In a year of complete disarray, mere coherency can lead to thankful moments of tranquility.
Unfortunately, those looking for serenity within Buffalo’s summer concert schedule will come up empty. New country clashes with cavalcades of hip-hop. Classic rock riffs ram up against Disney Channel divas or the minivan caravan leading to the “Kidz Bop Best Time Ever Tour” and a semi-reunited Guns N’ Roses is somehow not the biggest act to be playing New Era Field before fall.
The season’s lineup is all over the place – but this disorder is the usual order. Here’s a playlist of songs to deliver the type rhythmic rescue that can soothe your afternoons and evenings of a hopefully sun-drenched summer.
“Don’t Owe You a Thang” by Gary Clark Jr.
Performed June 15 at Canalside
The song: Before Clark lent his songs to highlight montages throughout the NBA playoffs (see: “Bright Lights”), the Canalside-bound Gibson wizard was hypnotizing Austin, Texas, clubs with rollicking guitar rollers like this one.
Lyrics to sing: “Ain't got no credit, no fancy clothes. Ain't got no excuses, baby, but a good man knows.”
“Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand
Performed June 17 as part of Kerfuffle at Canalside
The song: The Bee Gees may have dibs on the all-time best strut song (See: “Saturday Night Fever”). For the modern set, there’s this authority song by Glasgow’s Franz Ferdinand, aiding power-walkers and fist-pumpers since 2004.
Lyrics to sing: “So if you're lonely, you know I'm here waiting for you. I'm just a crosshair; I'm just a shot away from you.”
“The Glamorous Life” by Sheila E.
Performed June 22 at Canalside
The song: Lyrics and subtle back-up vocals from Prince. A nearly six-minute duel between horns and percussion. A show-stopping performer able to package both within a memorable 1984 single. It was a wild composition then, and it’s still undeniably danceable today.
Lyrics to sing: “She wears a long fur coat of mink, even in the summertime. Everybody knows from the coy little wink the girl's got a lot on her mind.”
“Figure It Out” by Royal Blood
Aug. 1 at Town Ballroom
The song: Bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher have been dazzling international festival crowds since this explosive single broke the band in 2014. Now ready with its sophomore effort—“How Did We Get So Dark,” due in this month – the Brighton duo is ready for more.
Lyrics to sing: “Getting hard to sleep. Blood is in my dreams, love is killing me, trying to figure it out.”
“Punk Rock and Roll” by Street Dogs
July 13 at Darien Lake (Warped Tour)
The song: On stage, frontman Mike McGloin and his Dogs bandmates aren’t shy about representing their native Boston. On this track, the band teams its New England advocacy with a passionate plea for its genre – while likely wearing Red Sox gear.
Lyrics to sing: “We all need a little punk rock and roll. The kind that makes you wanna break some bones.”
“Down” by 311
July 10 at Artpark
The song: The glorious 1990s were colored by a variety incompatible sounds, but few of the decade expected an act from Nebraska to merge rock and rap as infectiously as the Nick Hexum-led 311 did on this still-rousing song.
Lyrics to sing: “Lightning strikes, yo we be in that violent force of light. Guaranteed to turn it out as bad as dolemite.”
“So Says I” by The Shins
July 11 at Rapids Theatre
The song: It’s a bit rattling hearing a scathing indictment of mankind and its missteps from The Shins’ James Mercer. His is a voice that can be soothing, whether aside an acoustic guitar or jangling keys. Not on this galloping howler – which is what makes it so great.
Lyrics to sing: “So we burned all our uniforms and let nature take it's course again. And the big ones just eat all the little ones; that sends us back to the drawing board”
“Mona Lisa” by Slick Rick
July 13 at Canalside
The song: The early days of hip-hop pitched a big tent, open to rappers with rubber noses, profane Jewish trios and Slick Rick – a British-born emcee with a bedazzled eye patch. On this track, reference to Leonardo da Vinci’s painting over a saccharine beat still sounds fresh.
Lyrics to sing: “I've never been to college, but I've got crazy knowledge. Over eighteen and my eyes are green; I wear more gold than that man on A-Team.”
“Run” by Ghostface Killah
July 13 at Canalside
The song: Whether performing solo or within the dynamic of its Wu Tang Clan, members such as Ghostface Killah don’t play it safe. And on this anxiety-inducing track (joined by fellow New York rapper Jadakiss), Ghost goes first-person as a dealer eluding life or death behind bars.
Lyrics to sing: “Eh yo, I jumped from the 8th floor, step, hit the ground. The pound fell, cops is coming. Running through the [expletive] stairwells, I ain’t hear nothing.”
“The Tide is High” by Blondie
July 25 at Artpark
The song: Attached to new wave, disco and even the elementary construction of early hip-hop, Debbie Harry and the rest of her Hall of Fame-inducted members of Blondie have elicited many moods. On this effort, they call on the reggae sway that often typifies summer lounging.
Lyrics to sing: “The tide is high, but I'm holdin' on. I'm gonna be your number one. I'm not the kind of girl who gives up just like that, oh no.”
“Brill Bruisers” by The New Pornographers
July 25 at Asbury Hall at Babeville
The song: When a cavalcade of supremely talented musicians and vocalists (see: Neko Case, A.C. Newman, etc.) band together for one eight-piece collective, its concoctions can sound like the output of an alt-rock choir. This song’s one of those creations – and crafted with poppy perfection.
Lyrics to sing: “Now the grenade, and it's seconds before the bang. Wanted to keep much of that leader of your gang.”
“Scarlett Begonias” by The Grateful Dead
July 19 at Larkin Square (Tribute by Workingman’s Dead)
The song: Jerry Garcia’s been gone for more than 20 years, but summers still sound like the Grateful Dead. The earthy jams and kaleidoscopic grooves were made to float through July breezes. And whether delivered by its current Jerry-less lineup or local tribute musicians, songs such as “Begonias” still please.
Lyrics to sing: “Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”
“How Can You Really” by Foxygen
July 26 at Tralf Music Hall
The song: Don’t attempt to put Westlake, California, tandem Jonathan Rado and Sam France in any genre box. Their latest effort (“Hang”) is an operatic exploration in the vein of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” This track veers into stoner piano pop, delivered at its most pristine.
Lyrics to sing: “When I wake up in the morning, how I long to tell you all of my dreams. But how I've learned not to care if you're not the star of that scene.”
“Slow Night, So Long” by Kings of Leon
Aug. 2 at Darien Lake
The song: Before Nashville’s Kings veered toward pop radio patronage, they were a gloriously unhinged quartet, one drenched in cheap whiskey and Southern rock remnants. This opening track off 2004’s “Aha Shake Heartbreak” was emblematic of this beauty, but now merely sounds like what might have been.
Lyrics to sing: “Rise and shine all you gold-digging mothers. Are you too good to tango with the poor, poor boys.”
“One Tree Hill” by U2
Sept. 5 at New Era Field
The song: U2 touring on the 30th anniversary of “The Joshua Tree” gives fans not particularly thrilled with the band’s recent Apple-backed trajectory a chance to revel in its messianic past. But tour dates will also gives this cherished album cut – written in memory of the band’s fallen friend and roadie Greg Carroll – a slot in every show.
Lyrics to sing: “I'll see you again when the stars fall from the sky, and the moon has turned red over One Tree Hill.”
“The W.A.N.D.” by The Flaming Lips
Sept. 20 at Rapids Theatre
The song: The blissful trip of Oklahoma’s Flaming Lips can be delivered in a variety of Jelly-less ways. On this fuzzy spectacle, it’s served with a marching stomp, one that can mobilize a riot as easily as it can enable whirling euphoria under a hail of confetti.
Lyrics to sing: “Time after time those fanatical minds try to rule all the world, telling us all it's them who's in charge of it all.”
Spotify playlist for official Summer 2017 selections—and more: