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Sample the smaller side of concert venues

Although cooler weather has arrived and the area’s free outdoor concert series have ended, the concert scene in Buffalo is still heating up.

First Niagara Center has star-studded acts planned for the upcoming months, including Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Nov. 9) and Justin Timberlake (Feb. 22). FNC is well-known as the No. 1 venue in the area for A-list artists. But while the FNC’s concerts may grab the most media attention, they are certainly not the only ones Buffalo has to offer.

Western New York has a top-notch music scene with many small concert venues throughout the area. But small in size doesn’t mean small in excitement; shows at these venues are the preferred choice of many music fans.

“When I think of a concert, I think of a being surrounded by a bunch of other fans who love it just as much as I do, not a stadium full of seats,” said Kasey Johnston, a senior at Lockport High School.

And when it comes to options, Buffalo has a lot to offer.

The Town Ballroom on Main Street once functioned as a night club and hosted legends such as Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. Today, it is one of the city’s finest small venues. With a tiered standing area built in a horseshoe surrounding the stage, many say “there isn’t a bad seat in the place.” The Town Ballroom is a popular choice of venue for many lesser-known alternative and rock artists, but it occasionally features bigger names as well.

Niagara Falls is home to another great venue – the Rapids Theatre on Main Street. The Rapids Theatre is one of the larger venues in the area, but it still offers a personal feel at its concerts. Complete with viewing screens and a balcony, this 1920s-built theater-turned-concert-hall is an excellent concert venue.

With the closing of Mohawk Place, a beloved Buffalo music venue, there was a void in the concert scene that needed filling. The Waiting Room, on Delaware Avenue, rose to the challenge and opened in April. And while it has big shoes to fill, the Waiting Room seems to be doing well. It is a small venue, but it is far from cramped. There is plenty of space and couches in the back where you can take a break from the show’s excitement.

There are many other small venues all over Western New York. Live music events take place every night at coffee shops, restaurants and some places you would least expect. A prime example of this is Xtreme Wheels on Hertel Avenue – part indoor skate park, part concert venue.

Keep your eyes open, and you’ll have no trouble finding a concert in the area.

But why go small? After all, First Niagara Center holds almost 20,000 people. Wouldn’t a show with a tiny fraction of that be boring? Most teens say: “Not at all.”

“The energy from everyone around you is just contagious,” said Robin Rush, a junior at Lockport High School. “You leave with so many memorable experiences.”

There’s a sense of community at these shows. You stand in line and then enjoy a show with fans all around you. No arena concert could compare to the excitement. And you’d be surprised – 500 screaming fans can feel just as loud as several thousand.

No matter where you are in the building, the stage is only a few feet away, not two stories below you. And since the tickets are usually general admission, there is no need to fight for good seats. General admission runs on a first-come, first-served basis; simply get there early to get a good spot.

One major difference between big-name celebrity concerts and these smaller ones is the price. Good arena seats can cost a fortune. Smaller venue prices usually range from $10-20, with prices rarely exceeding $30. That’s a small fee for hours of live entertainment. You can barely see a movie for that price these days.

Why not give one of these shows a try? You cannot beat the price, and the experience will be worth it. These venues need your support so they can continue to thrive and bring music to Buffalo. And who knows? You just may find a new favorite.

Kathryn Krawczyk is a senior at Lockport High School.