Tonawanda News

June 21, 2013

ADAMCZYK: The bus pulls up and the band limps out

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Back when compact disc recordings nudged vinyl LPs out of the racks at the record store (ask your grandmother what a record store was), a common complaint among relatively new bands was their competition in the stores with older ensembles. There was not enough room for plastic ware when the store was full of CD reissues of old material by Pink Floyd, the Electric Light Orchestra and the like.

So what does the earnest young rocker make of the schedules of local outdoor music series in Western New York? For a nominal charge, so nominal it is often free, we can see and hear bands colossally past their prime, with personnel lineups full of strangers, all over the area. Adam Ant, anyone? (Erie Canal harbor, July 22.) The Fixx? (Same place, July 25.) A certain percentage of Blue Oyster Cult? (Artpark, Aug. 6.)

Perhaps you prefer the aforementioned Pink Floyd, or maybe you have some fevered dream involving a reconstituted Beatles. They’re not coming, but at least one tribute band of each is. (“Tribute band” implies an ensemble performing the material, and exercising the stage nuance, of the group it is “covering,” or emulating, which reminds me of the Las Vegas billboard once seen on “The Simpsons” — “Tonight: Moody Blues cover band. Warm-up act, the Moody Blues.”) See “Highway to Hell,” an AC/DC tribute band, July 27 on North Tonawanda’s Webster Street.

Appreciation of one’s taste in rock music runs deep, especially when the music in question coincides with the era in life you consider the best you ever were. That thing you had for the band Kansas, for example, came when your hair was great, so was your car, and kids, divorce and sundry dead ends were only specks on the horizon. Ergo, when the band Kansas comes to town (July 12 in Lockport), it’s suddenly your idea of 1977. Carry on, my wayward son.

I don’t know. I get enough of these bands on the radio. Do the majority of local FM radio stations have “album-oriented oldies” formats these days? Is it the quality of the music that directs listeners there? (Classic rock is classic rock because it’s classic and it rocks.) Maybe it’s just inertia, the way a body on the couch tends to stay on the couch.

Granted, the astute listener searching for whatever improves upon the bands of his or her idealized past will hit a number of impasses. It explains, I suspect, the explosive growth of country music, beginning in the 1970s. Rock went punk and disco, and certain fans went where guitars and lyrics were still prominent parts of a song; a song had two verses, a chorus, a guitar solo and a fadeout; the words, when not about trucks, were about beer and relationships, grownup stuff, to match the weltanschauung of those who outgrew rock.

Those grizzled old bands, still on the road after all these years, now play fields and wharfs instead of stadiums. Some play the casino circuit, a godsend to those bowing under the pressures of lawyer’s fees, alimony and rehab. A letdown and a decline of sorts, I suppose, but they probably did not expect to live this long, anyway, and an aging musician will appreciate a loyal fan wherever he finds one, even if it’s on Webster Street or under the Skyway.

In the summer it gets hot out here. More to the point, in the winter it gets cold, which is why the summer schedule is crowded with attractions like bands that haven’t done anything relevant since the Nixon administration but nonetheless live on, in memory, on the radio, with royalty checks and in a relatively novel payday — placing a tune in a movie. A tune recorded two generations ago, obtaining a new life before a new audience in a film from now. Don’t tell me we geezers don’t understand recycling.

So the summer concert schedule is designed to scratch itches, refresh reminiscences and generally make the patron feel young again. He or she won’t hear any unfamiliar chords or actually learn anything, but when did you attend an outdoor rock concert to learn something?

It’s true the elderly do not regret what they did, they regret what they didn’t and if drinking through a live! onstage! performance by Lynyrd Skynyrd somehow slipped onto your bucket list, well ... Aug. 13, Artpark. 

It takes $300 to see the Rolling Stones this summer, almost as much to see half of The Who. It takes $10 or less to see all the bands mentioned here this summer, and as the Dick Clark Rock and Roll Caravans of the 1950s used to list, at the bottom of the marquees, “and many others.” I’ll see you there, limping myself young again. 

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.