If Tuesday nights at Artpark is the place where baby boomers go to reminisce about the days of old, the vibe at Buffalo’s Canalside on Thursdays is more akin to an afterschool play date for infantile millennials who can’t stomach the fact that it’s been more than three hours since they last took a selfie with their friends at the bus stop.
I understand that summers in western New York are a time when suddenly everyone turns into a caterpillar waiting to emerge from their Polar Vortex-induced cocoon, but something needs to be done before our entire outdoor musical landscape is overtaken by The Bro Factor.
Wearing profane t-shirts, smoking marijuana, and obnoxiously engaging in an unhealthy amount of yelling and chest-bumping don’t make you cool kids. They make you walking clichés better suited for a backyard party than an event where the rest of us actually care about the music being played.
We’re only a month into the 2015 Canalside season and most reports say that such careless concert behavior is becoming commonplace, so I can only imagine what the rest of the series will bring.
My first Canalside excursion of the year included the Arkells, Robert DeLong, and Milo Greene serving up a sizzling array of music that no horde of lumbering Neanderthals was going to ruin. In many ways, the lineup was emblematic of the kind of city that Buffalo always knew it could be: trendy, diverse, and excited about what the future holds.
My, how the Arkells have grown! It seems like only yesterday that Hamilton’s favorite sons were turning heads with their assertive yet effervescent power-pop in an opening slot for The Tragically Hip at Canalside, and here they were headlining the same stage four years later.
Singer Max Kerman was a firecracker from the start, as the band tore through “Come to Light,” “Michigan Left,” and “Hey Kids!” with the urgency of a six-ton gasoline locomotive. He connected with the crowd so intimately that I thought every street sign within 100 yards of the stage would come crashing down due to the sheer weight of everyone trying to shove their way closer to him.
Every song was part of a well-executed campaign predicated on balancing the raw sensation of the band’s 2008 debut, “Jackson Square,” with the more polished nuances they summoned on 2014’s “High Noon,” which boasts the instant Arkells classics “Leather Jacket” and “11:11 to further exemplify how much they’ve sonically matured.
Kerman and fellow guitarist Mike DeAngelis form the holiest of musical unions, because they complement each other without disturbing the group dynamic for the sake of an individual showcase. Every solo is earned and every available space is occupied by a note or riff aimed at better serving the interests of the band as a whole.
The fact that drummer Tim Oxford donned a chicken wing hat for the encore should tell you everything that you need to know about the Arkells’ affinity for Buffalo, so I can’t wait to see what they bring next time around.
Robert DeLong staged an all-out dance party complete with neon warpaint before the Arkells ever came into view, which almost made me reconsider my position on the lasting power of electronic music. He was a one-man show able to command the audience with little effort and appears to have established quite a following among western New York millennials.
Los Angeles’s Milo Greene had nothing in common with DeLong, but managed to woo the crowd with shimmering guitars and pitch-perfect harmonizing, thus providing the perfect soundtrack to a splendid summer night in the Queen City.
If only we could do something about those bros…