Thursday, August 31, 2006

Music on the Avenue



Val and I spent time Saturday and Sunday at the annual Elmwood Festival of the Arts, which has fast become our favorite Western New York community arts festival along with Robby Takac’s Music Is Art. Both events concentrate on local arts and artists, music and community in general; for disclosure’s sake, Val has been an exhibiting artist at Music is Art for two of its annual festivals.
We concentrated on arts, food and talking to friends Saturday, but Sunday, after we enjoyed ourselves at the Buffalo Old Home Week brunch at the Hoyt Lake Casino, we headed back to the Elmwood fest because there were several musicians we wanted to hear, and we enjoyed all of them. At the Elmwood/Lafayette stage, we caught the last couple of songs of Michael Meldrum and the Buffalo Song Project Band; the highlight was watching Meldrum’s son, Zander, hawking his father’s new CD. When Val noted that we heard him playing and singing at his father’s CD release party, Zander got a serious look on his face and noted, “I play more than drums.”
The first act was guitarist and singer John Lombardo (original 10,000 Maniacs among other bands) and singer and violin player Mary Ramsey (David Kane’s Them Jazzbeards, later 10,000 Maniacs), better known as John and Mary, backed by the Valkyries, and all-star band of sorts with Pat Kane on guitar, Kent Weber on bass, Nelson Starr on keyboard and Rob Lynch on drums. The band sounded very sharp in its electric folk and roots rock sound, often upbeat and nicely layered, with some fine violin solos from Ramsey and a good amount of well-placed jangle to the tunes. After suggesting that the quiet atmosphere without vehicular traffic was nice and that one day a month without such traffic on Elmwood Avenue would be a good idea, Ramsey introduced what she called the “baby hit” 10,000 Maniacs had after she joined them before the band played its cover of Roxy Music’s “More Than This.”
Val and I then hiked it down to the smaller stage inside a tent in the Wilson Farms parking lot at Elmwood and Auburn (where I worked many years ago while attending Buffalo State College) to hear the duet of David Kane on keyboards and Mike Miskuly on (mostly treated) violin/fiddle; Kane and Miskuly are band mates in Them Jazzbeards. The sounds ranged from very ethereal and dream-like Brian Eno-influence to more classical passages, with healthy amounts of early electronic music hovering between experimental and new wave (Val compared it to Kane’s classic Decay of Western Civilization sound), while at other times displaying industrial punch and Mid Eastern sounds. At the end of a really good set, as Kane and Miskuly took their bows, Kane grinning before saying, “Thanks for listening; we’re John and Mary.”
We returned to the Elmwood/Lafayette stage for Terry Sullivan and Low Lamp Session, who played a strong set despite the cool weather turning hot and the sun finally making a pronounced appearance. The band concentrated on songs from Sullivan’s new “Theerthrmoovsaroundthesun” CD on Good Charamel Records, including great versions of “Satellite” and “Lorelei,” which display the gritty rock Sullivan is known for as well as some expansion to the pop and even slightly experimental areas. A punchy version of “Walk Alone” showed to anyone wondering that Sullivan can still deliver sweat-drenched, flaming bluesy rock, and he and Low Lamp Session performed a good cover of the Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset,” adding some electric muscle.
We then made our way home, having enjoyed yet another diverse Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts.

written by Kevin, photos by Val

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