It’s one thing to sit around an alt-rock radio office and brainstorm promotional ideas under the echoes of wailing Fenders. It’s an entirely different thing to take the results of this spitballing, execute an amplified concept inside unconventional spaces and, in the process, create a bombastic, fan-first happening that is now Buffalo’s to boast.
Just ask the staff at Buffalo’s alt-rock radio original, 103.3 The Edge. In August, they turned a scheme of intrigue and exclusivity into their first “Hidden Happy Hour,” a staff-conceived free concert that involved secrecy of time and location; on-air clues about the venue’s identity; and, eventually, hirsute soul purveyors Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, performing an unforgettable set for 150 sweat-drenched sleuths inside Cobblestone’s Lockhouse Distillery.
WEDG will unleash its second edition of the concept with English rockers The Struts on Dec. 14 at a still yet-to-be-revealed time and Buffalo location. Info as to the whereabouts of the show includes such vague hints as “Santa will feel out of place there” and “Wintry Amber Hen.”
But unlike its inaugural effort, there’s no skepticism about the station’s announced plans — or whether the event’s for real.
“With the first one, there were people who thought it was fake, asking if it was really happening and trying to wrap their heads around it,” said James Kurdziel, WEDG director of programming and content. “Now they get it. They know exactly what we’re doing, so they’ve jumped right in.”
What WEDG is doing is generating a one-of-a-kind event for listeners who, in a time of on-demand songs via YouTube, Spotify and elsewhere, need a little bit more than their favorite song once every three hours. Local radio has always connected its followers with bands through live performances, but the engagement elicited by WEDG’s hidden show concept has been different. It’s added the thrill of a scavenger hunt to earn free admission to a one-time event. It’s injected mystery into the already exciting concept of a national touring act coming to an unconventional Buffalo locale, and thankfully, bands have wanted to be a part of it.
“I believe these shows prove the relevancy of local radio,” said Kurdziel. “We put on things like this that have never been done — or certainly not here — and you find bands that believe in what we do so much that they want to do it with us.”
And for the benefit of both WEDG and The Struts — now touring off the glitter-dusted guitar rock of its debut, “Everybody Wants” — the band’s local appearance coincides with a free day alongside concert dates in nearby Rochester, Pittsburgh and Toronto. This is convenient for those keen on seeing the Struts' mascara-accented frontman Luke Spiller evoke memories of Freddie Mercury or "Ballroom Blitz" glam rock of The Sweet.
It’s also essential for Queen City shindigs like these to continue.
“In order for these shows to happen, you need a very particular set of circumstances. You need a band that can get to Buffalo or is playing near Buffalo, but not playing in Buffalo. That’s not easy,” said Kurdziel. “From there, the challenge is finding a place — and finding people who can shut up.”
So where will Spiller’s Struts play? Only a handful of people know, and they’re not talking until its time to reveal. Take your guesses and follow the clues announced at 8:20 a.m. daily on the Shredd and Ragan show. But as WEDG’s original creation has already proven once, the eventual surprise will likely be worth the secrecy.
Who: Hidden Happy Hour with The Struts
When: Dec. 14
Where: To be determined; listen for clues on WEDG.