Making sure that the summer’s free Canalside concert series has a strong local presence should be a primary concern of all area music lovers. This prime piece of bustling real estate provides a fantastic venue for major touring acts, to be sure, but if those acts came through town and no homegrown talent was afforded the opportunity to strut their stuff in front of the massive crowds, this would be a serious opportunity wasted.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it as long as it remains true: Buffalo’s music scene boasts an embarrassment of riches, and the level of talent displayed by several generations of musicians in the here and now deserves to be mentioned in the same hushed and reverential tones normally reserved for much larger cities.
Happily, Canalside is taking note of this fact. The ongoing Canalside Battle of the Bands will find qualifying artists competing for opening slots on the majority of national headliner gigs making up the summer’s free Thursday series. On Fridays through mid-July, bands will perform on the bridge overlooking what is, in the winter, the skating rink, before a panel of judges who will offer their own 2 cents, and factor in crowd response in determining the winner of one of the coveted opening slots.
One might argue that simply assembling a panel to pick some of the higher profile professional indie artists working in town might have avoided the pageantry, which involves several bands playing for free, and only one walking away with the prize. On the upside, however, is the fact that Canalside is being used as a music venue more and more often, and these bands are being offered the opportunity to play in a very cool location before folks who might not see and hear them otherwise, whether or not they happen to go home with the opening act prize.
I’m of two minds on the subject, firmly believing that hard-working artists should not be asked to work for free, but also pleased that, for example, some local artist is going to be sharing the evening with Spoon or Everclear or Iron & Wine.
On Friday, I ventured down to Canalside to catch the contest for the Spoon opening slot. The Battles are being broken down by genre, and this particular evening was christened the “jam band” showdown. A misnomer, this, since Spoon is clearly an indie rock band, and not at all a jam band. But then, neither were the bands competing for the opening slot, among them the killer ska outfit the Rockaz and the indie/roots band Baby Beast.
In the end, the crowd and the judges settled on excellent young shoe-gazer band Tomoreaux, a quartet comprising Jesse Kaufman, Joshua Keller, Preston Cofta and Kevin Stuitje. Coming across as a hybrid of influences including Joy Division, the Cure, Arcade Fire and a dash of Sonic Youth, the group was the obvious choice for the Spoon opening slot. (They were also the only competing band that had anything even remotely in common with Spoon.)
You can check out Tomoreaux on Facebook and BandCamp, and if you are at all into post-modern rock and indie stylings, I recommend you do so. Congrats and the well-deserved opening slot are due to the guys in the band.
Here’s the info on the remaining Battles. All are free and open to the public, and take place on Friday’s beginning at 5:30 p.m.
June 12: Ska & Punk; winner will open for Mighty Mighty Bosstones on July 9
June 19: Classic Soul; winner will open for the “Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra does Stevie Wonder" on July 16
June 26: Rock; winner will open for Badfish on July 23
July 3: Alternative; winner will open for Iron & Wine on July 30
July 10: Girl Power; winner will open for En Vogue on Aug. 20
July 17: Hip Hop; winner will open for En Vogue on Aug. 20