Sounds of the City

Best Bets for September 2017

The 15th annual Music is Art Festival is on September 9 at RiverWorks.


Ch-ch-ch-changes: We bid a fond farewell to Walter Becker, co-founder of Steely Dan and thus a major figure of the popular music of the Seventies (and much of the "indie rock" sensibility that would follow, I believe). The sold-out Dan show at Shea's in October will still go on, by the way.


On the local front, the Waiting Room has closed its doors after a memorable four-year run. All concerts originally scheduled for the venue have been relocated; alas, the !!! show that was to have taken place on the 14th—and would have surely been a highlight of the month—has been postponed. Stay tuned for a new date.


Friday, September 8

Bleachers @ Artpark: Jack Antonoff of fun. (the band name that strikes fear and loathing in the hearts of proofreaders around the world) pays tribute to the kind of angsty New Wave-ish pop songs that accompanied John Hughes movies in the Eighties with this side project. Toronto's July Talk opens.


Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story @ the Screening Room: I can't vouch for the quality of this cleverly named documentary about the legendary sideman with ties to not just Ziggy Stardust but Lou Reed, Mott the Hoople, Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue, and even Morrissey, but the subject matter makes it a must-see for lovers of glam and vintage rock.


Saturday, September 9

Roger Waters @ KeyBank Center: The architect of Pink Floyd's biggest albums presents his latest live sound-and-image spectacular, dubbed "Us + Them." Both the concert and his first solo studio album in twenty-five years, Is This the Life We Really Want?, take aim at the current POTUS—a character straight out of The Wall, after all. As an added bonus, the identically clad duo of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig from the indie rock group Lucius (whose Babeville show last year was stellar) are touring as part of Waters's band. (Psst: There's a free afterparty at Ironworks featuring Floyd material performed by Relics.)


Music is Art @ Riverworks: After several happy, if sometimes rainy, years in Delaware Park, the long-running annual celebration of (mostly) local music and art shakes up its formula again by relocating to the now-thriving indoor-outdoor venue on the Buffalo River.


Elevator Music @ Silo City: The folks at Explore Buffalo, who already offer more than seventy different ways to engage with the Queen City's history, architecture, and culture, join forces with Gowanda, N.Y.-born, Denver-based composer, artist, and performer Nathan Hall and an ensemble of live musicians from around the country to present a guided walking tour of the grain elevators. This intimate, one-day-only event will be presented five times over the course of the afternoon and evening.


Wednesday, September 13

The Fredtown Stompers @ the Hotel Henry: The Fredonia-based trad jazz and Dixieland band plays Buffalo's newest boutique hotel in a new monthly series curated by the folks at JazzBuffalo.


Thursday, September 14

Conor Oberst @ Asbury Hall: The Artist Occasionally Known as Bright Eyes pays another visit to our fair city with his latest batch of generation-defining songs.


Friday and Saturday, September 15 and 16

Response Performance Festival (Part Two) @ the Adam Mickiewicz Dramatic Circle: Torn Space unveils the second half of its 2017 festival of experimental theater, centered around two performances of The Fever, an audience-participatory piece by the NYC-based ensemble 600 Highwaymen, plus talks by visiting scholars and artists.


Saturday, September 16

Americana Fest @ River Fest Park: Sportsmen's Americana Foundation presents its third annual outdoor festival/fundraiser, now moved to promising looking new digs in South Buffalo, accessible at 249 Ohio Street. Seven acts, including Ten Cent Howl, Uncle Ben’s Remedy, Skiffle Minstrels, and Rear View Ramblers, perform from 2 to 10 p.m.


Katy Perry @ KeyBank Center: Sorry, folks, but we got bumped off the tour, and the Buffalo date is gone. That's the way the cotton candy crumbles. Forward all complaints to Taylor Swift, who will surely write a song about your pain.


Sunday, September 17

X @ Town Ballroom: Legends of the LA punk scene of the Seventies, John Doe and Exene Cervenka are such extraordinary songwriters, with such broad-ranging musical taste, that it now seems limiting to refer to them as "punks" at all. If you've never seen them in concert, don't miss this opportunity.


Monday, September 18

Gogol Bordello @ the Rapids: These NYC-based rockers, led by Ukrainian-born singer Eugene Hütz, play roots music of a sort—but the roots in question reach back to the wedding bands and underground clubs of Eastern Europe. Bringing punk intensity and vodka-fueled fun to instruments like the accordion and fiddle, the dozen or so band members put on a hell of a live show.


Tuesday, September 19

The Blasters @ the Tralf: What are the odds? A mere forty-eight hours after X hits Town (see above), their best buds turn up across the street.


Ensemble Signal performs "Music for 18 Musicians" @ Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall: Steve Reich's landmark of Minimalism was a crossover sensation in the late Seventies, as at home in New Wave clubs as in concert halls, and gained a new generation of fans twenty years later, when raves used it in chill-out rooms and it was embraced by "electronica" aficionados. Here's a rare chance to hear it played live.


Wednesday, September 20

Flaming Lips @ the Rapids: Hard to believe as it may be, the Lips have been at it for three and a half decades now, merrily pranking fans with concerts performed on dozens of boom boxes at once, recordings available only on jump drives embedded in gummy candies, epic cover versions of both Sgt. Pepper and Dark Side of the Moon, and a tour as Miley Cyrus's backing band. Amidst the chaos of human hamster balls and furry-clad dancers, they have also released some breathtaking music.


Thursday, September 21—Saturday, September 23

John Coltrane Birthday Celebration @ the Burchfield Penney: The museum and the Pappy Martin Jazz Legacy Society expand their annual tribute to the jazz great to three days. On Thursday evening, Buff State professor and walking pop-culture encyclopedia Chuck Mancuso revisits the long-gone Royal Arts Nightclub, where Trane's classic quartet made its lone Buffalo appearance in 1963. Friday, tenor sax player J.D. Allen joins the George Caldwell Quartet for a sure-to-be-packed concert. Saturday brings an afternoon screening of the excellent 2016 documentary, Chasing Trane, followed by a 4 p.m. interview with ninety-one-year-old instrumentalist, composer, arranger, and Coltrane sideman Jimmy Heath conducted by SiriusXM Real Jazz radio host Eulis Cathey. That evening, bassist Curtis Lundy and company perform selections from the classic 1961 album Bags and Trane that the weekend's honoree recorded with Milt "Bags" Jackson.


Wednesday, September 27

Joey Molland @ Sportsmen's Tavern: You may not recognize his name, but you almost certainly know the work of this Liverpool-born guitarist and songwriter thanks to his session work on a pair of classic solo albums by former Beatles, Imagine and All Things Must Pass. Molland joined Badfinger after their first hit, "Come and Get It" (written for the group by Paul McCartney), was recorded, but he was around for the rest of their star-crossed career; they were one of the best bands of the Seventies but were plagued by endless disasters, including legal and financial troubles after the demise of Apple Records and the hanging deaths of two other key members. Sad story, but some great music.


Bruno Mars @ KeyBank Center: The "Uptown Funk" crowd-pleaser meets a downtown crowd ready to be pleased.


Colin Quinn @ Helium: Fans of the onetime "Weekend Update" anchor, take note—he's only playing two back-to-back shows in this intimate venue, so act quickly.


Thursday, September 28

Dan Bern @ the 9th Ward: If you've got a soft spot in your heart for road-tested troubadours who have a way with words, this wisecracking balladeer is for you.


Friday, September 29

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis @ UB's Center for the Arts: Noted jazz traditionalist/preservationist Marsalis leads fifteen top players in a repertoire consisting of well-known and obscure works by the likes of Ellington, Mingus, Basie, Monk, and more.


Bill McKibben @ the Albright-Knox: One of the foremost writers about climate change in the country right now delivers the keynote address for this year's three-day-long, interdisciplinary, multi-site Buffalo Humanities Festival, the overall theme of which is "Environments." The following day is packed with talks and panel discussions by socially engaged academics from throughout WNY, live music, and a performance by Deke Weaver.


Charles Gayle @ Hallwalls: The Buffalo-born free-jazz giant returns to his hometown for a solo concert on piano and alto sax.


Saturday, September 30

10,000 Maniacs @ Sportsmen's Tavern: Founding member John Lombardo—a mainstay of WNY's music scene for decades—left the beloved Jamestown folk-rock band just as they hit big on the international scene in the Eighties, forming the acoustic duo John and Mary with singer/violinist Mary Ramsey. He has long since returned to the fold, bringing Ramsey with him, and this special performance pays tribute to his gifts as a songwriter both inside and outside the Maniacs.


GoNightclubbing: The Original Punk Rock Music Series @ Hallwalls: Here's a treasure trove of super-rare pre-MTV video of NYC's punk and no wave scene shot on Portapak equipment (ask your parents). Video artists Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong will be presenting two separate programs of restored clips featuring performances by and interviews with a Who's Who of the era, including John Cale, Iggy Pop, Dead Kennedys, the Go-Gos, and many more. Wowsers!


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


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