Most successful musicians who call our city home leave Buffalo at some point. But Buffalo never leaves them.
Here's a spicy, chewy conundrum for you to gnaw on along with your holiday cocktail.
Buffalo is a great place to meet musicians, to make music, to find an audience (small but loyal) for your own creative impulses. There are a few venues to play, and they're cool ones. There are interesting people out and about, and they are eager to hear new music of the homegrown variety. Buffalo and its environs offer affordable places to live -- or crash, as the case may be -- and this is something that working original musicians don't take lightly. Add it all up, and it sure seems like Buffalo is a friendly place for a musician to live.
This coin has a flip side, naturally. You get your day gig, get your band or performing/recording project together, gather your musical family tightly around you and feel . . . comfortable.
Watch out. You might never get out of here.
Waiting for the music industry to start singing the praises of the Buffalo music scene is a less prudent course to take than was the one chosen by the characters in Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot." Meaning, get comfortable, dude. It's gonna be a while.
So those who desire strongly a reputation, an audience, an opportunity beyond Western New York, have to leave it, at least for a while. Get in the van, relocate to New York City or Los Angeles for a spell, squat in a friend's pad down in Austin, Texas. Whatever. Just get 'er done.
Run away as far as you like, but the musical lessons you learned in Buffalo -- that eclecticism is not just acceptable, but desirable; that different forms of music, from punk rock to hip-hop, can share living space; that, despite what the music industry will insist until it draws its final breath, listeners are able to understand and embrace more than one style of music simultaneously -- will stay with you, informing who you are now and who you'll become.
That's the case for a tribe of musicians -- dare I say visionaries? -- who've left town in one capacity or another in recent years and have banded together to host a coming-home party inside the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery on New Year's Eve. In fact, the very nature of this celebration, dubbed by its creators "Sound in Motion," suggests a deeply ingrained Buffalo music scene aesthetic. Rock, hip-hop, folk, jazz, funk and "livetronica" -- all will share the stage, spill the wine and ring in another year in the city that accepted their intermingling first.
There's the hip-hop collective Pseudo Slang, comprised of the movers and shakers behind the bold and decidedly successful long-running hip-hop showcase Baby Steps, now stoking a rapidly growing fire across the country and beyond. The group now centers its operations in Chicago, has toured this country, Canada and parts of Europe, and inked a deal with the reputable Fat Beats Records.
There's Lazlo Hollyfeld, the band that conjured a live, organic melding of electronic dance music and a jam-band aesthetic, one honed in Buffalo and now road-tested across the states. Lazlo logged more than 10,000 road miles in 2006, and plans to double that number in the coming year.
Pop/folk/jazz hybrid act Thought moved to Brooklyn a while back and has been generating a buzz in those environs ever since, making a solid fan of Phish's Mike Gordon along the way. (In 2004, Gordon posted his yearly Top 10 list and cited his experience "with the band 'Thought,' in Buffalo, September... [in] a tiny bar; felt good" as one of his three favorite on-stage moments of the year.)
Hylofi is another Buffalo ex-pat tribe, an Afro-Cuban/jazz/electronica group specializing in music that is both danceable and smart -- imagine! -- and featuring a rotating cast of musicians normally consisting of 10 to 15 players.
What's particularly refreshing about this bill -- apart from the obvious appeal of homegrown pride and vindication of the belief that our city produces talent that can compete with that produced by a much "hipper" metropolis -- is the boldness and irreverence with which it has been assembled. Conventional wisdom might suggest that hip-hop kids don't hang with jam band-loving hippies, that folk and pop don't breathe the same air as jazz, that horns and turntables don't mix. But as ever, the big changes in the music world aren't all about technology; they're about new cross-pollinations, new hybridized forms, new combinations of old and existing elements into something that hasn't quite been done before.
It's this sort of thing that suggests 2007 might not be such a bad year for music.
"Sound In Motion NYE 2006" takes place on Sunday evening inside the Peartl Street Grill & Brewery, 76 Pearl St. Doors open at 9 p.m., and the event commences at 10 p.m. Tickets are available now through www.inticketing.com, or at New World Record, Terrapin Station and the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery.