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Get warmed up for summer <br> Three not-to-be-missed shows act as primer to the big concert season

Well, it's only gonna get worse.

Before you know it, every night of the week will be filled with concert activity, and often, you'll have to make a choice between two or more worthwhile concerts taking place on the same evening. Already, the summer concert schedule is being stuffed with killer shows -- and some not-so-killer ones too, naturally. The three fully functioning free weekly concert series haven't unveiled their rosters yet, either. Plan on being busy, oh tireless Western New York music lover.

If this is the calm before the storm, then it's going to be one hell of a storm, because things aren't exactly calm. This week alone, some seven or eight shows well worth seeing come to mind. Since most of the coming summer concert activity will be centered on larger venues -- arenas, large outdoor facilities, parks and the like -- now seems a good time to turn our weary and bleary eyes toward the club scene. There, intimacy takes the place of the grand spectacle of the "big summer concert," and getting up close and personal with an artist is the order of the day. (Or evening, more accurately.)

This week, two straight-up rock club shows -- one at Nietzsche's and one at the Town Ballroom -- do battle with one inside the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts Mainstage Theatre -- which is not a club, technically, but they do serve drinks in the lobby before and during shows, so for my money, it qualifies.

The first and most eclectic of these finds an 11-piece band that defies categorization arriving for a throw-down inside Nietzsche's, beginning at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

The Budos Band hails from Staten Island, describes its sound as "Instrumental Staten-Island Afro-Soul," and has managed without the benefit of singing and lyrics to create some of the funkiest, swankiest, indelibly hip-shaking and brain-rattling music I've heard this year in the form of its eponymous Daptone Records EP.

If one grabbed a big ol' pot -- one suitable for making a batch of gumbo capable of serving 20 or so -- started with a base of African-based percussion; sprinkled liberally with '60s R&B, '70s soul, jazz from any era, '80s Afro-beat and world music; cooked over high heat; and then served with a garnish of genre-defying psychedelia, the resulting dish would be the culinary equivalent of the Budos Band's sound. It's spicy and funky, but calling it such just isn't quite enough.

Like most great bands, Budos comes with a ready-made backstory. Initially born in an after-school jazz band program held at the Richmond Avenue Community Center in the band members' native Staten Island, the first rumblings of the coming Budos Band were detected when a few of these after-school jam attendees congregated around a common love for roughshod, in-your-face soul music. Ferry rides to Manhattan found the like-minded budding Budos' sneaking into downtown's No Moore Club, where the band's bio says the young musicians would "hear the likes of Antibalas, the Sugarman Three and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings," mixing and mingling in the process with packed houses filled "with only the hippest James Brown fanatics and Fela Kuti disciples."

These shows gave the young men what musicians know as "the bug" -- an unquenchable thirst and ravenous hunger for a deepening of the musical experience, and no, tomorrow's too late, it's gotta be today, right here, right now.

Their band director at the community center was not having any of it, though. So the band broke away, formed what was first known as Los Barbudos -- or "the beards" -- and later simply as Budos Band, woodshedded as an ensemble like crazy, and finally, caught the ear of an A&R man for the forward-looking Daptone Records.

Seems to me we'd all have to be either A) nuts, or B) way lazy, to miss Wednesday's show at Nietzsche's.

Less eclectic, but certainly interesting, will be Matthew Good's performance inside the Town Ballroom, beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday. Since leaving his Matthew Good Band behind after a string of late '90s successes, particularly in the band's native Canada, Good firmly established himself as a solo artist with the 2003 release of "Avalanche."

For me, this is where the story gets interesting, for Good rather systematically went about alienating much of the sizable audience he and the MGB had accrued over the better part of a decade. Apparently sick of being the "plays well with others," "go along to get along" rock/pop dude, Good brought his political activism to the fore, married it to his skills as a crafter of melody and chord progressions, and bustled the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra into the studio to help him flesh out a number of songs for the surprisingly visceral "Avalanche."

Good has followed a singular path ever since, releasing increasingly ornate solo albums, delving ever deeper into his understanding of politics, history and their intermingling, battling health and personal issues, and channelling all of the above into an increasingly stirring body of work.

Finally, on Monday, British singer/songwriter David Gray arrives for a performance inside the UB Center for the Arts. Gray has sold some 12 million albums worldwide since releasing his breakthrough sophomore effort, "White Ladder," in 1999. A folk-based writer with a knack for poignant lyrics and wistful melodies, he is also noteworthy for his often overlooked contribution to the field of "folk-tronica." Like Beth Orton, Gray successfully married folk-based songs to electronic beats, samples and loops, before doing so came to be de rigueur.

That said, as his recent "Draw the Line" release makes plain, with Gray, it's about the power of the songs themselves. Gray's Buffalo debut, a long time coming, should be an invigorating affair. Remaining tickets are available through Ticketmaster.


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