There are many interpretations to the word “home.” For most people born and bred in Buffalo, this city will always be home no matter where they lay their head, and many musicians have sought other scenes to realize their dreams, often finding that these pastures are as green as they need and returning to bolster our bountiful scene. Others have migrated here from other towns having found comfort in our community.
There is another segment of our community for which the comforts of home and hopes of living out dreams are fleeting. For teens and young adults who have found themselves homeless, Compass House has served to “bring hope home” – “a new direction for a better life,” so says their slogan. In their honor, The Good Neighborhood has herded a bevy of Buffalo musicians for seven December concerts at five different local venues that comprise the inaugural Home for the Holidays concert series.
Among these artists are “ex-pats” – Buffalo natives currently living elsewhere but home to visit family and friends; “re-pats” – those who have left but in time reclaimed their roots; “immigrants” – those who hail from other places but have settled here; and a Canadian band who is starting to feel at home in one of our venerable venues. And joining them at each venue is an upstart Buffalo-based apparel company named You and Who, which sells T-Shirts to people that want to buy them, and donates them to people that need them. For every shirt they sell, they donate another to organizations such as Compass House.
“The Home for the Holidays series captures the same spirit that inspired You and Who,” said founder and president Dan Gigante. “Compass House is one of our Day One partners, and we’ve made a commemorative series t-shirt that will be available at each show. For each shirt purchased, another will be donated to Compass House.”
The lineup is as follows –
Thursday, December 9th, 7pm, Sportsmens Tavern, 326 Amherst St., $15 (tix available@bar) – Lee Harvey Osmond (Hamilton, ON); Alison Pipitone (ex-LA) w/Graham Howes (ex-DC); Ron Lasalle (ex-Nashville/Chicago) w/Frank Grizanti (ex-LA)
A quintet led by Blackie & the Rodeo Kings’ Tom Wilson, Lee Harvey Osmond’s acid folk has smoked the Sportsmens twice this year, and the band returns once more to the room that’s become a second home before Tom tours with the upcoming Rodeo Kings album.
Opening are soul-on-sleeve songstress Alison Pipitone, who’s become a beacon of Buffalo music since returning from Los Angeles in the mid-90’s, and recent re-pat roots-rocker Ron LaSalle, who moved back to Niagara Falls this year after his mother discovered his longtime dream house was up for sale.
Friday, December 10th, 9pm, Pearl Street Brewery, 76 Pearl St., $4 – “Bros & Brews” w/Ryan & Todd Doyle (Brooklyn) of More Than Me and David & Brad Doyle (ex-LA)
Safe to say, the Doyles ruled this year. Ryan & Todd and their band More Than Me celebrated ten years together by winning Hard Rock Café’s international voting competition to earn a spot at the Hard Rock Calling Festival in London, where they opened the main stage for Paul McCartney, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Elvis Costello.
Keeping the band intact and momentum going, Ryan & Todd relocated to Brooklyn to perform duo shows around New York City, while shuffling home to Buffalo regularly – including helping their brothers David & Brad move back from Los Angeles. They’ll reunite for a family jam at Pearl Street – perhaps Pops Doyle will bring his accordion…
Saturday, December 11th, 9pm, Nietzsche’s, 248 Allen St., $5 – Son of the Sun (fronted by Zak Ward, ex-LA); Kingsley Flood (Boston, feat. a few ex-Buffalonians); Walri (Rochester)
Son of the Sun was spawned while frontman Zak Ward was still out west, where he began collaborating over the internet with former hometown bandmate Joseph Stocker, their shared “reflective, lush, ‘wall of sound’ musical tastes” guiding Zak back home to hit the ground running with a band that is poised to break out in 2011.
Armed with a few former Buffalonians who shipped up to Boston, Kingsley Flood stormed onto the scene this year with an edgy Americana that NPR proclaimed can “send you back to a bygone era and push you forward with rock ‘n’ roll urgency.” Rounding out the bill is the “love rock” from the eastern front of Western New York in Rochester’s Walri.
Friday, December 17th, 6pm, Merge, 439 Delaware Ave, FREE – Pamela Ryder (Austin)
An unknown legend in her time in Buffalo, Pamela promises to pack and please any venue she plays upon returning home. A unique and constantly evolving artist whose homecoming shows always include old tales and new tunes, her ability to command a crowd can convert a room from pin-drop captivation to knee-slap jubilation on a dime, and the audience eats it up every time.
With incredible vocal range and power and the confidence to test it, a penchant to push her instrumental approach (she’s bringing home her new ukulele), and songs served with a sharp wit and distinct style, Pamela is sure to deliver a show unlike any seen before – including her own.
Sunday, December 19th, 7:30pm, Tudor Lounge, 335 Franklin St., $3 – Jony James Band (Jony ex-Chicago) and Friends Jony James is Buffalo blues. Original yet humble, searing yet endearing, bruised but never broken, he has lived the life of a true bluesman ever since he was a child, a deep soul sitting in a simple man who has never done anything but make music – as he wrote it, “just another fool with a guitar.”
Jony was uprooted from Western New York as an infant, eventually landing in Chicago, where he hit the street young, choosing the blues over books and learning firsthand from some of the second city’s greats. He hit the road at 17 with J.B. Hutto, made a pilgrimage to England in search of Jimi Hendrix only to arrive to the news that he was dead – ain’t that the blues – toured across Canada while based in Nova Scotia, and brought it all back home by the mid-70’s.
His signature “Survival Blues” will be served on a celebratory night at the Tudor Lounge, where for more than a decade he’s held court every Thursday and Sunday when not on tour. Jony and his ace band will be joined by a host of guests who over the years have sought his six-string sermons as sustenance for the soul.
Wednesday, December 22nd, 7pm, Sportsmens Tavern, $5 – “Immigrant Song Swap” w/Dee Adams, Vic Lazar, Leroy Townes and Alan Whitney
For all the “brain drain” from folks leaving Buffalo for supposed greener pastures, the city boasts plenty of proud citizens who’ve arrived from other places and soon felt at home – many of them fellow native New Yorkers who find our big city/small town balance too comfortable to roam.
Dee Adams was born in the U.K., raised in Brockport, and hopped around the Northeast before resting her golden heart, pen and voice here, where she’s anchored the Sportsmens open mic for five years.
Vic Lazar was raised in Queens, moved to Steuben County as a teen where his family lost nearly everything in a house fire, and eventually found his niche here, where he can be seen shredding one night and balladeering the next with the same sense of humility.
Leroy Townes grew up a stone’s throw from the Pennsylvania line in the Genesee River valley town of Wellsville, a lush landscape that surely inspires his rural roots-rock tales infused with the excited energy of a city-settled, still-studying University at Buffalo alum.
Alan “ADub” Whitney, a Rochester native, cut his teeth in Nashville and L.A. before settling here few years back. With a big heart and bigger laugh, he writes warm, honest songs with an occasional flair for fiction and folly, and makes playing the guitar look easy – tastefully to a “T.”
Wednesday, December 29th, 6pm, Sportsmens Tavern, $10 – Home for the Holidays Finale Jam w/The Twang Gang and a herd of Buffalo roamers
After everyone’s returned all their unwanted gifts, we’ll return to the still-expanding Sportsmens to close out the series with a bang in the form of a rollicking revue backed by the newest in a stable of Sportsmens “house bands,” the Twang Gang.
Taking the stage before they had a name, the crowd-dubbed Twang Gang took form as an open jam with a pro band that boasts quick learners and lick traders in the form of silk-smooth guitarist Doug Yeomans (ex-Nashville, NYC, LA) and pedal steel stalwart Jim Whitford (ex-Key West), alongside a locked-in rhythm section of guitarist and Sportsmens owner Dwane Hall, bassist Jimmy Sweet, and drummer Randy Bolam. They’ll be joined by ringers on piano in Jim Ehinger (ex-everywhere), fiddle in Sick (Austin, ex-New Orleans), and mandolin in Greg Klyma (his van – the Rust Belt Vagabond), and fronted further by familiar faces in Jony James and Zak Ward, along with members of the old Argyle Street Band that took form in Phoenix and L.A. before repatriating to Buffalo in Ronnie Davis (piano), Doug Morgano (guitar), Steve Sadoff (bass), and Willie Schoellkopf (guitar). Who knows who’ll wind up onstage in this whopper of a closer to the inaugural Home for the Holidays concert series!