Carrie Underwood isn't a total stranger to Buffalo. She played the former First Niagara Center twice, in 2013 and 2016, and even played the Erie County Fair back in 2006, the year after she won "American Idol."
Reviewer Ben Siegel was on to something 13 years ago, when he wrote: "Still, this young performer shows glimmers of a bright future. Maybe it's a sign of the times for the country ballad, traditionally drowning in depression and despair. But there was an abundance of optimism in this girl's message, especially in her hit single, 'Jesus, Take the Wheel.' Dolly and Loretta never made us feel so renewed."
(This is especially amusing considering Rolling Stone just published the "40 Saddest Country Songs of All Time.")
The Oklahoma-born singer-songwriter headlines this weekend's events, which also zeroes in on a wildly popular fall festival, a bustling brewery Oktoberfest and much more.
If there's any criticism of Underwood, News pop music critic Jeff Miers touched on it in his last two reviews. While Underwood is an exceptional vocalist, her comfort on stage and her authenticity, at times, were still works in progress, and she's limited by the one-note nature of modern country-pop. (Although, to her credit, she dabbled more heavily into arena rock the last time she came downtown; see photos from that show).
How has Underwood improved as a performer since her last visit? It's worth checking out on Sunday night.
Ellicottville Fall Festival, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13 in Ellicottville (Washington and Jefferson streets, Holiday Valley Lodge, more). Most of the activities are free to attend. Find the full schedule, parking suggestions and more directions- like don't bring your pets - at the Chamber of Commerce's website.
Just like how Buffalo headed to Nashville en masse last weekend, the destination for this weekend is Ellicottville for Fall Fest. Some would say it's about the beautiful seasonal foliage - best viewed from the Holiday Valley chairlift rides - others would argue it's about drinking under Ellicottville Brewing's tent and enjoying music by Nerds Gone Wild, while still others use the annual bonanza to simply get out of the city with a group of friends. Whatever the reason, Fall Fest is and will continue to be a big deal.
In Thin Man's case, repetition is a positive, as almost all the details of the 2018 Thin Man Oktoberfest are the same this year. A stretch of Elmwood Avenue outside Thin Man will be closed to traffic on Saturday, with sprawling tent covering the brewery's Oktoberfest.
Attendees will receive a Thin Man stein and their first pour with admission, as well as a live performance by the 25-member German-American Musicians. Traditional German dress - such as dirndl and lederhosen - are not required but encouraged.
Brilliant beat-makers the Chainsmokers are back in town, this time with 5 Seconds of Summer, their tour partners for the last three weeks. The two groups collaborated on "Who Do You Love," which will surely be a crowd favorite when 5SOS comes back to the stage to join the headliners.
Relish the stimulating stage production the Chainsmokers have developed, vital when two guys stand behind a table and make faces. (Look back at concert shots from the Chainsmokers played UB Spring Fest in 2016 to see what I mean).
CMC International Jazz Fest, begins at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 11-12, then at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13 at the Colored Musicians Club (145 Broadway), the Mansion on Delaware and the Burchfield Penney Art Center (1285 Elmwood Ave.). General three-day pass runs for $115, with student and senior discounts available. Headlining concerts cost $35 apiece.
Jazz doesn't have to be a genre that transports you back in time. One of the six shows scheduled for the Colored Musicians Club's annual Jazz Fest is dedicated to the avant-garde interpretations of Reynold Scott, the University at Buffalo faculty member and touring jazz saxophonist who died last year.
The ReyVolation Dectet - comprising a whopping 10 performers - will deliver their renditions of Scott's work in a tribute concert, at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Burchfield Penney. Another CMC event that ties in the Mansion on Delaware and Tommyrotter Distillery is quite elegant, too.
Haunted Food Truck Rodeo, 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11 at Iron Island Museum (998 E. Lovejoy St.). No cost to attend; tours of the museum cost $5 and will be available throughout the event.
Just driving past Iron Island Museum is a slightly creepy experience (even as Lovejoy has experienced some redevelopment), but the inside has long been considered haunted; this Sharon Cantillon photojournalism project tells the story.
The annual family-friendly food truck rodeo - featuring nine trucks this year, including two dessert-focused - will provide sustenance for before or after a museum exploration, which includes plenty of spooky surprises.
Toward the close of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Hispanic Heritage Council of WNY holds its spicy annual fundraiser to benefit Roswell Park, featuring an amateur salsa dance-off on Swan Street.
Basket raffles and auctions will further benefit the local cancer center, specifically patient care services. Event attendees are encouraged to wear red attire (red dresses for women, according to the flyer).
This summer, significant excitement has come from the council, which announced a proposal for a $10 million cultural institute on the West Side. The council's calendar lists more events through the end of the month.
Women of Country Showcase, doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 on Saturday, Oct. 12 at Buffalo Iron Works (49 Illinois St.). Cost is $20 at the door.
Buffalo's Women of Country show in 2018 was not a one-hit wonder; omnipresent local performer Jillian Eliza and Iron Works have collaborated on another bill to celebrate local women in country music, and there's not much overlap from last year's crew.
Eliza and Katie Joyce Mallaber Prestia are the returnees slated to take the stage, while Brianna Blankenship, Liz Osborn (OsbornNash), Leslie Anne and Kelly Romig (Begging Angels) all join the fray. Listen to local rising stars as they build their profile and shine a spotlight on the musical gifts of Buffalo women.
[Related: Background behind Women of Country]
No, the animals will not be in costume, but the friends and families are welcome to dress up in Halloween garb for this spooky event that features trick-or-treat candy stations, bounce houses and carousel rides, plus hayrides for an additional fee.
Indulge your sweet tooth - or at least your kids' candy cravings - and watch baby rhino Mohan amble about excitedly.
Easton, the Scot who mysteriously never seems to age, has won two Grammys, topped several Billboard charts and toured the globe for nearly four decades with her dance-able pop music. But she almost never comes to the area; the only time we can tell was July 1989, and even then she played Chautauqua. While she's in the greatest-hits stage of her career, the Riviera Theatre gig still represents an incredibly rare occasion.
Theater events to know: "Pete the Cat" at the Theatre of Youth (203 Allen St.), leads five new theater openings.
Continuing: Buffalo International Film Festival (BIFF), runs through Oct. 14 at several venues. You can still buy a Bison Pass.
*Pay special attention to: Aside from alluring screenings, the BIFF Jump-Off Party begins at 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11 at Duende at Silo City (85 Silo City Row). Free to attend.
8 quick hitters for this weekend
Hertel/Saranac Oktoberfest by Wine on Hertel, Belsito
Bass Terminal Halloween at DNIPRO Ukrainian Center
World on Your Plate at Daemen College
Benefit for Ashley Kalstek at Wings Meeting Place
Making Strides Against Breast Cancer at the Outer Harbor
Monster Scramble 5K/10K on South Park Avenue
Stadium Blitz at New Era Field
Halloween Spooktacular at Herschell Carrousel
5 events to look forward to next week