A long time ago – back when commercial music success depended on selling trailers full of cassette tapes and compact discs – bands that leased out their art to move burgers, video games or films about pet dragons would be saddled with the term “sellouts.”
But with diminished traditional album sales and Internet renegades unscrupulously distributing recorded works for free, what was once selling out is now considered necessary synergistic survival. And in this new business model, not many bands have been more successful in recent years than polished pop purveyors American Authors, who joined opener Ben Rector to deliver advertised hits as part of Starry Night in the Garden, Wednesday night’s fundraiser in the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.
For the Authors, the Boston-born band has progressed from its mid-aughts start at the Berklee College of Music to a now Brooklyn-based quartet familiar to young and old alike. Based on its ubiquitous single “Best Day of My Life,” the Zac Barnett-led outfit’s music has become recognizable by anyone with access to electricity.
Released in 2013 on the band’s debut EP, the banjo-accented song burrowed itself into the mainstream via radio and countless television commercials including the trailer for DreamWorks sequel “How to Train Your Dragon 2” – and, in turn, introduced the act’s wider array of work to legions of listeners.
On Wednesday night, the Authors – whose second album, “What We Live For,” is due out on July 1 – was called on to headline the Botanical Gardens’ gala, with funds from the festival due to assist with the late-19th century greenhouse’s ongoing $3.8 million restoration.
Thankfully, their polished sound teamed with gorgeous, early-evening weather to give attendees and fundraising efforts a major boost.
Kicking off their set with the bounce and shouts of “Go Big or Go Home,” Barnett and Co. set the tone for their live hour: lots of percussion, accompanying banjo and song after song requiring an impressive arsenal of crowd-assisted oooohs, ohs and claps.
Whether with proceeding track “Luck” or new singles “This is What We Live For” or “Right Here, Right Now,” the foursome of Barnett, bassist Dave Rubin, drummer Matt Sanchez, and guitarist/banjoist James Adam Shelley delivered a barrage of participatory pop, the kind that hoards of tweens or wine-hoisting suburban mothers cue up on the regular. It may sound mass-produced, but it’s also anthemic and uplifting, which fit those packed into the Gardens’ front lawn just fine.
Despite such offerings, many seated attendees were reluctant to completely let loose until the Authors unleashed their last song of the evening and aforementioned hit, “Best Day of My Life.” Once cued up, it brought all holdouts on their feet to dance, clap and chant. Such buoyant, banjo-led breakthroughs delighted the crowd.
Before American Authors, Starry Night entertainment began with singer/songwriter Ben Rector.
The Tulsa native – appearing without his usual full band – regaled the Garden’s crowd with a short set of tunes popularized on television by “The Voice” and via regular rotation of Starry Night host, Star 102.5.
Toggling between a keyboard and acoustic guitar, the gregarious performer opened with adult-contemporary-ready “Never Gonna Let You Go” and chart-climbing single, “Brand New,” both perfectly complementary of the occasion’s relaxed vibe.