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I Remember Buffalo: The Slow Reopening of Live Entertainment

Last night, after a few grueling days of diving in head first into a home renovation project, I decided to check out The Strictly Hip at The Tralf. Ordinarily, this would be a given on a Friday night, a rock and roll show in the heart of the city, at a legendary concert club. Sounds like fun. But we continue living in these not so ordinary times.

Just as a disclosure, the members of Strictly Hip and I have many years of history, but business often keeps us from attending each other’s events. With business being slowed to a crawl, I had yet another Friday night off (in this business, that’s not good). So I drive down, looking to park close to the venue.  I was also looking to get a feel of the vibrancy today, in a downtown whose vibe was at the cusp of the next level (more on that later).

I was excited to see the guys, like I’ve seen them countless times before.

If you’re not familiar with the band we have Jeremy Hoyle on vocals and guitar, Alan Sliwinski on bass, Bruce Wojick on guitar and pedal steel guitar, Frank Nicastro on guitar, and newest member Steve Padin on drums (more on Steve in an upcoming feature later this week).

The Tralf, a venue that has hosted so many great performances over the years, had the lights go back on last night, and what a treat it was. As for the capacity, let’s say it was an intimate crowd, but they were ready to be entertained once again. And that’s exactly what happened

The Strictly Hip ripped through 2 sets of classic Tragically Hip anthems, one crowd favorite after another. The staff hustled all evening, from security to wait staff, making sure all rules we being followed, and that patrons were attended to. The audience responded in kind.

As a part of the audience last evening, I couldn’t help but feel the timidness as everything kicked into gear.  Concerts are usually like this, but there is typically an energy hanging around just waiting to explode when the band starts. It was there, but it was pretty much sealed… for later use. This was the kind of show where the audience needs to be in front of the stage, with fists up, singing to every word, and dancing to every beat. I saw bits of it towards the end, but it was a slow build since everyone is more cautious. If there was a 3rd set, the dam might have broken. I couldn’t help but think of the film ‘Footloose.’

It sure did feel good to see some of Buffalo’s entertainment staples come back to life. Everyone in attendance felt it. Jeremy Hoyle told the audience, “I can’t tell you what it means to play music again, and to play music for all of you – tonight, we feel like ourselves a little bit.”

The band continues its residency at The Tralf every Friday during the month of August.

It is quite evident that venues and the live music scene are in survival mode. The entertainment industry has been one of the hardest hit by the economic shutdown, and it continues. I personally lost my original summer event schedule, then lost the replacement schedule, as current rules prevent live entertainment from being sustainable. This was The Tralf’s first show since the lockdown, The Strictly Hip’s first live performance back with an audience, and Steve Padin’s first live performance with the band. It was a great start, with even greater things to come.

We will eventually get back to normal… the music industry’s resilient and fortitude has a way of doing that.

Walking out after the show, I felt a bit of a kick in the gut seeing Main Street literally dark and quiet on a Friday night, after so many have worked so hard to bring vibrancy back to downtown. But then I thought of the words of the patron saint of the night’s show, Gordon Downie, “Nothing is dead down here, it’s just a little tired…” and I felt better as I drove off.

Written by Elias Benavides

Elias Benavides

A goofy kid from Buffalo's lower west side who loved to play the guitar and loved live music. Has moved on to sound engineering, stage lighting, anything live music. Now he's writing about musicians on BR too. Why am I talking in the third person?

View All Articles by Elias Benavides
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