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The evolution of Mick Hayes is on display this Friday night

Mick Hayes: more than a guitarist.

blog by Ben Kirst  • 

You may remember Buffalo bluesman Mick Hayes from high-profile gigs opening for established national acts like Dickie Betts, Cheap Trick and Peter Frampton. You may have caught him at his guitar-bending, chord-twisting finest in clubs throughout Western New York with his own Mick Hayes Band over the past decade.

If so, you probably have a pretty clear picture of Mick Hayes in your head—the gritty, hard-charging everyman who looked like he could (and probably would) be just as comfortable on a Southtowns bar stool as he was leading a band through a fiery series of blues-rock standards and original compositions. You know, this guy:

Times change. People change. Mick Hayes has certainly been through his share of changes—from Buffalo ex-pat living in Atlanta and touring the southwest, to American Idol contestant (he made it through three rounds!), to wandering bluesman who spent time in Hollywood, Nashville and Orlando before returning to Buffalo—and now he finds himself transforming once again.

The popular blues guitarist from East Aurora who built his local reputation as a soul-soaked show-stealer is discovering that musical evolution can be just as exciting—or, well, even more exciting—as ripping through the same old applause-guaranteed tunes. When Hayes celebrates the release of his new album, Cafe Artistry, at 8 p.m. on Friday at the Hotel @ The Lafayette (391 Washington St., Buffalo), he’s going to show a deeper side of his musical talent.

Tickets to the show are $30 and are currently available online. Each ticket holder will receive a free copy of Cafe Artistry at the performance. Hayes will also be joined by Buffalo jazz master Bobby Militello.

Cafe Artistry marks growth for Hayes, blossoming from his image as the slick-fretted guitar hero. Hayes’ new work allows him to explore his bevy of musical talents—singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist—and he freely admits that some who have lifted a glass in appreciation to the blues rocker with a closet full of Buffalo Music Awards may face a bit of a learning curve.

Yes, he’s still going to show the blues talents that earned him a loyal local fan base, but there’s going to be a fuller, deeper repertoire.

“It was important to me to develop my sound, my writing, instead of leaning on Marvin Gaye’s sound, or Stevie Ray (Vaughn)‘s sound,” Hayes said. “The stuff I’m doing now seems to grow on people more, but it has divided some of the barroom rockers…the people who we do reach are there to hear the music and the message behind it all.”

Recorded live, storyteller-style—“you could hear a pin drop,” Hayes remarked, noting the attentiveness of his rapt audience during the performance—Cafe Artistry offers a soulful, emotionally honest look at an artist who has seen his life change dramatically through marriage, sobriety and an awakened sense of spirituality.

“Two years and six months ago, my father-in-law—well, he would eventually be my father-in-law—saw how I was living,” Hayes said. “He took me aside and said, ‘Mick, why do you do this to yourself?’ And that was the hardest question I was ever asked that I didn’t have an answer for. The more I rolled it over in my mind, and the closer I got to him, the more I asked myself that same question. And my whole life ended up turning for the better. I feel like I’ve completely changed, all for the better.”

Hayes’ mission as an entertainer—as opposed to his mission as the musical director for his church, or his mission to save what he calls the “lost generation” of youngsters who are growing up without instruments in their hands—is to provide the music, the venue and the experience to an audience of fans who are not as enamored with the bar scene as they once were. These are the adults throughout Western New York who love music, who love a night out on the town, but don’t want to spend hours waiting to catch a 12:30 a.m. set—not when the meter is running with the babysitter, there are three morning meetings at work and a list filled with errands to run late into the next day.

The show at The Lafayette—which includes packages that offer dinner, cocktails, premium seating and even overnight stays—reflects Hayes’ desire to be both a shepherd and a showman to his audience.

“We had to create a venue,” Hayes said. “There are very few venues in this city that can host dinner and entertainment. I feel like we’ve really gone out on a limb with this—but I think that people are craving an event. They want it all under one roof. Heck, if Wal-Mart can do it, why can’t we? We’re going after the bar people who go to church, and the church people who go to bars. I just want to see them together, enjoying it.”

Which is not to say, of course, that his idea is without a downside.

“The people at Pearl Street (owners of the Pan-American Bar and Grill at the Hotel @ The Lafayette) have been great about it. The people at The Lafayette have been great about it,” Hayes said. “They understand the vision. And when I come out on Friday, if it’s packed, we’ve proven our point—that this is what the people around here want. And if it’s not packed, then we’ve proven another point—that we were wrong. But that’s what it takes. You gotta run that risk.”

Will the evolution of Mick Hayes be a success? Time will tell.

“I’m going to give you all the facets of me—not just what you may want or expect,” Hayes concluded. “You’ll see me singing. You’ll see me playing piano. It’s a leap of faith, and we didn’t necessarily do it gently.”

Photo from Facebook.

TAGGED: blues, downtown buffalo, hotel lafayette, lets go drinkin, mick hayes, mick hayes band

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