the People" exhibition.


Sunday, February 24

Bad Bad Hats @ the 9th Ward: Minneapolis-based vocalist and lyricist Kerry Alexander and multi-instrumentalist Chris Hoge (newly joined by drummer Connor Davison) specialize in a winning variety of indie power pop that manages to sound effortless and thought-provoking at the same time. They don't exactly break any new ground, but that's beside the point; they're the kind of band you fall in love with the minute you hear them on college radio—no matter how old you are or what decade it happens to be.


Ron Ehmke is a writer, performer, and media artist you can learn more about at everythingrondoes.com.



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