Buffalo can make a festival out of anything. Cherry blossoms? Yes. Greased poles? Check.
And though the design and structural integrity of spindles, railings and decking across the Queen City are indeed impressive, Saturday’s Porchfest (from 1 to 6 p.m.) is not a celebration of construction but, instead, a procession of how outdoor planking can provide stages to a legion of local musicians. Spread across residential locales throughout the inner and outer reaches of Elmwood Village, tunes from acts like Gravy, Green Tape and Porcelain Train will entertain passersby as part of the city’s most expansive annual jam session.
But if you’d rather skip the stroll down bucolic streets like Bird and Auburn and, instead, keep your performance intake indoors, there are plenty of visiting acts bound by four walls. Michigan-based ‘birds and a Texas-bred Party. A rising Canadian synth princess and Indiana’s chief purveyor of heartland rock. They’re all scheduled around the city’s porch rockers, and they’re all part of this weekend’s live line-up.
The Ragbirds, 8 p.m. May 8 at the 9th Ward at Babeville (341 Delaware Ave.)
There’s a lot of evidence that the Ann Arbor, Mich.-bred gypsy pop-folk outfit Ragbirds is indeed adored by its fans. Its four studio (and one live) albums shows there’s been a desire for the band to make new music. Ten years of touring through 47 U.S. states - in addition to all of Japan - proves there’s an audience for the band's brand of gleeful multi-instrumental meanderings. And finally, when fans are so eager for an act to make a new record that they ante up online pledges to get its members into a studio, that’s love - and that’s exactly what’s happened for the Erin Zindle-fronted five-piece. With a sound eloquently described as “hook-laden pop with a kaleidoscopic array of worldly influences,” the band will surely bring some of the songs slated for its upcoming album “Home” when it appears in Babeville’s basement to start Buffalo’s weekend.
Before you go, listen to: “The Bully”
Venue and show info: babevillebuffalo.com
John Mellencamp, 7:30 p.m. May 9 in Shea’s Performing Arts Center (646 Main St.)
John Mellencamp is not the first musician to see his radio hits—including sing-a-long 80s favorites like “Jack and Diane,” “Small Town” and “Pink Houses”—oftentimes overshadow his overall impact as an artist and extensive contributions to his genre. Yes, the catchiest tunes of the one-time Johnny Cougar have helped him sell over 40 million albums, earn entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.
But over his 22 studio albums, the Hoosier State native has both illuminated the hardships of struggling farmers and revealed a heartland-steered songwriting depth not always absorbed in a mere four minutes on radio. This should be evident on Saturday when Mellencamp brings his Americana-steered "Plain Spoken Tour" (with Carlene Carter) to Shea’s. The man who once joined Willie Nelson and Neil Young to start Farm Aid is still spinning acoustic guitar-led tales of perseverance in the face of conflict, as exhibited on his critically acclaimed fall 2014 release, “Plain Spoken.” Full of tracks featuring narrative exploration of life, love and elements of the fleeting American dream, the album has shown a politically conscious artist still focused on the issues of the people. And whether dipping into these items on his newest classics or reaching back for selections off of 1985’s multiplatinum “Scarecrow,” he’s still doing it with the same Midwestern, Marlboro-scarred intonation that’s moved fans for decades.
Before you go, listen to: “The Company Of Cowards”
Venue and show info: sheas.org
Wild Party, 6:30 p.m. May 9, Studio @ Waiting Room (334 Delaware Ave.)
Intro baseline. Methodical snare hits. Lovelorn vocals of a wiry lead, muted guitar chords and synth notes—all before the requisite clapping.
This may sound like the formula for hits delivered by bands from Phoenix to the Killers to Keane, and it’s certainly the essence of cuts like “Outright” from San Antonio’s Wild Party, who’ll appear inside Delaware Avenue’s favorite Studio on Saturday. Teaming the aforementioned single with saccharine anthems like “Chasin’ Honey” off debut album “Phantom Pop,” the Texas quartet of frontman Lincoln Kreifels, guitarist Lucas Hughes, bassist Ethan Kaufmann and drummer Cary LaScala are weaving into the same fluid territory occupied by the band’s previously noted genre neighbors. And after a reported 12-gig run throughout its home state’s recent South By Southwest Festival, the Party’s certainly not lazy—and not shy about spreading its Vevo-ready hooks to anyone ready to hear them. Next up: downtown Buffalo.
Before you go, listen to: “Outright”
Venue and show info: waitingroombuffalo.com
Kiesza, 8 p.m. May 9 at Town Ballroom (681 Main St.)
Writer’s suggestion: If you don’t like infectious dance beats ricocheting between your ears long after they’ve silenced, then you should probably stay away from cuts off Calgary native Kiesza’s debut album, last year’s “Sound of a Woman.”
But if you generally enjoy nodding your head, swaying to synth notes or dancing the Running Man, then you might want to attend the rising pop star’s show inside Ballroom, where she’ll appear with Australian opener Betty Who on Saturday night. Already buzzed about in the U.K. on the strength of the chart-topping “Hideaway” and thumping “Giant In My Heart,” the Canadian artist has garnered coverage from music pubs like Spin and Rolling Stone; has worked with sought-after DJs like Diplo and Skrillex; and has enjoyed creative interest from Rihanna, who recorded multiple Kiesza-helmed cuts for her yet-to-be-released 2015 album. This weekend, she’ll give Buffalonians a taste of what all the fuss is about when she rolls her pulsating dance party into the Theater District.
Before you go, listen to: “Hideaway.”
Venue and show info: townballroom.com
Story topics: Babeville/ concert previews/ concerts/ John Mellencamp/ Kiesza/ Michael Farrell/ Ninth Ward/ Shea's Performing Arts Center/ Studio at Waiting Room/ The Ragbirds/ Town Ballroom/ Wild Party