JENNINGS: Shows a plenty this summer in Western New York

Thom Jennings/contributorCeline Dion performs Dec. 5 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo. As far as Western New York venues go, KeyBank Center shows are always an exciting experience. 

It’s a good year to be a concertgoer in Western New York — although it might be an expensive one. The biggest concert announcements over the past few weeks include shows from the Rolling Stones, Justin Bieber and Rage Against the Machine.

Artpark recently added Chicago to its summer lineup. The group will perform at the Mainstage Theater on Aug. 7. Darien Lake just added the Backstreet Boys to its already packed lineup. The boy band’s performance is slated for July 25.

Even the Rapids Theatre has added a big show, Dallas Green, who performs as City and Colour, sold out one show and added a second night at the venue. The dates are May 29 and 30. Seneca Niagara will host a big rock show with Sammy Hagar, Whitesnake and Night Ranger on July 25.

There are some great resources online for concert listings, so for this week’s column we will take a look at some of the major venues so you will know what to expect of you are going to see a band there for the first time.

New Era Field is hosting more concerts this year and is the largest venue in the area. That means parking will be a major challenge. Fans should not only plan to get to the shows very early, they should plan on staying in the parking lot after the show. One trick you may consider is parking a mile or two up the road and catching a rideshare a few blocks from the stadium. If you have a designated driver there are a few nightspots that you can hang out at afterward. The shows will all have big screens, so even if you aren’t in prime seats you will see and hear the show. There are plenty of bathrooms but expect long lines between acts and during drum solos. There are plenty of concession stands as well.

KeyBank Center shows are always an exciting experience. They have a great selection of food and drinks, and they get people through concessions and through the gates quickly. There are some obstructed views, but they always have the show on a big screen. People tend to stand in the lower level and on the floor. If you park too close to the venue you will be stuck there for awhile, but you can park further away and take the train for an easy in and out of the venue. There are tons of nightspots surrounding the venue if you want to hang out after the show.

Artpark shows are well managed, traffic is dependent on the attendance, and fans tend to leave before the encores to beat the rush at busy shows. Even the busiest shows don’t get too jammed up. They have great concessions and a wonderful staff. They have two venues, one is covered, the Mainstage Theatre, and one is mostly uncovered, the outdoor amphitheater. There are some wonderful locally owned restaurants and businesses surrounding the venue, so if you aren’t in a rush, it can make for a nice evening. Check Artpark’s website for rules regarding carry in chairs. It’s better to get there early to secure a good spot.

Seneca Niagara’s bigger shows are outdoors, so you should plan for the weather and some minor parking snafus. The indoor venues have hosted shows for years, and there is plenty of parking for those. The Events Center is a wide open and flat room, the Bear’s Den is arguably the best intimate venue in Western New York. If you want to hang out and eat or gamble, or even shop after the show, Seneca Niagara is the place to be.

The Rapids Theatre is a great place to see a show. Parking can be a challenge at sold out shows, and if you can land a spot on the balcony, it is the best way to see a show at The Rapids, because most of the spots on the lower level are for standing. It’s a tough spot to see a show if you are short.

No matter where you plan to attend a show, please remember to be nice to your neighbors and report bad behavior. It should be a rockin’ summer!


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

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