The Tea Party in Lockport (2011)

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Given that we’re more than halfway through the fourth year of the Molson Canal Concert Series being held in the City of Lockport, I feel the need to address a particular issue that has been gnawing at my consciousness for quite some time.  I understand that the following rant may come off as insensitive to some but, in my mind, strollers have no place at a venue that consistently crams at least 10,000 people into unyielding, sweat-soaked quarters with little reprieve.  In an area where mobility is already at a premium, do we really need a baby carriage taking up whatever space is left?

Sure, parents love music and want to enjoy summer like everyone else, but how much is a barely-sprung-from-the-womb infant benefiting from a smoky environment where nothing is geared toward ensuring their safety?

Some crafty entrepreneur should be capitalizing on the apparent lack of babysitters in the Western New York area because, if Friday night meant anything, that’s one market where a killing can be made.

Among the sea of small children marinating in perspiration, a concert did take place last night, and a sensational one at that.  Legendary Canadian trio The Tea Party ended a six-year hiatus by hitting the stage with a deafening version of “Writing’s on the Wall” and segued into “The Bazaar,” a track from 1995’s “The Edges of Twilight,” which quickly put to rest any concerns about whether or not the band was still up to snuff.

Not only are they still relevant, but Jeff Martin, Stuart Chatwood and Jeff Burrows gave Lockport what I consider to be the finest evening of spine-tingling tunes the Ulrich City Courtyard has seen to date.  The amalgamation of stupefying guitar techniques, Middle Eastern mysticism and Martin’s go-for-broke yowling served as the catalyst for a transcendent voyage through the band’s catalog that each of the 17,000 souls in attendance hoped would never end.

Favorites such as “Psychopomp,” “The Messenger,” “Fire in the Head” and “Heaven Coming Down” were given new life as the band appeared grateful to be back in the limelight and Martin had the rasp by show’s end to prove it.  Martin took a page out of the Jimmy Page handbook by playing his Gibson Les Paul with a bow, which had plenty of old-school guitar fiends salivating at first sight, and even channeled the tortured spirit of Robert Johnson during a stunning take on “Zahira/The Halcyon Days.”

Peaches and Herb once sang “Reunited and it feels so good,” and what The Tea Party proved last night is that their reconciliation feels better than good.  It feels perfect.

As an opening act, Buffalo’s own Son of the Sun laid further claim to being the best local band with a furious set that featured covers of The Who and Harry Nilsson woven between some majestic originals.  I’m always amazed that a band with their sonic influences and penchant for Wall of Sound-esque nuance even exists in 2011 and I’m even more amazed that they happen to be from Buffalo.  Here’s hoping they end up getting the attention they deserve, because I can name plenty of mainstream personalities that don’t hold a creative candle to what Son of the Sun brings to the table.

At the risk of being called a prisoner of the moment, I won’t say that the bill of The Tea Party, Son of the Sun and The Etchings is indeed the best show of the year thus far, but I don’t think such a distinction is that far off either.

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