The cacophonic communion of outdoor music festivals has been ushering Buffalo’s residents away from the city’s core for years, sending gaggles of teens, young adults and the ageless along I-90 for a day at Darien Lake or elsewhere.
Thankfully, Alternative Buffalo’s Kerfuffle has another direction in mind. After its second edition Saturday inside the confines of Canalside – and rolling out a 10-band lineup impressive enough to pack three separate shows – the annual alt-rock fete has now centralized the summer’s finest guitar-geared gathering inside Queen City limits.
The hometown rockabilly of Uncle Ben’s Remedy – whose band and music was likely not used to playing while the sun’s up – got the day started, kicking the fest’s screen doors open with a 15-minute set of rollicking stompers and concluded with a steel guitar-accented cover of Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like The Wolf.”
But how does a show transition from dudes storming through tunes about day drinking? With the multitextured twofer of In the Valley Below and South Africa-born Civil Twilight.
Combo Jeffrey Jacob and Angela Gail had the difficult task of transitioning from Ben’s twang to their brand of synth-and-guitar-tracked sexual energy, but vocalist Gail certainly accommodated. Cooing college radio hits like “Peaches” while lovingly pawing at partner Jacob’s bearded face, the two were the day’s hipster answer to Sonny and Cher – and in a good way. Songs that play ethereal and brooding on record stormed offstage, and were beautifully coaxed by the couple.
As proficient as the aforementioned Valley was, the day’s first amplified knockout came from Cape Town’s Civil Twilight. Diversifying their set with the dancing chords and tribal thump of “Oh, Daniel” preceding the dark, instrumental power of “Holy Dove,” the McKellar brothers-led act left the early crowd awash with echoing arrangements aside lakefront breezes, appreciated as the day’s early sun sweltered. Combine this with its Radiohead-esque closer, “Letters From The Sky” – powerfully delivered amid the poorly timed appearance of crowd-spiked beach balls – the band raised the festival’s bar.
Thankfully, when you have the danceable bounce of the Mowgli’s and St. Motel, you can leap over such aforementioned levels. As inappropriate as the day’s inflatables were for earlier emotive offerings, they were the perfect accompaniment for the saccharine-covered Mowgli’s and horn-backed Motel. The former served up the smiling confessional “Love Me Anyway” before its cymbal-shaking dance party, “San Francisco.” The latter trotted out the trumpets on older track “Benny Goodman” before turning Canalside’s lawn into a cobblestoned disco on “Just My Type.”
For attendees getting sautéed under the late-afternoon sun, this energy may have seemed like a nice level to maintain through the second half of the show. Then Cold War Kids and New Politics came along, delivering the necessary thrust to turn the day’s dial to 11. The Nathan Willet-led quintet wasted no time turning the front stage area into an even hotter bastion for mayhem-hungry millennials, bursting forth with favorites “Miracle Mile” and the bass thump of “Hang Me Up To Dry” before Willett’s impassioned pleas on anthemic single “First.”
And then there was New Politics. If the band is trying to establish itself as favorites with the city’s Town Ballroom set, one way to do it is turn out the histrionic, back-flipping set they churned out along Buffalo’s waterfront. After blowing the day’s pit pack back with “Everywhere I Go (Kings and Queens),” they served up a cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.” This would count as sacrilege to the memory of Adam Yauch – if it wasn’t so good.
The song revved the arm-waving crowd into overdrive as the Copenhagen-conceived trio stormed forth, setting the table for the evening’s finishing (and, unfortunately, after-deadline) trio of Airborne Toxic Event, Gaslight Anthem and headliner, Cake.