New canals and bridges. Silent poets and a relocated Shark Girl. The HarborCenter Marriott rising above the Skyway, and underneath it, teens and millennials packed from Central Wharf to Clinton’s Dish, swinging hula hoops and bouncing to a mash-up of the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and Rob Base’s “It Takes Two.”
It’s not your brother’s Canalside Thursday Night Concert Series. It’s not even last year’s version. But after Thursday night’s packed and pulsating season opener with Brooklyn dance-pop duo Matt & Kim – with support from Buffalo trio Made Violent and Boston’s Bearstronaut – most in attendance would say this isn’t a bad thing.
In contrast to last year’s opening night – which featured ’90s reggae-leaning hip-hop artist Shaggy mistaking Buffalo for Albany before slogging muddied fans through bombastic radio hits – Thursday’s kickoff didn’t feel dated. It wasn’t an attempt to lure ambivalent crowds with a name last celebrated out of Toyota Corolla speakers at the turn of the millennium. It was a lineup featuring a headliner (Matt & Kim) emblematic of the fun and now-colorful spirit of Canalside, and openers (Made Violent and Bearstronaut) now infiltrating both national and international playlists.
With New England’s Bearstronaut, early arrivals would get to loosen up via its festival-ready synth-back singles. With hometown trio Made Violent, many Buffalonians could get their first introduction to the next local band en route to meteoric out-of-town fame. And in Matt (Johnson) and Kim (Schifino), crowds familiar with Brooklynites’ nearly 10-year-old catalog of infectious commercial cuts (“That’s not a Buick!”) could settle into the Canalside sod and do what they came to do: dance.
And this was easy to do with the night’s headliner, who barreled onto the night’s stage to the aforementioned Pete Townshend-aided mix before dancing aside their drum kits and keys.
The two-song set of “Overexposed” and “Tonight” off 2012’s “Lightning” before the DMX-led beats on the thumping “Cameras” ushered the crowd into the high-energy show that followed. And those are two words that would best describe the longtime couple’s style: high energy.
Toss handfuls of confetti into lakefront breezes; whip balloons into the crowd to be blown up and bounced during new single “Hoodie Up”; and dance on your bass drum like it’s made out of tungsten? High energy, and it reverberated across the bouncing hordes throughout their Thursday night set.
But before the headliners could send Buffalo youth into mayhem, three of the city’s own had their chance to work their neighbors into a Fender-aided fury.
Local trio and Columbia Records product Made Violent – comprising Justin Acee on drums, Rob Romano on guitar and the hirsute Joseph White on bass and lead vocals – sidled their hometown riverfront for a searing 40-minute offering of Strokes-style rockers like “Dirty,” polished guitar licks on “On My Own,” and even the start of a “Let’s go, Buffalo” chant by the ebullient White, who ended his night by leaping into the crowd to hug and crowd-surf atop concertgoers. The longtime friends feel an obvious kinship with their hometown, and their entire set seemed like a thrill.
“When we come up, the city comes up,” he said midway through the band’s set. “How’s that sound?”
Starting the night off was Bearstronaut, who set the evening’s table with the type of electro-pop and ’80s echoes evident through Massachusetts’ brethren Passion Pit. Led through the dance hall strut of “Passenger Side” and apparent tribute to Alphaville on “Tropic of Cancer” by mustached singer Dave Martineau, the Hub-based quintet kicked off the season with club-appropriate style.