Could the growing number of locally run music events grow into national festivals? - The Buffalo News
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Could the growing number of locally run music events grow into national festivals?

The arrival of Philadelphia-based company Global Spectrum as the new managers of Canalside – and therefore, of the summer concerts that happen there – has some area concertgoers concerned. There is the worry that we’ve given away something precious – local control of a local event that reflects the diverse tastes of our community.

What will happen at Canalside over the next few summers? Any predictions at this point are mere conjecture. But if retaining some sense of community-based concert activity is important to you, there are plenty of grass-roots activities planned for 2014 that are worthy of your consideration and support.

I’m asked often by readers why our area doesn’t have a major music festival, one that might rival huge music fests held in areas that seem far less geographically suited to such events than we are, considering our snug proximity to Toronto. The immensely popular Bonaroo Festival, for example, is held in Manchester, Tenn., a minuscule city with a population of roughly 10,000 people. That population swells to in excess of 100,000 people every year during Bonaroo. Something like this might be cool in our own downtown, no? These readers suggest that a major festival in our area should be considered a no-brainer. It is not easy to argue with them.

In truth, what we’re seeing happen is incredibly encouraging. Festivals are being built from the ground up, by local people, who are focused almost exclusively on local talent, and are hiring a local workforce. This is the way these things are meant to happen – as a result of grass-roots activity, not as a result of a national corporation swooping in to grab a slice of the pie by applying strategies that have proven profitable in other markets to ours, in a “one size fits all” manner.

By the fall, there will be at least five major homegrown music festivals in the Western New York region. None of them is taking place downtown – that’s something we need to work on. But they are happening, nonetheless, and getting to and from them is not a heavy lift, travel-wise.

The Spring Revival Music Festival ( debuted in 2013, and is back this year stronger for the success of its maiden voyage. Spring Revival takes place May 9-11 in Macedon, a small town east of Rochester, a roughly 90-minute drive from downtown Buffalo. The camping-friendly event just announced the first round of bookings that reflect a firm commitment to Western New York talent. Universe Shark, Ocupanther, Upward Groove, Lap Giraffe and the New Daze are among the confirmed bookings.

The Buffalove Music Festival ( is gearing up for its second year, June 19-21 at the Willow Creek Winery in Silver Creek. Buffalove will present sets from somewhere in the area of 30 bands. Roughly half of the lineup already has been announced, with regional favorites like Aqueous, Funktional Flow, Lazlo Hollyfeld, Smackdab, Whiskey Reverb, Roots Collider, Little Mountain Band and Slip Madigan already confirmed. Like Spring Revival, Buffalove is a camping-based event.

The granddaddy of our regional music festivals is the Great Blue Heron Fest ( which will celebrate its 23rd year July 4 weekend, on the festival grounds located in Sherman. Blue Heron, the most established of these regional festivals, has the formula down cold. This is a kid-friendly camping event that balances its commitment to regional musicians and bands against its desire to welcome bigger-name national acts to the party. Donna the Buffalo, the Horse Flies, Big Leg Emma, Jimkata, Smackdab, the Ragbirds and dozens more already have been confirmed for the festival, with a slew of new acts to be announced in the coming weeks.

The Night Lights Fall Music Festival ( is poised to take the sting out of summer’s fading with a return engagement at the Blue Heron festival site in Sherman, in September. The full lineup has not yet been confirmed, but event creator Lazlo Hollyfeld has assembled admirable rosters of local and regional talent in the past, and the outdoor lighting festival combines with the music to make a unique camping experience.

Similarly, the Purple Pig Music Festival ( in Naples, has not announced its lineup yet, but has taken place near the end of September in years past. (Last year, the likes of Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad and the Campbell Brothers joined area acts on the Purple Pig’s ambitious bill.)

These festivals are joined by one common philosophical tenet – they are committed to celebrating the region’s talent and they employ local people to help them do so. Who knows? Maybe one of them will grow into a “Bonaroo for Buffalo.”


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