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Canalside 'Battles' find local artists competing for opening slots

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.

The Canalside Thursdays crowd gathers before headliners Matt and Kim hit the stage. (Erica Morano/Special to The News)

The Canalside Thursdays crowd gathers before headliners Matt and Kim hit the stage. (Erica Morano/Special to The News)

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.

Mark Rothko E.P. by TOMOREAUX

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

Plenty of music fans in Buffalo will be excited by the news that Mighty Mighty Bosstones will hit Canalside.

Plenty of music fans in Buffalo will be excited by the news that Mighty Mighty Bosstones will hit Canalside.

June 19: Classic Soul; winner will open for the “Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra does Stevie Wonder" on July 16

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra concert at Canalside will have a local opener that won a Canalside Battle contest.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra concert at Canalside will have a local opener that won a Canalside Battle contest.

June 26: Rock; winner will open for Badfish on July 23

Sublime tribute band Badfish will feature a local contest winner as an opener. (Erica Morano/Special to The News)

Sublime tribute band Badfish will feature a local contest winner as an opener. (Erica Morano/Special to The News)

July 3: Alternative; winner will open for Iron & Wine on July 30

Indie-folk icon Sam Beam will come to Buffalo as Iron and Wine, and his show will boast a local opener. (Buffalo News file photo)

Indie-folk icon Sam Beam will come to Buffalo as Iron and Wine, and his show will boast a local opener. (Buffalo News file photo)

July 10: Girl Power; winner will open for En Vogue on Aug. 20

The top local "Girl Power" band will open for En Vogue at Canalside.

The top local "Girl Power" band will open for En Vogue at Canalside.

July 17: Hip Hop; winner will open for En Vogue on Aug. 20

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