Sounds of the City
Best concert bets for June
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats @ Artpark
Photo by Brantley Gutierrez
June’s always a difficult month here at Sounds Central, because we invariably go to press mere days before many of the summer’s biggest outdoor shows are announced, making us look like clueless old fogeys. But that hasn’t stopped us from finding enough fun—both indoors and out—to fill even the hippest hipster’s concert calendar. As always, check buffalospree.com for an updated version of this highly selective list.
PICK OF THE MONTH
Saturday, June 2
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats plus The Head and the Heart @ Artpark
Here’s a dream double bill for anyone fretting that rootsy rock and folk have lost their mainstream appeal in the twenty-first st century. Thanks to a high-energy performance on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, Missouri-born, Denver-based Rateliff is one of those “overnight” sensations with a couple of decades of hard work under his belt, catapulting an act that until recently would probably have been booked at Mohawk or Sportsmen’s (and blown the roof off them) into the shed-tour circuit. Not unlike his contemporaries the Black Keys, Alabama Shakes, and St. Paul and the Broken Bones, he and his band revisit the glory days of old-school blues, R&B, rock & roll, and soul with a freshness that speaks to kids far too young to know the reference points they’re evoking. Seattle songwriters Jonathan Russell and Josiah Johnson and their bandmates in The Head & the Heart perform a similar feat with rousing, earnest ballads, riding the same wave of commercial success that brought us Mumford and Sons, the Lumineers, and Of Monsters and Men. You don’t turn to any of these bands for paradigm-shifting originality (unless you’ve grown up entirely on EDM, stripper-pole pop, and Auto-tuned hiphop, that is); you turn to them for the sheer joy of hearing seasoned players carrying on a long and rich tradition while leaving their own fingerprints on the genres they love—and for dynamite live shows. Which this is very likely to be.
Friday, June 1
First Fridays @ the Albright-Knox:
While these monthly parties (featuring free museum admission) are always worth checking out, this one is especially noteworthy for the 5:30 jazz concert by the Walter Kemp 3oh! and the 8:30 beer tasting by Thin Man Brewery. True, there’s also a screening of Space Jam, the Citizen Kane of intergalactic basketball movies and the opus that simultaneously launched and ended the film career of Michael Jordan. That one starts at 7:30, though I bet it would be a lot easier for grownups to tolerate if they had a few IPAs in them. (The concert and the film are free; there’s a separate admission for the tasting, and advance registration is required for it.)
Joe Mohan @ MusicalFare Cabaret:
The pianist, composer, arranger, and Juilliard teaching fellow returns to his hometown for a cabaret performance demonstrating the evolution of American popular music from the folk songs of Appalachia and bluegrass country to the standards of Tin Pan Alley and the Great White Way.
Sunday, June 3
Kendrick Lamar @ Darien Lake:
It’s not every day you can see a Pulitzer Prize-winner at an amusement park, people. This “Championship Tour” also includes SZA, Schoolboy Q, and other idiosyncratically monikered hiphop stars of today and tomorrow.
Monday, June 4—Sunday, June 10
June in Buffalo @ UB:
The long-running conference, workshop, and performance festival devoted to academic new music (with occasional crossovers into rock, jazz, electronic, and other audience-friendly territory) returns with another jam-packed week of sonic experimentation. This year’s concert schedule was not available as we went to press, so check music21c.buffalo.edu/june-in-buffalo for deets.
Wednesday, June 6
Live at Larkin returns to Larkinville:
One of the most dependable of the current crop of outdoor summer concert series featuring WNY musicians kicks off a new season of Wednesday afternoon/evening shows with Big Mean Sound Machine and Miller & the Other Sinners. The series continues every week from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. through September 5—and don’t forget Food Truck Tuesdays, which also feature excellent local bands (and run even longer: they start an hour earlier and run through the end of September). Visit larkinsquare.com for info on both series and additional special events.
Richard Buckner @ Sportsmen’s Tavern:
Indie rock and alt-country fans alike have found much to love in this singer-songwriter’s eclectic discography dating back to the mid-’90s, but there’s a true weirdness at play in his work, too, as evidenced by the album he allegedly composed entirely on an electronic autoharp he found in a thrift store and had to learn how to play as he went.
Thursday, June 7
The Buffalo Chamber Players @ the Albright-Knox:
The museum’s resident classical ensemble pays tribute to the fabled concerts of then-new and still-experimental music presented in the same space back in the 1960s and 1970s by BPO conductor Lukas Foss and the Creative Associates.
Friday, June 8
Jack White @ Artpark:
You know who he is, and if you haven’t acted already, you need to know this show is sold out. I mention it here because I love this Sign of the Times in the concert description: “This is a PHONE-FREE show. No photos, video, or audio recording devices allowed. We think you’ll enjoy looking up from your gadgets for a little while and experience music and our shared love of it IN PERSON.” Amen to that!
Saturday, June 9
East Aurora Musicfest @ twenty locations throughout East Aurora:
This hometown celebration, founded in 2013, grows more ambitious every year. Among the current roster of seventy acts are multiple generations of regional favorites including Alison Pipitone (whose work as a founder of the Hamburg Music Fest inspired this one), Tom Stahl, McCarthyizm, Ten Cent Howl, Carina and the Six String Preacher, and Scott Celani. There are cover bands aplenty (Strictly Hip, Busted Stuff, Workingman’s Dead, and the core group from last fall’s tribute to the Band’s “Last Waltz”), world music with Naryan Padmanabha, vocal jazz by Tia Brazda, blues from Jonny James, funk from Critt’s Juke Joint, and even an appearance by the East Aurora High School Jazz Band.
Tuesday, June 12
Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers @ Buffalo Iron Works:
Smitten with the range of outré genres he draws from (hootenanny folk, klezmer, early jazz, and what sounds like Eastern European circus music, among others) and his supernatural growl of a voice, I made this Nova Scotia singer-songwriter my Pick of the Month when he played the 9th Ward this January—only to have a winter storm wreak havoc the night of the gig. The show evidently went on, and by all accounts was terrific, but who knows how many potential fans were scared away? The good news is, he’s back in town at a larger venue with his full band and a brand-new album (Old Stock, collecting songs from his theater piece of the same name) to promote. Chance of a blizzard this time: much lower.
Friday, June 15—Saturday, June 16
Liquid Art Festival in Hamilton, Ontario:
The folks at Collective Arts Brewing just up the QEW from us love music almost as much as they love beer, so they’re launching a new two-day festival highlighting both, plus the live painting of several gigantic murals by a quartet of German and British artists. I confess I’m not familiar with any of the acts performing—Charly Bliss, Jane’s Party, Mt. Joy, Twist, Lost Cousins, or Juno Award-nominated headliners the Beaches—but with approximately fifty brewers from throughout Europe, the States, and Canada also offering their wares, you’re bound to find enough art, liquid or otherwise, to keep you entertained all weekend.
Saturday, June 16
Alternative Buffalo’s Kerfuffle @ Canalside:
This year’s headliners are Manchester Orchestra—who are neither from Manchester nor an orchestra—and AWOLNATION—who are neither AWOL nor a nation. Good thing they are joined by Matt and Kim, who really are a person named Matt and another named Kim (and who put on a mighty fun show in the same venue a few summers back).
Sturgill Simpson @ CMAC:
If you’ve already fallen in love with the “metamodern,” psychedelic country sound of albums like 2016’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, where trippy feedback, twang, and Nirvana covers coexist, then you know this show is going to be worth the drive to Canandaigua. (And here’s my first nudge of the summer to visit cmacevents.com to check out all the stellar offerings at a gorgeous Finger Lakes venue just two hours away, which this month alone include John Fogerty and ZZ Top on June 23, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds on the 26th, and Roger Daltrey on the 30th.)
Wednesday, June 20
Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore @ Sportsmen’s Tavern:
Have we died and gone to Alt-Country heaven? Alvin was a founding member of the Blasters and has been a frequent visitor to this Black Rock institution in recent years. Gilmore hasn’t been around these parts much lately, and based on past appearances, any chance to catch the Texas songwriting legend in concert is cause for excitement. The very idea of the two sharing a stage should be enough to pack the joint.
Thursday, June 21
Kerrykate @ PAUSA:
Writer and performer Kerrykate Abel-Smith has been a mainstay on Buffalo stages for the last couple of decades now, and was one of the pioneers of the city’s now-thriving cabaret scene. The comfy back room at Allentown’s PAUSA seems like an ideal fit for her intimate brand of entertainment. Come for the torch songs, stay for the fast-and-loose banter between numbers.
Saturday, June 23
The Buffalo Jazz Octet plays the Music of 1968 @ the Kenan Center:
The Kenan’s smartly curated “Jazz at the Taylor” series has been bringing terrific concerts by top-notch WNY musicians to Lockport for two seasons now. This month, the Jazz Octet performs two sets of tunes from that most action-packed of years half a century ago, drawing their repertoire primarily from the world of rock music: Think Hendrix, the Stones, the Beatles, and company. In the hands of noted players including John Bacon, Nelson Rivera, Steve Baczkowski, and Phil Sims under the direction of pianist Michael McNeill, this is bound to be a special night.
Monday, June 25
Lauren Belfer and Margaret Sullivan @ Larkin Square:
One best-selling novelist and one former editor of the Buffalo News (who has since gone on to international acclaim, first at the New York Times and now at the Washington Post) pay a visit home for a public conversation.
Wednesday, June 27
Rhiannon Giddens @ Asbury Hall:
With her first widely known band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens introduced a new generation to the rich but long-forgotten contributions of African Americans to early country and folk music. Since going solo, she has expanded both the scope of her history lessons (several songs on her 2017 album Freedom Highway are inspired by or derived from texts by enslaved persons) and the sonic possibilities of her opera-trained voice. She’s also been a recurring character on the series Nashville, prepped for her Broadway debut, collaborated with both the Kronos Quartet and country star Eric Church, and won a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. And what have you done lately?
Thursday, June 28
Chris Stapleton @ Darien Lake:
The longhaired hippie credited with almost single-handedly reviving the spirit—and commercial appeal—of ’70s-style outlaw country brings his “All American Road Show” (including an opening set by Marty Stuart) to WNY.
Ron Ehmke is a writer, performer, and media artist you can learn more about at everythingrondoes.com.