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A family affair: Buffalo expat musicians make the holidays groove

A family affair: Buffalo expat musicians make the holidays groove

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“Buffalo is a huge part of who I am; my roots are here and I've taken the Buffalo work ethic with me all over the world.”

Dave Schulz has lived in Los Angeles for more than a decade now, but his heart is in Buffalo, where he grew up in a musical family – his father Robert F. Schulz founded the Buffalo Choral Arts Society in 1966, and was subsequently a guest pianist and conductor with the BPO; his siblings are also deeply involved in music – and became a familiar face on the local music scene in the 90s, playing with Marvelous Sauce, Lance Diamond, and the Goo Goo Dolls, among many others.

Schulz’s thoughts on Buffalo echo those of so many of his expat peers and progenitors, many of whom block out the holiday portions of their schedules to allow for homecoming gigs.

Since 1990, when I first moved to Buffalo, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays have been as much about going out to clubs to hear reunited bands, annual sit-ins and get-togethers, and “We’re only here for the weekend” jam sessions as they’ve been about over-eating and arguing politics at the family dinner table. If you left Buffalo behind for what have traditionally been much greener musical pastures in bigger cities – that’s starting to change, at long last – the weekends surrounding the holidays, as well as the weekday “Eve of the holiday” slots, have been something you coveted.

I should know – I've done a few of them with my own former band over the years.

This year, one of the most congested convergences of “home for the holidays” gigs in recent memory will compete for your attention in area clubs. Beginning on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving – long one of the biggest nights in Buffalonian Clubland – and carrying on through the rest of the holiday season, hosts of expats will return to both play and take in concerts; bands whose members still reside in Buffalo but who have reverted to semi-retired status will convene to kick out the jams; and local artists whose primary gigs keep them occupied elsewhere but for whom the holidays offer an opportunity for special “one-off” shows, will fill the calendar.

Schulz and his dance-funk outfit CO Jones will take part in the Kootsie Ball, to be held at the Hotel Lafayette on Dec. 10, but prior to that, we’ll have the opportunity to catch reunion-style gigs from the likes of the Jumpers, the Steam Donkeys and the Irving Klaws, as well as enticing one-offs from Lazlo Hollyfeld and Kurt & the Loders.

Michael Lee Jackson has called Los Angeles home during that period of time, but the former leader of 90s scenesters Animal Planet and guitarist with Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan’s solo touring band will mark the official release of his new album, “Death by Sunshine,” with an all-star lineup at the Sportsmen’s Tavern on Thanksgiving Eve. Jackson never entertained thoughts of simply planning a release party close to home in Los Angeles. Once the album was finished, he immediately started trying to land a holiday slot back home in Buffalo.

“Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday in Buffalo, because I so love to be with family and old friends,” Jackson says. “In the group of people I grew up with, it is still the case that no matter where we drift off to, many come back to Buffalo around that time.”

Here's a rundown of a few of the must-see homecoming and holiday-themed shows taking place in Buffalo in the coming weeks.

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Who: Michael Lee Jackson & A Ridiculously Fun Band

When: Nov. 23, 9:30 p.m.

Where: Sportsmens Tavern

Tickets: $15/$20, SportsmenBuffalo.com

Jackson plans to pull out all the stops for his first hometown show in a decade. "I’m really looking forward to seeing a lot of old friends that night," he says. "And the fact that it’s at Sportsmens makes me even more jazzed about it. That place is one of the best music clubs I’ve been to, anywhere. We’ve got a great band with Geno McManus, Jeff Schaller, Brian Burd,, Nikki Hicks, Jim Runfola and Jim Bohm. We’ve also got some of my favorite players coming up as guests through the night. Terry Sullivan will sing a few songs, Tommy Z will lend his magic touch on guitar to a few as well, and more."

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Who: The Steam Donkeys

When: Nov. 25

Where: Sportsmens Tavern

Buffalo's greatest alt-country band has been an ongoing concern, but the gigs are fewer and further between these days. If you are new to town, and you've never seen these guys, you owe it to yourself to be there, particularity if you're a fan of traditional country, Clarence White-era Byrds, Gram Parsons or early Wilco.

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Who: Irving Klaws, with Mallwalkers, Mockba Transit Authority, Orations, Be Locust or Alone

When: Nov. 23, 8 p.m.

Where: Mohawk Place (47 East Mohawk St.) 

Tickets: $5 at door

It just wouldn't feel like a holiday if there wasn't an Irving Klaws gig associated with it. This show has the added benefit of adding some serious bang for your buck, with a host of the area's finest indie-rock outfits banding together to make sure you don;t get home until the wee small hours on Thanksgiving morning.

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Who: Kurt & the Loders Tool Show, with guests Anger Is A Gift

When: Nov. 25, 8 p.m.

Where: Buffalo Iron Works (49 Illinois St.)

Tickets: $7/$10, Buffalo Iron Works

What better day than Black Friday to celebrate the music of America's most dauntingly compelling prog-metal band, Tool? Kurt & the Loders promise "an auditory and visual spectacle" at Iron Works on this night. The heaviness theme will be underscored by Buffalo Rage Against the Machine tribute Anger Is A Gift, and visual by area artist Craig Freudenthal.

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Who: Lazlo Hollyfeld & Friends play the Talking Heads - 2 sets

When: 10 p.m. Nov. 23

Where: McGarret's (946 Elmwood Ave.)

Tickets: Available at door of venue

If you happened to catch any of Lazlo Hollyfeld's recent full-concert celebrations of the music of Radiohead, you know these guys take these special "Plays the Music Of ..." shows extremely seriously. The Talking Heads' storied blend of new wave, Afro-Beat and pop textures is right up Lazlo's alley.

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Who: The Jumpers with guests Tiger Sex

When: 8 p.m. Dec. 10

Where: Mohawk Place (47 East Mohawk St.) 

Tickets: $5 at door

Lords of Buffalo's '80s rock scene, the Jumpers will gather to play their delirious brand of garage rock for the faithful, with the help of Cincinnati glam-punk buzz band Tiger Sex.

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Who: The 2nd Annual CPX-mas show, featuring The CPX, Last Conservative, Rooftops, Son of the Sun, Agent ME

When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 23

Where: Mohawk Place (47 East Mohawk St.)

Tickets: $8/$10, at Mohawk Place. (Proceeds benefit Planned Parenthood of WNY)

Here's a multi-act bill to stuff your stocking just prior to Christmas. Buffalo indie-rock in abundance.

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Who: The Kootsie Ball, featuring CO Jones, the Rockaz, Fredtown Stompers, the Informers, the Gordon Highlanders, Nerds Gone Wild

When: Dec. 10

Where: Hotel @ the Lafayette, 391 Washington St.

Tickets: $80 and can be purchased here

"I find that holiday shows are the most rewarding," says Schulz, who has assembled for the Kootsie Ball show a band that includes area virtuosos Rob Lynch, Ron LoCurto, Al Monti, Jim Bohm, the Foxy Diamondz Dancers and Ali Critelli, as well as his sister Gretchen Schulz and nephew Colin Brydalski. "This is a chance to see friends and family gettin' down all under one roof. How can you top that?"

You can't.

Email Jeff Miers at jmiers@buffnews.com

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