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Strummer tribute grows in size and intensity; Who's who of local music scene mines late artist's work with Clash and Mescaleros

A handful of Buffalo "supergroups" convened Friday evening on the Town Ballroom to celebrate the life, legacy and music of the late Joe Strummer, leader of the Clash and frontman with his own Mescaleros.

For the 10th time since Strummer's death from a heart attack in 2001, musicians and fans dug deep into Strummer's catalog, which runs the gamut from taut three-chord punk rock to danceable world-beat influenced alternative.

In years past, the Strummer Tribute has been hosted by Mohawk Place, but Friday the gig shifted to the much larger Town Ballroom, and several hundred Clash lovers made the move worthwhile.

A festive air, due in part no doubt to the holiday season, pervaded as a few generations joined together for well-received sets. Most of the bands performing were made up of players from various ensembles who get together once a year specifically for the Strummer show, with the exception of Outer Circle Orchestra, a band with a considerable history in Buffalo.

Early on, the Rebel Waltz stuck to early, primal Clash music, the late '70s London sound that changed the whole game and became the blueprint that punk enthusiasts follow to this day.

A torrid "Clampdown" was the highlight of this band's set, as more than one attendee remarked on how faithfully the group recreated these sizzling post-Who anthems.

Tenured Buffalo alternative musician and DJ Bud Redding performed a solo take on the dub-reggae beauty "Junco Partner," accompanied by his own keyboard playing, and the relatively mellow performance offered a nice contrast to the otherwise gloriously cacophonous evening.

The Prisoners -- a band of musicians who, according to guitarist Steve Barrick, started playing together in high school, and have reconvened in service to Strummer's music yearly -- provided several of the evening's highlights. Fronted by former Marvelous Sauce bassist and vocalist Tim McMahon, the group performed rather brilliant renditions of Clash songs from the fruitful "Sandinista!" period. The set's highlight was certainly the infectious dub-dance scorcher "This Is Radio Clash."

The Prisoners also indulged in some of Strummer's often overlooked post-Clash work with the Mescaleros, tearing through a beautifully rendered version of "The Morning Sun." Barrick's searing lead work sliced through the mix with considerable vigor.

Outer Circle Orchestra brought a tribal, jam-based sensibility, and the group's take on the "London Calling" chestnut, "The Right Profile," was particularly incisive.

Hats off to the founder of the Joe Strummer Tribute, musician Chris Malachowski, whose love for Strummer and the Clash has guided him in making this yearly event a must-see for the Strummer devout. Friday's show kicked off the holiday weekend in high style and reminded us of what was lost when Strummer died 10 years back.



Joe Strummer Tribute

Friday night in the Town Ballroom, 681 Main St.