Whenever Dave Alvin comes to town, I’m invariably reminded of my late friend and former Buffalo News colleague Jay Bonfatti.
He was a serious fan of both Alvin’s solo work, and his efforts with the Blasters, the band he co-founded with his brother, Phil Alvin.
Twelve years ago, I was still “the new guy” at The News, and Bonfatti was one of the first people to show me kindness, to offer direction and encouragement, and to attempt to “school” me whenever he could. Since we were both music freaks, that “schooling” included brilliant lectures on the virtues of Americana in general, and Alvin/the Blasters in particular. The Blasters married a roots rock aesthetic to a punklike edge, and though never a major commercial concern, became hugely influential and a favorite of attuned critics. Bonfatti was certainly one of the latter.
A decade or so back, when Alvin arrived for a solo show in the Sportsmen’s Tavern – then a radically different looking venue, pre the major modifications owner Duane Hall has perpetrated on the structure in the time since – Bonfatti led the charge, insisting many of his News colleagues gather for what he clearly viewed as a sacred ritual. We duly acquiesced, and the night turned out to be one I will cherish the memory of forever, for both musical and personal reasons.
Alvin has been back to the Sportsmen’s a few times since that magical night, but at 8 p.m. Thursday, he will return with brother Phil in tow, for what is sure to be a night to remember. The show is sold-out.