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A downpour of talent thrills rain-soaked faithful at MIA Festival

This being Buffalo, inclement weather is not a deal breaker. The 11th annual Music Is Art Festival went off without a hitch on Saturday, save for those curveballs thrown by Mother Nature, who saw fit to make sure the rain fell all day on Delaware Park, soaking music lovers, art fanatics and the plain-old generally curious alike.

It was a bit of a buzz-kill, yes. But the whole buzz couldn’t be killed. We wait all year for this thing, and Robby Takac and his crew work far too hard to make it happen for us to blow it off simply because the rain insists on falling.

MIA has grown by leaps and bounds over the years, from its humble-yet-raucous beginnings in Allentown to some fine times on the grounds of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Last year, one felt the festival fully grow into itself on the grounds of Delaware Park, with more than 100 bands convening beneath blue skies to celebrate all that is awesome about the cultural life of Buffalo. This year, the glory was significantly more hard won. But it was in evidence, nonetheless.

The rain arrived before the fest even convened. By noon, folks who had gathered to watch bands, deejays, dancers and real-time fine artists were drenched. It didn’t make all that much difference, other than cutting the size of the crowd from last year’s 10,000-plus to a more humble figure.

With MIA, diversity is the prime ingredient. On Saturday, there was plenty of that to go around. Everything from Americana to garage rock was represented on the musical front, while artists constructed canvases in response to the live music, and a small city’s worth of vendors – among them area musician Mikal Dokto displaying his homegrown Medicine Man cigar box guitars for the assembled – offered their wares.

It was an incredibly cool scene, if damp. But we spend far too much time in Buffalo discussing the weather, so let’s not do that here. It is what it is, and it was what it was.

Early in the day, the three main stages fronting the Albright-Knox throbbed with the sounds of some seriously great musicians. Psychedelic Dragons played a trippy form of garage rock; the Post Sonus Orchestra played a modern strain of chamber music via mallets, horns, guitars and basses, and, man, did they ever kill it; Jefferson Grizzard delivered a stellar set of rootsy rock ’n’ roll with a singer/songwriter strain, with the help of Buffalo native Jim Caputy on drums and a host of Nashville “cats” helping out. (Grizzard performs this evening in the Waiting Room, in celebration of the release of his debut disc.)

MIA is all about the various stages, and the dedicated stroll – you’ve got to walk around to take it all in, and you’re encouraged to do so by the fact that music is happening at all times, simultaneously on all the stages, from Lincoln Parkway all the way into the deeper recesses of the woods behind Shakespeare Hill. So a casual saunter offered me a super cool bellydancing display, a set from some hip-hop dancers, and a sweet selection of songs from virtuosic young guitarist and songwriter Stevie Fleck and friends.

One of the highlights of each year’s concert season would most likely have drawn several-thousand more people than it did beneath Saturday’s forbidding skies if the random nature of weather patterns had worked in our favor. But that’s not what happened. Instead, the faithful were treated to a celebration of Buffalo’s rich arts and music culture. You’re lucky to live here. And so am I. See you next year.


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