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Arts + Entertainment

Breaking down Thursday at the Harbor’s 2012 lineup

blog by Ben Kirst  • 

First of all, one of the big pieces of news is that it was “officially” announced that all of the Thursday Buffalo Place concerts will be at the waterfront, and the new name of the series is officially Thursday at the Harbor. Times change! C’est la vie. We will all miss walking through the ankle-deep slurry of beer and mud on Broadway and Clinton Street, shoving our way through packs of swarming teenagers, battling angry fundamentalists and avoiding accidental dismemberment from Metro Rail Cars, but the waterfront is pretty nice, too.

Here is what we are working with:


1.)  June 14, Fitz and The Tantrums: Just an awesome rock ‘n’ soul band. These guys put on a phenomenal show opening for Grace Potter last summer at Lafayette Square. Michael Fitzpatrick is a consummate showman, and his California-based backing band is a sharp, tight outfit. These guys are good in concert and are kind of a 21st century, white-bread version of the old soul acts from the 1960s. Keep an ear out for “MoneyGrabber” and “Breaking the Chains of Love,” two crowd-pleasers. Better tighten up your game, lovebirds, because this is the kind of show where you can seal the deal with some smooth dancing or relegate yourself to an uncomfortable life in the friend zone – the sort-of friend zone – with some poorly-executed dance moves.

2.)  June 28, Fountains of Wayne: If you are in your mid-30s, you can appreciate this Boston-based band on a number of levels. If you were a bit of a college hipster in the late-‘90s, you may remember when Fountains of Wayne were a fairly obscure indie band that received a bunch of buzz because bassist Adam Schlesinger wrote some of the Academy Award-nominated songs in That Thing You Do! and because they toured with Smashing Pumpkins and The Lemonheads. If you were more of a radio listener, you’ll remember these guys for their big 2003 hit, “Stacy’s Mom.” Either way, this should be a pretty relaxed show with fairly recognizable music that won’t get in the way of a good conversation.

3.)  July 19, Young The Giant: Most people are going to recognize Young the Giant’s big hits, “Cough Syrup” and “My Body,” since they are only a couple years old and still get decent airplay on adult alternative radio. “My Body” sounds a little like The Killers – in fact, I thought it was The Killers until about 10 minutes ago. Thanks, Spotify! From a dating perspective, this is almost an ideal band – just loud enough to ensure that your bona fides as a real rock fan aren’t questioned, but not so wild or experimental that you and your date are going to need to arch a curious eyebrow during an extensive feedback solo. Good pop candy for a hot summer night.


1.)  July 5, Arrested Development: This band was a huge deal 20 years ago. Their album 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of… was culturally important in 1992. Arrested Development was Rolling Stone’s band of the year and won assorted Grammy Awards in 1992 and ‘93 – a time when their pop contemporaries included the likes of Sir Mix-a-Lot. Arrested Development is like a lesson in the history of both pop music and America: sonically, the band combines hip-hop, folk, blues and jazz into an intricate mix, while lyrically, lead vocalist Speech addresses social issues like racism, classism and the unnerving sense of displacement in modern society. Your kids might learn something!

2.)  June 21, Built to Spill and Matthew Sweet: You have to play this one kind of strategically, parents. You come to the show, you indulge your kids in candy and pizza and soda and get them all full of that freakish kid energy that makes them want to bounce off the wall like little maniacs. You use this to your advantage during the bouncing guitar-pop set of Matthew Sweet, who has some legitimately danceable songs like “Sick of Myself” and “Girlfriend” – songs that translate well to little-kid dancing with hands over the head, arrhythmic hip-swaying, jumping from foot to foot, and so on. Once the kids are stuffed and exhausted, lay them out on a picnic blanket to sleep and enjoy the intricate, introspective sounds of Idaho’s Built To Spill. BTS has acres of indie credibility, so you’ll be able to feel kind of superior discussing the show at work. If Doug Martsch and co. play some of their old-school classics like “Randy Described Eternity,” “Cortez the Killer” or “”Big Dipper,” squeeze your mate’s hand hard, use your sleeping kid as a pillow, stare deep into the stars and just enjoy how amazing it is to be alive.

3.)  Aug. 9, Mighty Mighty Bosstones: Be aware that the percentage of very drunk people will be higher at this show. Hell, you know – if you are in your mid-30s to early-40s, you remember The Bosstones in their pre-mainstream heyday. Twenty years ago, these Boston boys were a hardcore combo of punk and ska, tearing up clubs and inspiring terrible dancing in suburbs across the country. Today, they’re still pretty rowdy – but now, it’s almost like a cartoon. Your kids will like tough little vocalist Dickey Barrett, the chunky onstage dancer, the loud horn section, the groovy rhythm section. Just keep them away from the beer tent. Oh, and Ron Hawkins from Lowest of the Low is opening, which is always a plus.


1.)  Aug. 23, Matt Nathanson: This guy is as soft as a truckload of marshmallows delivered to a pillow factory. Nathanson is a good showman – he’s a funny storyteller and is fast with a quip – but this San Francisco-based musician’s popular songs (“Run,” “Come On Get Higher,” “Modern Love,” “Wedding Dress”) are about as smooth and innocuous as a summer breeze.

ROCK OUT (kind of a lot of these)

1.)  June 7, The Cult + Against Me!: If you’ve listened to 97 Rock or 103.3 The Edge in the past, oh, 30 years, you’re familiar with The Cult. They’re a good band – vocalist Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy are maybe one of the most underrated combos in rock music over the past three (or four) decades. “She Sells Sanctuary,” “Fire Woman,” and “Love Removal Machine” are legitimately great songs that mixed the new wave ethos of the early 1980s with an earnest rock sound that managed to appeal to dudes who, well, listen to 97 Rock. Culturally relevant bonus: Against Me! lead singer Tom Gabel recently revealed he’s transsexual.

2.)  July 12, Seether: These Ozzfest rockers from South Africa are rock radio favorites. I don’t really know anything about them. I sort of recognize the song “Remedy” from the radio. If you crank The Edge and like pounding cold beers in the hot sun, I am sure you will find this show pretty enjoyable.

3.)  July 26, Arkells and Gomez: The Arkells are from Hamilton, Ontario and are pretty good. Actually, they’re very good. Outstanding, even. Arkells are currently touring in support of their new album, Michigan Left, and they are picking up the standard of other Canadian bands that have become huge Buffalo favorites like The Tragically Hip, Lowest of the Low, Sam Roberts, Our Lady Peace and so many more – a melodic, hard-edged guitar sound combined with breezy but surprisingly intellectual lyricism that never quite takes itself too seriously. Yikes, these guys could be big. Plus they play Buffalo about every three months, so get in on these guys early – they kind of belong to us.

4.)  Aug. 2, The Jesus and Mary Chain: Maybe the most peculiar selection of the summer. There is no doubt that Jesus and Mary Chain – Scotsman William and Jim Reid – were, and remain, massive influences on indie rock. But despite their status as critical darlings since the mid-1980s, this has never been an especially accessible band. Jesus and Mary Chain was a group that relied on heavy doses of buzzsaw guitar, breathy vocals and treble-heavy production to create a unique sound that served as the precursor to groups like My Bloody Valentine, The Stone Roses, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Dandy Warhols and other legendary shoegaze in Britain and the U.S., but they were never particularly famous except as a cult group. Take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy one of the more esoteric chapters of rock history on our own beautiful waterfront.

5.)  Aug. 16, Salt-n-Pepa
: Laugh if you want, but this is going to be a massive party. Wait and see! This show will be packed, drawing the most culturally diverse crowd of the season as well as fans of all ages who just want to dance their asses off to “Push It,” “Whatta Man,” “None of Your Business,” “Let’s Talk About Sex,” “Shoop” and other familiar hits. Hell, I am just glad to see that Cheryl James, Sandra Denton and Spinderella are still hanging in there after all of these years.


These shows aren’t free ($10 presale, $20 at the door) but are still a pretty good deal.

June 29: Sam Roberts Band, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals: A steal at $10 a ticket. One of the best Canadian acts out there – but I don’t need to tell you that, Buffalo – and the guitar queen of rock ‘n’ soul. This show is going to be a gigantic party. A can’t-miss.

June 30: moe. and Conspirator: Local jam-band-made-good moe. returns for their annual summer show in Buffalo. If you are into extended improvisational jams and live a lifestyle that allows you to take mushrooms on a weeknight, by all means, enjoy.

July 15: Feist: another excellent show. This is a great concert to kick back on a blanket and absorb what this Canadian folk chanteuse has to offer.

Aug. 31: The J. Geils Band: Heh, heh. If you even know who this band is, you’re dating yourself. AND I DO. Their big hits were “Love Stinks,” “Freeze Frame” and “Centerfold.” Vocalist Peter Wolf is considered kind of a legend. Hey, if you’re into these guys, I’m not going to judge.

Sept. 1: LL Cool J: I really have nothing to add.

(Header photo courtesy of Erica Morano from the Sloan concert at Thursday at the Harbor last summer—full gallery here).

TAGGED: buffalo place, buffalo place rocks the harbor, fitz and the tantrums, matt nathanson, the arkells, thursday at the harbor, thursday at the square, young the giant

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