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Canalside Concerts make an effort to reach a wide audience

This year’s Canalside Concert lineup is, with a few minor qualifications, one of the strongest we’ve seen since the series moved to the waterfront in 2011.

Everything about this freshly announced roster of free shows strikes me as somewhere between very good and outstanding. That’s not to say that every show suits my particular taste to a T, but simply to suggest that an event series like Canalside – something that serves a broad cross-section of the community and needs to at least make an effort to offer something for nearly everyone – has a tough row to hoe, and this year, it hoed a deep and wide one.

In the past, the Canalside lineup has been far too white for a city with a demographic like Buffalo’s. There has been a general paucity of hip-hop and R&B, with a few exceptions, a la Salt n’ Pepa or En Vogue, both of whom, frankly speaking, could have offered much lengthier sets at Canalside than they did.

This year, that has changed. The season opens June 9 with Charles Bradley, with one of the greatest soul singers currently working; includes a date with hip-hop pioneers Public Enemy; features an all-female Mariachi band comprised of musicians of Puerto Rican, Mexican, Cuban and South American descent; and boasts an appearance by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, a representative of the greatest American art form, jazz, from the city of that art form’s birth, New Orleans.

Previous Canalside lineups have come under fire for being either too idiosyncratic, or too idiomatically particular. How many times have you heard someone ask, in exasperation, “Who are all these bands I’ve never heard of?” or “What exactly is a Lake Street Dive”? The lineup is criticized by some if there are too many “hippie” bands, by others if there aren’t enough. Classic rock lovers want something they’ve heard on 97 Rock, while Alternative Buffalo listeners have apparently resurrected the old 1960s battle cry “Don’t trust anyone over 30!” including musicians who have had the audacity to forego retirement. Prog rock lovers are never going to be happy with anything short of a full-scale reunion of the “In the Court of the Crimson King”-era lineup of King Crimson on the Canalside stage, though this year’s booking of Dweezil Zappa playing the music of Frank Zappa might quiet their griping a bit.

You see where I’m going with this. No one is ever going to be completely satisfied with the Canalside lineup unless they book it themselves. And even then, they might not be, for a promoter can only book the acts which A) are touring, B) be bookable within the available budget, and C) have other dates in the relative region, thereby making tour routing feasible. What we have this summer is a lineup that goes a long way toward satisfying a broad range of stylistic interests, based on the available talent that satisfies the above-mentioned strictures.

I’m particularly stoked for the Claypool Lennon Delerium show, which wraps the Canalside season on Aug. 25. A project like this one, which teams Primus/Oysterhead/Frog Brigade bassist/vocalist Les Claypool with John and Yoko’s son Sean Lennon in celebration of a funky, deliriously strange and giddily tripped-out strain of psychedelic music, is not likely to make it beyond a single summer’s tour, so otherwise engaged are the participants most of the time. We’re lucky to be one of the 30-odd cities getting a date with these boys. But really, it’s all pretty good this year, and when it isn’t, it’s at least interesting.

People will complain. That’s what people do. In their defense, a few minor quibbles.

Lowest of the Low comes here often. But the addition of opener Serena Ryder, and the fact that Buffalo audiences love their Low, combine to make this a minor issue.

The BPO Plays the Music of David Bowie took over Kleinhans Music Hall in March. That said, the event was packed, and many eager fans were not able to get tickets. So the demand is there. It was a great show, too.

Coolio is... well, Coolio. Not the greatest hip-hop artist of the ’90s by any stretch of the imagination, but still, this should be a fun and frivolous night, and who doesn’t like a little fun and frivolity? Besides, we’ve got the mighty Public Enemy for the serious hip-hop portion of the Canalside season.

The 2016 summer at Canalside will find all of these idioms represented: Soul, funk, R&B, indie-folk, indie-pop, hip-hop, country, prog-rock, Americana, jazz, garage rock, Mariachi, classical adaptations of rock tunes, EDM, ’90s alt-rock and psychedelia. That’s a pretty broad stylistic range.

But people will complain. Because that’s what people do.


Canalside lineup

June 9: Charles Bradley & His Extraordinares

June 16: Frank Turner with July Talk

June 23: Public Enemy

June 30: Frankie Ballard

July 7: Dweezil Zappa plays Frank Zappa

July 14: Shakey Graves and Preservation Hall Jazz Big Band and Wild Child

July 21: The Arcs and Mariachi Flor de Toloache

July 29: BPO A tribute to David Bowie

Aug. 4: Tritonal

Aug. 11: Lowest of the Low and Serena Ryder

Aug. 18: Coolio

Aug. 25: Claypool Lennon Delirium