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Dynamic mix of alt-rockers stirs up Kerfuffle, signals summer at Canalside

Kerfuffle, the annual daylong music event held at Canalside, no longer feels like a buzzy, new event. Now six solid years in, Kerfuffle has become a reliable early-summer staple promising big-name artists, sweet sounds and rocking rhythms to Buffalo’s alt-rock fans.

On the first official day of summer, “the music event of the summer” (as dubbed by presenting radio station 107.7 FM Alternative Buffalo) featured an on-brand, seven-artist slew of alt-rock, indie folk, indie rock and indie pop.

While all of those genres overlap and can describe essentially the same music, Alternative Buffalo did a nice job — as they always do — of bringing a mix of different sounds, personalities and vibes to the Canalside stage.

Poppy, energetic and euphoric, Walk the Moon delivered a dynamic, infinitely fun closing set as a sea of flashing batons, distributed for free en masse by an event sponsor, responded energetically. The Cincinnati-bred alt-pop squad serenaded an invigorated crowd with a catchy, synthy, free-spirited set filled with many familiar dance-and-sing-alongs.

Black-clad lead man Nicholas Petricca's solidly structured vocals were studio-version perfect. It helped that his fluttering falsettos were well-backed by pitch-ins from his three mic-equipped bandmates, though.

Heavy-hitting “Shut Up And Dance With Me” set a high-energy tone early on. “Headphones” pulsed fervent, manic, riff-rife vibes. And summery, squeal-inducing fan-favorite “Anna Sun” stopped exiting fans in their tracks for one last pre-departure dance.

[Related: Smiles at Walk the Moon at the UB CFA]

Indie folk outfit The Head and the Heart, hailing from Seattle, offered a saccharine, savory second-fiddle set.

“Let’s Be Still” calmed nagging restlessness. Spirited fans sang along as heartachey radio hit “All We Ever Knew” called out to lost love. Dynamic and dance-y “Missed Connection” brought vigor and pace to an otherwise chilled-out set. Charity Rose Thielen’s vivacious violin sung out as her platinum blonde hair swung about during “Rhythm & Blues.” And set-closing “Rivers and Roads” sent the crowd on a scenic trip to someplace a piece of their heart lies.

When it comes to weather, annual outdoor events seem to fall into two categories: infinitely lucky or dismally unfortunate. Kerfuffle falls into the former, fair-weather category. At this point, sunshine and warmth is all but promised to Western New York when Kerfuffle rolls around (knock on wood).

While it was overcast and chillier than usual at times throughout the roughly 70-degree day, the sun peaked out from behind milky white-gray clouds and cast mood-lifting golden light across Canalside right as Catfish and the Bottlemen took the stage around 7 p.m.

[Related: Smiles, band shots from Catfish and the Bottlemen's last visit, to Rec Room]

Unequivocally Welsh, Catfish and the Bottlemen brought a gleaming-yet-grimy gusto of that uniquely U.K. brand of rock American counterparts have been trying unsuccessfully to recreate for decades.

An Alternative Buffalo favorite, set-opening “Longshot” reminded many in the crowd that they did, indeed, know these guys. “Soundcheck” built longingly into emotionally charged, thrashing guitar riffs. Heartfelt and ambivalent, “7” sent the crowd into a swooning sway as the third-to-last set closed out.

To complement those three big names, a slew of lesser-known-but-relevant artists including Bishop Briggs, Houses, Matt Maeson and Atlas Genius rounded out the extended live play.

Missing from this year’s lineup, though, was a veteran act — a role filled by Taking Back Sunday, Cake and The Violent Femmes in past years — which resulted in sparse representation from the 30-something crowd.

[Related: Look back at 2018 review of Kerfuffle, which starred Taking Back Sunday]

While far more sterile and compact than a true music festival, Kerfuffle offers a nice taste of many of the elements that make music festivals appeal beyond than the music itself. Unified spirit. An all-day, outdoor, music-filled escape from reality. The freedom to get away from the crowd to hang out in some odd corner on an Adirondack Chair, or on the far back lawn in a blanket. And, of course, an eclectic mix of artists big and small to please a wide range of music tastes.

These features are what make Kerfuffle so much more than just a concert. Buffalo is lucky to be able to join friends and similarly fun-spirited fans in Canalside’s beautiful setting for an always-pleasing group of national alt-rock acts each year.


Alternative Buffalo's Kerfuffle

June 21 at Canalside

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