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The well-timed rebirth of Rockin' at the Knox

It seems only logical that a city capable of supporting an annual homegrown music festival known as Music is Art would embrace the idea of live music sharing space with one of the most impressive collections of fine art in New York State.

Such a marriage of live music and living art was the core tenet of the Rockin' at the Knox summer concert series, which over the years found the likes of Elvis Costello, Feist, the National, Rufus Wainwright, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Metric and the B-52s, performing on the grounds of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Some of these shows have been among the most memorable Buffalo gigs of the past 15 years, which made it all the more frustrating when the series ceased activity after 2010. (That Wilco/MMJ show makes my list of the Top 5 area concerts of the past 20 years, unquestionably.)

But now, just as the Albright-Knox has announced plans for a dramatic transformation that will include the addition of two new buildings, Rockin' at the Knox will return with a lineup in keeping with the series' tradition of pairing interesting alternative music with one of the premier gallery spaces and art collections extant.

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"This is the perfect time to bring it back," said promoter Artie Kwitchoff, whose Fun Time Presents worked with the Albright-Knox to resurrect Rockin' at the Knox with the June 29 lineup of Our Lady Peace, Collective Soul and Tonic. "With all the excitement surrounding the new plans for the Albright-Knox, this feels like a special lineup at a special time. OLP has a long and intense relationship with Buffalo. This feels like the right way to bring a series with a significant history back to life."

At its peak, Rockin' at the Knox was more like a festival than a mere one-off concert. Local bands played throughout the day, and it all felt momentous, a perfect confluence of civic pride and cultural groundswell. The apex of the event's first run came in 2005, when My Morning Jacket and Wilco teamed to offer a show that entered the realm of the mythological all but immediately upon its conclusion. These were the right bands playing the right venue at the right time, and pairing them together was a stroke of genius on the part of the promoters.

Kwitchoff said that Fun Time and the Albright-Knox have agreed on tentative plans for Rockin's future, "as long as this year is successful," which it appears will be the case. Advance ticket sales have been strong, underscoring the long and storied relationship Buffalo audiences have maintained with Our Lady Peace, one of the more interesting and inventive alternative rock bands to have emerged from the mid-'90s.

This is encouraging, for Rockin' at the Knox should be a staple of our city's summer music season diet. I'd welcome a lengthier Rockin' in the future, one where well-deserving local artists are added to the bill, and a blend of revered classic artists and hip up-and-comers is on offer. This year's resurrection of Rockin' represents a step in the right direction.

Info: Rockin' at the Knox, with Our Lady Peace, Collective Soul and Tonic perform at 6 p.m. June 29 outside the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Tickets are $42-$45.


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