Sounds of the City
Best concert bets for May
Dean Schlabowske plays at Marty Boratin’s (house concert)
PICK OF THE MONTH
Saturday, May 26
Fans of self-described “alt-country (for lack of a better term)” legends the Waco Brothers, take note: one of that band’s founding members will be playing acoustic material from his new solo side project at one of our area’s coolest, if smallest, concert venues. For the eleven songs on his new digital album (available free at deanschlabowskemusic.com), he re-envisions himself as “Ramblin’ Deano,” a hard-traveling troubadour in the tradition of Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs, and the pre-electric Dylan, brilliantly using the concept to present bare-bones topical songs about the Trump era that sound like they come straight from the early 60s, making it clear that the more things change, the more they stay the same. (Sample titles: “The President is Out of His Goddam Mind,” “The Racist Barber,” and “[It’s Hard to Be A] White Christian Man.”) It’ll clearly be a quieter evening than the average outing by his main outfit, but I fully expect the same level of intensity, intelligence, and dizzying layers of postmodern irony and plainspoken truth telling.
Wednesday, May 2
Amy LaVere and Will Sexton @ 189 Public: I was smitten by singer/songwriter/standing bass player LaVere from the moment I saw her perform the role of Wanda Jackson in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. Turns out her own songs—as delicate, wistful, and down-to-earth as her singing voice—are even more entrancing. She’s currently touring and recording as a duo with her husband, a compelling alt/indie/whatever musician in his own right, and their easy rapport is bound to make for an utterly charming evening in a venue that is tailor made for such things.
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band @ the Tralf: You may not think three people can constitute a “big damn band,” but I’ll be damned if these three don’t accomplish that very feat—using a washboard as one of their primary instruments, no less. But basic math is only one of the rules flauted in the alternate universe they rule, along with easy categorization. The “reverend” himself has the guttural voice of a devil and clearly knows his way around both the barroom and the bedroom, and he plays some of the fastest guitar solos I’ve ever heard. A rootin’ tootin’ good time is all but guaranteed.
Saturday, May 5
Jackson Browne @ Seneca Allegany Events Center: I hate to break it to the fans of today's crop of platinum-selling male singer/songwriters, but I have yet to find a single one of them with the conceptual ambition, lyrical scope, political convictions, and sheer staying power of this icon of the 1970s. Don't be put off by the fact that he's been in the biz for fifty years now—bear in mind he wrote some of his most "mature" compositions before he was old enough to drink.
Electrorespect @ Nietzsche's: The eleventh annual tribute to the late great wild man of Buffalo's art/punk scene of the 1970s and 80s—the crazed love child of Frank Zappa and Daniel Johnston—reunites the members of his many bands while offering newcomers a handy introduction to such classics as "Sex Googleplex" and "Googaloo" (both written long before "Google it" had its current meaning), "The Vegetarian Song," and "What About the Alien on My Jacket?"
Saturday, May 5 and Sunday, May 6
Duke Ellington's "Sacred Concert" @ two locations: In what sounds like an epic co-production, the Colored Musicians Club's Centennial Big Band joins forces with the Buffalo Niagara Choirs' Buffalo Master Chorale, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo's UUCB Choir, Ella E. Robinson's New Beginning Choral Ensemble, and vocal soloist Alex McArthur for a pair of performances of Sir Duke's late-career religious music, held, appropriately enough, in a pair of Buffalo churches. Saturday's concert begins at 6 p.m. at St. Martin Des Porres (555 Northampton St.), while Sunday's takes place at 4 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist (695 Elmwood).
Thursday, May 10
The Author Series @ Larkin Square: We'll all be talkin' proud when Spree's fearless leader, editor-in-chief Elizabeth Licata, discusses her new book, 100 Things to Do in Buffalo Before You Die, and several WNY-based contributors to the anthology Voices from the Rust Belt (edited by Anne Trubeck) read from their essays.
Monday, May 14
Gusto Vinyl Happy Hour @ Sportsmen's Tavern: Get in on the ground floor of what sounds like a terrific and timely new series as Buffalo News music critic (and longtime member of the extended Spree family) Jeff Miers and 97 Rock DJ Anita West co-host a monthly look at various classic LPs, starting with George Harrison's epic solo debut, All Things Must Pass. Each installment will feature an informal discussion, samples of the (vinyl) recording itself, and new live performances of selected numbers, which this time around will be played by David Michael Miller on guitar and vocals, Eric Crittenden on sax, keys, and vocals, and Naryan Padmanabha on sitar—because, come on, people, you gotta have sitar for this one.
Tuesday, May 15
The Wailers @ Asbury Hall: Revisit reggae history when Bob Marley's former bandmates pay a visit to Babeville, joined by Buffalo's own purveyors of the genre (among other influences), Funktional Flow.
Wednesday, May 16
Tav Falco's Panther Burns @ Mohawk Place: One of the original architects of psychobilly, Falco (not to be confused with the architect of "Rock Me Amadeus") is also a filmmaker, co-author of a cherished two-volume history of the Memphis scene, and a longtime student of the tango. Various incarnations of his indestructible Panther Burns band have included the likes of Alex Chilton, James Luther Dickinson, and Mike Watt, so you know the bar for membership is high.
Thursday, May 17—Saturday, May 19
T. J. Miller @ Helium: I’m bummed that this actor/comedian has a bit of an image problem these days (Google it), because I loved him as part of the Silicon Valley ensemble before his acrimonious departure from the HBO series. On the other hand, he’s always been the kind of performer who is most at home on the edge, so I’m betting his recent notoriety will make for even sharper jokes. You’ve got five chances to see him up close and personal.
Saturday, May 19
The Buffalo Jazz Composers Workshop @ the Kenan Center: The Lockport arts center's Jazz at the Taylor hosts a tribute to the late pianist/composer Horace Silver, who would have turned ninety this year.
Buffalo Porchfest @ various locations: One of my favorite new springtime rituals returns! Spend the afternoon checking out live local musicians on porches throughout the Elmwood Village. Think of it as the love child of Infringement and Garden Walk, and yet another reason to love this time of year. The website should have a map of venues and a list of acts soonish; the whole thing is free, making this an ideal opportunity to take a chance on a band you've never heard of or a genre you barely know. If you don't like it, you can always walk three or four houses down and sample something else.
Sunday, May 20
Slaid Cleaves @ Sportsmen's: The last time I saw this Austin-based musician in this venue, he ended the show strolling through the bar (while still playing his guitar), up the stairs, and onto the balcony where he personally serenaded every last member of the overflow crowd. He’s a storyteller as much as anything, chronicling the lives of vets, residents of rural America, and other richly imagined characters, which probably explains why Stephen King offered liner notes for his excellent 2009 album Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away. Note that this is an afternoon show.
Monday and Tuesday, May 21 and 22
Pitbull @ Fallsview: The dapper hitmaker spends a couple of nights on the other side of the Falls. Better be a full member of the high-rolling world he evokes in his videos if you want to be part of the party, because tickets start at $175 and head just south of $300 a piece. But hey, that’s Canadian dollars, if that’s any consolation.
Wednesday, May 23
Primus and Mastodon @ Artpark: Anybody up for an evening of very loud, frequently wacky music? The park is yours tonight.
Saturday, May 26
The Decemberists @ Artpark: Over the course of almost two decades now, these shape-shifting, genre-polyamorous smart alecks have turned their attention from ancient-sounding sea shanties and murder ballads to prog rock concept albums to dancefloor-ready synth pop, all anchored by the high-twee sensibility, literary lyrics, and mannered vocals of frontman Colin Meloy. The band's willful weirdness has earned them an enthusiastic following, and while the folks onstage put on a fairly theatrical show, part of the fun is listening to the crowd singing along to bookish
Ron Ehmke is a writer, performer, and media artist you can learn more about at everythingrondoes.com.