Brian Wheat is about to shuffle off from Buffalo. But the singer-songwriter couldn't leave before celebrating the release of his terrific new album "Looking Alive."
The 30-year-old Gasport native's wanderin' boot heels are taking him to Minneapolis, where he has a job teaching high school biology lined up and where his girlfriend's family lives.
To kick off Friday night at Elmwood Lounge, Wheat ran through an initial set of six "old favorites" with fellow guitarist Pete Gerace.
In a white Western shirt with slicked back hair and homemade chains dangling around his neck, Wheat opened the set with "If Memory Serves" from his first record, 2007's "Where Have You Been."
Midway through the set he got all his rowdy friends at the bar to settle down a bit with "For Someone Else" -- a timeless gem Wheat said was inspired by a trip to a museum.
Indeed, Wheat's warm blend of "chamber-folk" flourishes and lush melodies may be better served through a pair of headphones while reclining than in a distracting bar.
Soon enough, however, the gentle strum of Wheat's Guild acoustic guitar and Gerace's delicate finger-picking gave way to a 12-song second set featuring "new friends" Gerace, bassist Jim Whitford and drummer Rob Lynch. The ace rhythm section lent a subtle thump and gentle brush shuffle to songs such as the harmonica-graced "A Stone," which followed set opener "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" by Neil Young.
Wheat mixed in two other fantastic covers Friday including Kenny Rogers' "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" and Cake's "Mexico."
But the rest were Wheat's own material including standouts "Late Night Stroll," "When We Awoke" and "Lovers Shouldn't Waste Their Time," which would be right at home on Willie Nelson's "Stardust" and featured guitarist Marty Peters who recorded and mixed "Looking Alive."
The band -- speckled by the Elmwood Lounge's green and red laser lights -- moved in unison with a sweet and low precision that highlighted some real local talent. They modestly indulged themselves with a bit of soloing on "Rivers of Gold (Genesee Woman)."
Fans of M. Ward, Bright Eyes or Colin Meloy of the Decemberists should rush to Wheat's website. Wheat showed Friday he has a unique voice to be thought of as their equal. His winsome looks and tailor-made name don't hurt either.
Before his last song, Wheat thanked his friends and family for showing up before easing into "Lonely Life" with Whitford on lap steel guitar.
So a musician schooled in the vibrant Buffalo folk circle graduates to a new scene. Hop on board his bandwagon now though because the kid is going places -- literally.
Or, perhaps Wheat said it best of his wanderlust on the title track from his new record: "The scenery is wild / Yellow and green but soon enough it'll all settle down / Ain't it the same when we convince ourselves to finally leave town."
> CONCERT REVIEW
CD release concert Friday evening in the Elmwood Lounge, 522 Elmwood Ave.