Thursday, November 24, 2011

OPINION: Music Venues - Buffalo, NY

I don't know about you, but the right venue makes all the difference in the world to me. It's never a determining factor in if I attend a show or not, but it can severely effect my personal enjoyment of a show. Seeing as location is one of the most important factors, here's a brief run-down of 4 venues located in Downtown, Buffalo.

Lightning Bolt playing Soundlab in 2007
Located in the basement of the historic Dun Building, which is Buffalo's oldest high-rise. Soundlab is pretty much the only place in the city to see experimental acts. It's a smaller venue with brick walls and a cramped stage. Even though the place is narrow, there's probably only 75 feet from the stage to the door. Sold out shows here are absolutely the most cramped in Buffalo, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I love this place more for it's attitude and bringing artists I care about to this city more than anything else, but it's still a great place to see a show. It's always a great atmosphere inside, and I've yet to run into a single asshole at shows here.

They do have the worst website of any venue in Buffalo, which is unfortunate. Finding out what bands are coming to Soundlab has always been a hassle. They simply do NOT update their event listings with any regularity.

Last Show Attended: Lightning Bolt - April 1st, 2011

Town Ballroom
Broken Social Scene playing Town Ballroom in 2010
As far as I know, Town Ballroom is one of the oldest music venues in the city (if not the oldest). It's been used exclusively for live performances dating all the way back to the 1930s. My favorite part of Town Ballroom has got to be the location: It's located right on Main street next to the Metro Rail. It's a cool atmosphere waiting for shows while trains are going by, and it's great to be able to just hop on the train when the show concludes. During shows it's mostly alright, but you feel so distant from the artists on stage because of the guardrail. A good frontman like Damian Abraham or Kevin Drew has realized this and performed parts of the set at the rail, the fucked up thing is that security appears to be pissed off at performers when this happens.

Town Ballroom, ultimately is a lifeless place during shows. It's too big for the majority of artists that play it and the security presence is too great. They're known to do things like ban crowd-surfing and evict people for shooting video. The security pat-down before entrance is a little excessive, but people have gotten stabbed in the venue in the past so it's understandable. For a venue with roughly 15-20 security members scanning the crowd the entire night, you would think it would be a safer place.

They book the best artists in Buffalo, but unfortunately they're the Sam Goody of music venues.

Last Show Attended: Fucked Up & Wavves - October 2nd, 2011

Tralf Music Hall
Stars playing Tralf Music Hall in 2007
The Tralf is only a few blocks from Town Ballroom, but it succeeds in being completely impossible to find. Located at the back of a plaza with a small and obscured sign, the only real way to find the Tralf is if someone shows you exactly where the place is and you remember somehow. It's further compounded by the fact that once you get into the building, the venue is located on the 2nd floor of a small pedestrian mall type place. I'm still not entirely sure what the purpose of that building is other than be a music venue, but I do know that taking an escalator to a show is more suited for a movie than a dirty rock concert. Inside you'll find that the Tralf's jazz club layout is still in tact, including people getting shitfaced and sitting at tables instead of standing near the stage. Everything about this place is just snobby and I scoff at shows here unless it's a band I absolutely love. Which is rare because...

In true fail fashion: whoever is booking their shows this year has decided it's a venue exclusively for dudes over 50 now. I haven't even been vaguely interested in a show at the Tralf in a very long time. Sadly, something like "Masters of Guitar Night" just isn't my thing.

Last Show Attended: The Black Angels & Black Mountain - October 30th, 2010

The Ninth Ward @ Babeville
Yuck playing The Ninth Ward @ Babeville in 2011
Babeville is located inside a historic 19th century church and is owned by music legend Ani DiFranco, who is a product of Buffalo. Located inside this beautiful venue are 2 very different music venues. Upstairs @ Babeville is Asbury Hall, and it's a huge ballroom setting that's perfect for sit down shows, comedy, weddings, and parties. I've never actually attended a show upstairs, but pictures of it I've seen make it seem to be one of the most beautiful spaces in the city.

Downstairs @ Babeville is the Ninth Ward, and bar-none it's the smallest venue I've ever been in. Featuring a 1 foot high stage that's no more than 10 feet wide and 5 feet deep and cramped walls. It looks more like a dungeon than a church basement, every time I turn around I expect to find a rotting corpse hanging from the wall. It's beyond intimate seeing a show here because you can't physically be more than a few feet from the band playing. I have nothing bad to say about Babeville other than the location, it's a secluded venue that's not near a lot on the edge of Downtown. They don't move historic churches to new places as far as I know.

Last Show Attended: Morning Teleportation w/ The Tins - April 10th, 2011


  1. You're lucky that you have 5 venues in your city worth writing about.

  2. is it that bad where you are? because 5 seems pretty bad. (protip: there's probably 2 or 3 more I'll attend a show at eventually too)

  3. There is basically one here that goods good national acts on a consistent basis and then a few other random ones that basically only have local shows. Then again, I am only an hour away from Toronto but it's a bitch to get there and back with no car coupled with work/school.

  4. Thats true, the right venue makes all the difference for a good show. It severely effects the success of any show. Thanks for the run-down with location in mind!