Well, that’s the way it unfolded for me, anyway.
Another Molson Canal Concert has come and gone and once again the weather was great, the music was great and the crowd got bigger.
Emphasis on the crowd getting bigger.
Opening act, Common Kings played to an audience that rivaled the first weeks entire attendance. There was no mistaking that was in part due to their own fan base which was there in force. They brought their pop-rock sound fresh from a CD Release party the week before which followed their opening for the Gin Blossoms at Buffalo’s Thursday at The Square. It’s no wonder they have such a vocal local following.
The crowd got even bigger as people arrived and listened to Tres Bien. The Florida-based band features Lockport-native guitarist Michael Crowe. They mentioned several times that this was the biggest crowd they had ever played for and they sure didn’t disappoint their audience. Also a strong indie-pop-rock sound, they even use the term Beatle-esque in their bio, their set left me wanting to hear more. Anyone who feels the same has their chance, as they will be playing Finnans in Lockport Saturday.
Photos, are up. You can see them here.
The concert stage was bigger this week and they faced it square into the courtyard area, rather than at an angle from the corner as in the past. No doubt, REO Speedwagon had more space requirements than past shows. Even more trucks, tractor-trailers and larger single-units were parked all around the area making a wall around all sides. It was tough to find a spot outside the venue fence to set up a lawn chair.
Inside the concert, people continued to arrive, seemingly even as REO Speedwagon played. The size of the crowd was a record-breaker once again. REO had their own soundboard and light show, including a rented scissors lift with two spotlights on it. The extra-large sound tent and the spotlights blocked the view over a large part of the center-back that is popular due to it’s nearness to the concessions. To make matters, worse, there was a large screen hung on the back of the spot platform making it impossible to see through it at all.
I’ve complained before about the crowd and some of the problems caused by too many bad-mannered people in one place, but this week took it to a new level. If the promoters wanted to see how far they could push things before they explode, they got close tonight. They were very lucky that nothing happened, because the size of the crowd was well beyond any safe limit. I’ve been to every public concert venue in the area and I never was in one this bad. It was a much different experience than the low-key enjoyable shows at the beginning of this season.
People were becoming angry at the pushing and shoving, as people who were already packed got shoved around by people who arrived late and still felt they should be able to go right up to the stage. I stood to the side of the soundboard and got comfortable just after the opening acts were done. The people near me were pleasant and we were having a good time and making the best of the crowded space. But after a while, with people continuing to push by us – and I mean push by – they were getting angry. I have to admit, I wasn’t happy either.
I hope the promoters learn from this weeks’ show and make adjustments to next years’ shows. The City Center becomes a closed space with that many people packed into it and closing it in further with the trucks was inexcusable. Had anything happened to make the crowd surge, it would have been disastrous, and people would have been trampled.
I hope next year, they use some restraint in choosing the headline acts. REO Speedwagon was just too big of an act for the venue. Riders On The Storm probably was too. While I’m thankful to see these acts coming in, so many people wanting to see them made them less than enjoyable. There are plenty of lesser-known, but still quality acts out there. They’d also cost less, so maybe the smaller crowds would still pay the tab. Maybe they wouldn’t need to be so tight-a$$ed about someone setting a chair on the sidewalk and seeing in too.
I stayed through the first four or five REO songs, then tried to make my way out of the crowd. If I had wanted to exit through the gate at Walnut Street, or the entrance near Taboo, I couldn’t have made it. I worked my way back to the entrance by the port-a-johns at the alley off Pine Street. I only went through a couple areas where there were any open space at all. The crowd was solid everywhere else.
Fortunately, I had a plan B. I wanted to go see the Dave Viterna Group who were playing at Attitude’s at 10pm. So I got there an hour early. I wasn’t the only one. Almost everyone I talked to at Attitudes had been at the REO show and all commented on the crowded conditions. Soon enough, Attitudes was packed too. I guess there was no escaping it.
But it was worth it, to see this band. Dave Viterna is one of the best guitarists in the area and has been playing forever, yet I don’t think I had seen him in years. His CD 104 Blues, has been one of my favorite blues CDs. Of course, in a bar setting, they mostly played covers of blues and rock, Hendrix, Zeppelin, SRV, etc. But what covers. I’m pretty used to the boring, obligatory covers of these artists. Not this time. Between Dave’s stellar playing and vocals, and the excellent playing by his bass and second guitar player, they were equal to or better than the originals.
If that’s not enough, then there’s the drummer. A recent addition to this band has been Lockport’s Ron Rocco, the former drummer in the band Blacksheep, where he replaced Lou Gramm on drums when he moved to lead singer. Ron has also played in bands like Cheater, and his own 9 Lives, among the many he’s been part of. He’s an amazing drummer and showman, who also takes lead vocals for certain songs. You may have even heard of his daughter’s band, Jinxed. (She’s a drummer too.)
To be honest, I enjoyed myself much more at Attitudes than at the concert series. I even had a bar stool to sit on for as long as I wanted. While Attitudes was packed, it’s still a small and controlled area and was more enjoyable than standing on blacktop in a crowd of rude people. I met as many friends there as I do any week at the concerts. And the band, Dave Viterna Group, was head and shoulders better than what I heard from REO Speedwagon. Who knows, they probably have one or two REO tunes in their repertoire.
After I got home, I saw the news on TV and heard the the Buffalo Rocks The Harbor show with Great Big Sea, had a crowd of about 4,000. Sounds like that would have been a better choice than the REO show too. Oh well.