Willie Nile texted me shortly after the recent “Mary Moser Forever” concert celebration at the Town Ballroom, saying he would be back in Buffalo to play "an outdoor stage downtown” in early June. I added the date to my calendar, but then a band rehearsal was planned for that night, so Nile’s show was banished to the ever-growing “Wish I could be there, but I can’t be in two places at one time” file.
At the last minute, band rehearsal was rescheduled, and we headed down to Fountain Plaza, for my first experience of Thursday & Main, the free weekly music series presented by Buffalo Place, which evolved from the Queen City Social series, launched in 2016.
I had been ill for an extended period in 2017, and was basically bedridden for nearly six months, including the summer. As a result, I was not aware that Buffalo Place had gotten back into the “Free music with a local artist emphasis” game. Nile reaching out to me was the first I’d heard of it.
The weather was not particularly groovy on this Thursday. It had been raining most of the day, it was cold at Fountain Plaza, and the crowd was thin at first. But as Nile and his killer band took the stage, it was starting to fill in, and the rain had stopped. I soon forgot how chilly it was, because Nile, guitarist Matt Hogan, bassist Johnny Pisano, and drummer Tom Curiano were bringing some serious fire to Fountain Plaza. The crowd picked up on this, and soon, Thursday & Main felt like a particularly burning version of the old Thursday at the Square series.
Nile gave it his all – running through the crowd, engaging in affable repartee and staying on stage to lead us through the ritualistic singalong to Petula Clark’s “Downtown” that used to cap every Thursday at the Square show.
After the show, I was far too pumped up to go home, so we – my wife, myself and a few close friends –ended up at Raclettes, a Parisian-style wine bar and bistro near Fountain Plaza. Our friends had spent a few weeks in Paris recently, and they thought the Raclettes vibe was similar. The wine list was deep, too. We chilled and chatted for a good while. I was starting to feel as if I was seeing a side of Buffalo I hadn’t in a good while.
We parted ways, resigned to getting home at a somewhat reasonable hour, but as we walked to the car, we heard music bouncing around the concrete canyons of Main Street and decided that it would be an epic failure to do anything other than follow the sound until we found the source. The music sounded funky, too. I mean, as Eddie Vedder once sang, “Why go home?"
That source was a tent on the side of Osteria 166 on Franklin Street. It was Osteria’s sixth anniversary bash, and Michael DiSanto & Verse were helping the establishment celebrate. As we walked up the alley adjacent to Osteria and eventually into the tent, I saw some familiar faces, in addition to DiSanto’s. There was Toney Rhodes at the keys, Aaron Blackmon behind the drum kit, and erstwhile drummer Carl “Flute” Johnson playing guitar, with a huge grin on his face.
DiSanto was taking a break, walking around and filming his friends. They sounded, unsurprisingly, incredible, so when I was asked to sit in for a tune, my first thought was, “I don’t wanna kill the vibe.”
But I was not about to say no, so I played a Prince tune with these incredible musicians, and then got to know owner Nick Pitillo, whom I had never met. We hit it off, big time, talking music and trading war stories, and eventually making plans to catch the Tedeschi Trucks Band at CMAC this summer.
And to think, I’d almost missed all of this. Sometimes the best nights in Buffalo are the most spontaneous and the least preplanned.