Monday, August 01, 2011

The highlights and pitfalls of free concerts in WNY

Western New York might have some deficiencies in the job section, but we have plenty of free entertainment … and we do it right.

I've been to more free concerts in the past few years than I could possibly count.

I've been to Artpark, LaFayette Square, the Buffalo Marina, the Ulrich City Center in Lockport, and the Gateway Marina in Tonawanda. And that's just this year.

This week, I plan on taking my daughters to see Tokyo Police Club in Buffalo and the B-52s in Lockport.
A couple weeks ago, George Clinton played Thursday in the Square. While I was unable to attend that show, I did see George Clinton play the square two years ago. Phenomenal show. Great friends. Great music. Great time. Aside from copious amounts of wacky tobacky wafting through downtown Buffalo, the show went off without incident.

Sunday George Clinton played a show in Ohio. Thousands were in attendance as Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic headlined the eighth annual Unity in the Park festival. But instead of unity, they got mayhem. In fact, one person died and three others were injured after a man fired shots into the crowd.

Buffalo. We might be poor, but we're not stupid and crazy. Could be an ad campaign.

Hey, it's beats “Buffalo, for real,” or whatever the new slogan is.

A couple weeks ago, the Lockport Police Department announced it would be cracking down on concert nights. Not inside the venue, but outside, where the city's teenagers have been congregating, listening to music and being the general annoyance that teenagers can be.

As the father of a teenager, I am fully qualified to make the preceding remark.

Of course, they might be a nuisance, but at least they're not shooting anyone.

And they're not driving home from the concert drunk, unlike apparently everyone who went to see Lynyrd Skynryrd at Artpark last Wednesday. The police scanner sounded like law enforcement had its work cut out for them.

Actually, the biggest problem Western New York has had with its concerts is the politics. And I heard something Friday night that made me absolutely cringe.

Sitting at the back of the venue that is the Ulrich City Center, I heard from the stage, “Don't forget to support Mayor Mike Tucker. Without him, these concerts wouldn't exist.”

While I actually know that that statement is true, it sounded bad and just plain tacky coming from the stage.

These are supposed to be fun nights out for the family. Something to do for those of us whose weekly highlights are the free concerts from bands that (for the most part) haven't made a new album in over a decade.

People like me. People like you.

We just want to listen to music and maybe run into some old friends. Not listen to political propaganda. Political propaganda has no place on a Friday night.

Of course, it beats gunshots.