Niagara Gazette

April 18, 2013

JENNINGS: Local concert scene is starting to heat up

By Thom Jennings
Night & Day

Night & Day — The summer concert season is almost upon us; Artpark’s first concert of the season featuring the Avett Brothers is on May 24, a little more than a month away. Inside tickets sold out a long time ago, but lawn seats for the event are still available.

Two shows at the Buffalo Outer Harbor have been announced, the Tragically Hip with special guests Grace Potter and the Nocturnals on July 19, and Flogging Molly with Lowest of the Low on August 2. At this point in her career, I cannot figure out why Grace Potter is opening up for anyone.

Over the next couple of weeks, the major concert series should be officially releasing their lineups, and we should be hearing about Seneca Niagara Casino’s Summer Rush season soon.

There are websites that try to leak official lineups in advance, but a lot can happen in the world of music, so until the contracts are signed and the shows are official, I won’t try and speculate too much who will be coming to the area.

If you are willing to travel to Rochester for free music shows, the Lilac Festival (which runs from May 10 through 19) features Eddie Money, the English Beat, Marshall Tucker Band, The Smithereens and Rusted Root.

In the meantime, two classic rock bands visit the region this weekend, Ambrosia and Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes both appear at Seneca Niagara’s intimate venue, The Bear’s Den this weekend.

Ambrosia gets the weekend started with a Friday evening performance. The band still features three of their four founding members, guitarist/vocalist Joe Puerta, drummer Burleigh Drummond, and keyboardist Christopher North. The lineup is rounded out with guitarist Doug Jackson and guitarist Rick Cowling.

The band had a relatively short shelf life; they recorded five studio albums from 1975-1982 and during the same period they had five Top 40 singles, including “How Much I Feel” and “Biggest Part of Me,” both of which cracked the Top 10. During the era, they toured with the Doobie Brothers and Fleetwood Mac, and garnered three Grammy Nominations.

In recent years, Ambrosia has appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and toured with other artist from the 1970’s including Gary Wright and Stephen Bishop.

Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes share a history with another legendary New Jersey band, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. The two groups shared members in their formative years, most notably guitarist Miami Steve Van Zandt, who recently left Springsteen’s band for the second time.

Like Springsteen, Southside Johnny (born John Lyon) has a sound heavily influenced by the Memphis based Stax record label artists like Booker T & the M.G’s and Otis Redding. Unfortunately, the similarities between Springsteen and Southside Johnny wound up being somewhat of a curse, because Southside Johnny was never able to get the type of national recognition he deserved, although he is still a legendary figure in his native New Jersey and cited as a major influence by Jon Bon Jovi.

Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night & Day.