By: Tony Wilson
Wow, Buffalo, you’ve impressed me. Not only did you bring in three top-notch rock bands on the same night, but despite it being a weekday, and the acts not being what some would consider ‘mainstream’, at least two of these shows sold out. Someone will have to let me know how Tortoise ended up.
When my ticket to The Black Keys show fell through (turns out I don’t have any clout, but who is surprised?), I wasn’t overly disappointed, as I knew only a few blocks away from Town Ballroom there would be the equally talented and entertaining Shellac playing at Babeville’s Ninth Ward. What I didn’t know–and almost had the misfortune of finding out–is that Buffalo’s rock kids are up to the task of selling out multiple venues in one evening. I felt my heart sink as I waited carelessly by the front steps, when I overheard “I just got my ticket a few minutes ago, they said there are only eight left!”. Luckily, I rushed to the door to find that I was not too late and scored one of the very last tickets.
These concerns were validated by the impressive show. Opening for Shellac was rock cellist (yeah, apparently those exist) Helen Money. Money was money, as she was able to hush and sway the attentive and intimate crowd. Money combined equal parts classical nuanced string pieces with distorted feedback heavy rock elements. As one friend described it “minimalist art gargoyle core metal”. While the crowd was there for the edgy punch of Shellac, Money was able to temper those aggressions with the delicate serenades emanating from her cello.
After a short break, Shellac took the stage. The show was everything you would expect from the no nonsense trio. Sludgy epic rock, check. Punctuating tempo shifts, check. Frontman Steve Albinin’s awkwardly sensible and yet visceral vocal deliveries, check. The band deftly handled the quick stops, and blistering restarts like they could play their convoluted anthems in their sleep. Vocals were, as expected, eschewed for dark bass rhythms, while Todd Trainer’s drum pummels kept the group tight.
One of the things that helped make their set most memorable from the last time I had seen them was the amount of crowd banter the band engages in. And last night at the Ninth Ward there were times you may have gotten confused as to whether you were at a rock show or watching stand-up comedy. Albini dropped his most recent favorite one liner. Bassist Bob Weston fielded questions from the crowd during a band solicited Q&A session. And all members took part in ribbing an unwitting attendee.
But really the experience goes back to the music. Tracks were selected seemingly from what the band wanted to play, as Weston informed one crowd member, ‘…if you haven’t figured it out yet, we don’t do requests’. Thankfully, what the band wanted to play, the crowd wanted to hear as the usually docile hipster crowd was more actively embracing their dancing tendencies than at any recent show I can remember. Ok, it wasn’t exactly a 50’s sock hop, but there were beards a-swayin’ in there. Yes, beards. And, although my knowledge of their music spans only one LP a few random awesome tracks, and a previous concert, I certainly was engaged and enthralled by the set.
Overall it was a great night. Even if you don’t know much about Shellac, and maybe if you don’t even care for their particular brand of music, to see them live is sure to be an enjoyable experience. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend catching them. While this may have been their first time in Buffalo, a sellout show will hopefully compel them to visit again soon.
And while I only narrowly escaped having two concert plans dashed in one night, I sincerely hope this becomes a more frequent concern in my life…
Tony Wilson is a freelance music journalist. When asked
about his experience he says “I’m just a guy who likes music”. Follow
his musings at xsonicanarchyx.blogspot.com or email him at email@example.com.