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Promoters are presented with slim pickings when filling the summer concert season

“Where are all the cool bands?” That quote comes courtesy of Andy Cirzan, vice president of concerts for Chicago’s Jam Productions, who offered it to Rolling Stone when asked his thoughts on the summer concert season outlook for 2014.

If you’ve been watching our own list of summer concerts slowly take shape you might be feeling the same way Cirzan does.

Indeed. Where are the cool bands? And for “cool” bands,” read young bands, new bands, bands that represent a passion and vitality that has nothing to do with nostalgia or rekindling the glories of the past. Bands whose members are in their 20s, mostly.

A sweeping generalization on trends in our summer concert season, as observed by many readers who visit my weekly live chat on, goes something like this: If you love country music and classic rock, you’re pretty happy in Buffalo during the summer. If you don’t, you’re basically bummin’.

There’s some truth in this. But it hardly holds water as an infallible maxim. The truth would seem to look more along these lines: There simply aren’t that many cool bands touring this summer, at least not the sort that end up on big outdoor stages, in sheds or in arenas. And of the ones that are touring ... well, guess what? Most of them are making their way here.

To be fair, we have a bunch of “cool” bookings already with Vampire Weekend and Arctic Monkeys among them. And defining “cool” always is a bit of a losing proposition anyway, since it is an ephemeral factor based on subjective interpretation. The lineup for the Canalside concerts has not yet been released, so there’s also that to consider.

But still. Where are the cool bands? I’m asked this often on my weekly chat, and the queries generally come in two forms. The first offers a blend of naysaying and close to intolerable whining, along the lines of “Buffalo is lame and we never get any good shows.” Not true, on either count. The second is a more reasonable and measured observation, that notes an upswing in “hip” area bookings – a la St. Vincent and the War On Drugs – while lamenting the fact that “We still aren’t Toronto” when it comes to big-ticket concerts. True, on both counts.

The concert business has been in ill health for the past five years, in keeping with the general economic tenor of a recession era. Previous “sure thing” tours were not selling what they once did, and cancellations due to poor ticket sales were not uncommon. When one considered steadily escalating ticket prices, and a general unrest when it came to matters of money among the public, all of this made perfect sense.

Things are beginning to change, however. In 2013, Live Nation, the biggest concert promoter of them all, reported an attendance boost of 19 percent over 2012. Pollstar reported a nearly $1 billion increase in ticket sales between 2012 and 2013. The industry appears to be on the mend.

However, concert promoters can only book what’s available. Rolling Stone recently offered its “Top 40 tours of summer 2014,” and the results were rather telling. Eighteen of the 40 touring artists labeled “hot” come from the 1970s; 13 from the ’90s; and three from the ’80s. Only five of the artists emerged into the public eye in 2000 or later. Very few would be considered “cool” across the board, but in the world of Top 40 pop, they are as big as it gets. The Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars tours all are earmarked by Pollstar as potential major money makers this summer, and all three are stopping by the First Niagara Center. The Rod Stewart/Santana pairing and James Taylor tours, both on the Rolling Stone “hot” list, also will be at the FNC.

Other “hot” tours with WNY dates include Dave Matthews Band (June 11, Darien Lake Performing Arts Center); Morrissey (June 16, Artpark); Journey, Steve Miller and Tower of Power (June 24, DLPAC); Fall Out Boy and Paramore (July 2, DLPAC); Kiss and Def Leppard (Aug. 13, DLPAC); Linkin Park and 30 Seconds to Mars (Aug. 21, DLPAC); and Goo Goo Dolls and Daughtry (Aug. 22, DLPAC).

If you find yourself less than blown away by the summer concerts so far, what you’re observing is more of a national trend than a local one. A possible cure for the summer concert blues? Watch the clubs and smaller concert venues. That tends to be where the “cool bands” end up.


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