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Tuned In: Handsome Jack, Umphrey’s McGee

Unless you frequented Mohawk Place often during the earliest days of the previous decades, you might not have known that Buffalo had developed a strong stoner-rock and hard-boogie movement, one that found some talented young guitarists and songwriters cranking up their vintage amps and getting their gritty garage rock on.

On the heavier side of this equation was Chylde, a group that sounded like the Queens of the Stone Age covering Black Sabbath’s “Vol. 4,” which is lengthy way of saying awesome. On the more garage-rock tip was Handsome Jack, a gloriously loud, swanky and steaming outfit that dragged the blues away from its bar stool at a chain of swanky corporate clubs, and returned it to a sleazy downtown dump where even the walls sweat.

Chylde eventually dismantled, but that band’s Joey Verdonselli landed on his feet in Handsome Jack as bassist and vocalist, joining guitarist/vocalist Jamison Passuite, organist/guitarist Phil Allport and drummer Chad Salmeri in service of a sound that is much more Howlin’ Wolf and Humble Pie than it is White Stripes or Black Keys. Which is to suggest that the band’s new “Do What Comes Naturally” is raw, authentic and jarringly real. (Even Rolling Stone magazine joined in the fun, offering a rather glowing review of the album in early October.)

Now, Handsome Jack is coming home to celebrate the release of “Do What Comes Naturally” in a concert at 8 p.m. Friday in Mohawk Place (47 E. Mohawk St.) The band will be joined by Bearhunter, Johns and Pine Fever.

Waiting Room expands

After less than two years in business, the Waiting Room (334 Delaware Ave.) has expanded to include a second floor concert venue and bar known as the Studio. Owner Chris Ring and his staff have converted the second floor into a concert venue and bar that will allow multiple bookings on the same night in what can now be described as the Waiting Room Entertainment Complex.

The Studio operates as a bar from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday evenings, with regularly scheduled events and special bookings filling the schedule.

Wednesdays will offer “Live Band Karaoke.” Thursdays will feature local original bands and DJs. Fridays will be taken over by 107.7 FM Alternative Buffalo’s “New Noise,” a weekly indie/electro dance party. Saturdays will be old-school night featuring an evening’s worth of Motown, doo-wop and ’60s rock.

The first floor of the Waiting Room will continue to operate as a concert venue. Information is at

Umphrey’s return

Ever since rock bands started flexing their creative muscle, developing their skills to the point of virtuosity and realizing that they needn’t be hemmed in by pop conventions, a dichotomy has existed between those who prefer their music in short, clinically precise 3½-minute bursts, and those who are eager to dive headlong into the stream of complex music.

Sure, everyone listens to music on earbuds or headphones these days, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is creating “headphone music” – the sort of stuff that demands of the listener, to borrow a John Lennon lyric, “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.”

Chicago’s Umphrey’s McGee has, since emerging in 1997, been crafting “headphone music” of the first order, creating albums that demand close attention, and then taking those albums into the improvisational stratosphere when performing the material live. But Umphrey’s has never wanted to be pigeonholed, and so the band set the daunting task of fine-tuning its expansive tendencies to make brave and challenging music that also is accessible. The band’s recently released “Similar Skin” represents a major success in this area. The album has been widely hailed as one of the group’s very finest, and many tracks are becoming staples of UM’s storied live sets as the sextet makes its way through its fall tour, which stops in the Rapids Theatre (1711 Main St., Niagara Falls) at 7:30 p.m. today. Tickets for the all-ages show are $27.50 ( The equally brilliant Boston funk-rock-jam collective Dopapod will be opening the show, so get there on time.


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