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GURNETT: Canalside lineup is eclectic but uninspired

The wait is over. Canalside released their 2017 schedule yesterday evening. We were promised an eclectic mix for all generations by Canalside, and they delivered. While some of their picks seem less inspired than others, it’s a decent lineup, even if it feels a little devoid of the A-list talent we’ve seen in years previous. Here is a breakdown of what to expect from this year’s lineup:

Thursday, June 15th - Gary Clark, Jr.

Gary Clark, Jr. is a wonderfully talented guitarist, blending jazz, blues, gospel and soul. I wasn’t familiar with Clark, so I sat down and gave it a listen. It’s amazingly unremarkable. His  music is a blend of cool guitar riffs and generic, bland, adult-contemporary songwriting. I would be fine with Clark as an opener, but as a headlining artist, I’ll pass on this one. There is already a good blues scene in Buffalo and you can probably find something with a little more soul and grit locally on any day of the week. And, for me at least, isn’t soul and grit what the blues are all about?

Thursday, June 22nd - Sheila E.

Sheila E. returns to Canalside, having been on the 2014 lineup.The multi-faceted Ms. E, who plays an array of percussion instruments, along with guitar and bass, isn’t quite my style, but I like this pick as she has a rabid fan base, puts on an energetic live show and will no doubt draw a large crowd.

Friday, June 30th - The Buffalo Philharmonic and the Strictly Hip

I’m not the kind of guy who typically gets excited about cover bands, but the idea of hearing Gordon Downey and company’s beautiful music (whether played by them or the Strictly Hip) along with the BPO is really exciting. If you’re going to go to Canalside once this year, this is the show you want to go to.

Thursday, July 6th - The Tea Party

Hey, Buffalo! It’s the Tea Party… again. I’m sorry I can’t get excited about this. I’m sure some people will get angry with me saying this, but I never got the Tea Party. They always struck me as a poor man’s Our Lady Peace. And I feel like they play Buffalo every few weeks or so (they were at Town Ballroom last February). I’m sure plenty of people are going to enjoy this concert, but I’d prefer that Canalside bring in acts we can’t already see in Buffalo all the time. My reaction was neither positive or negative when seeing them on the lineup, just a lukewarm “meh.”

Thursday, July 13th - Ghostface Killah with Slick Rick

Anytime you can see one of the members of the Wu-Tang Clan, you should jump on the opportunity. Whether recording an album inspired by the Italian murder mystery/slasher genre known as giallo, creating an album “focused on the ladies” (2009’s Ghostdini the Wizards of Poetry) or getting back in touch with his gangsta rap roots, Ghostface is always reinventing himself with style, flourish and originality. Having legendary hip-hop pioneer Rick Slick on the bill only adds to the appeal. This is a must-see.

July 20th - Eric Paslay

Paslay is this year’s prerequisite country performance. I’ll be honest on this one: if there is one genre of music I know nothing about it, it’s modern country. To my ear, it’s basically corny pop music with the subjects slightly changed and the singer (and guitars) given that extra country-necessary twang. That said, Paslay seems like a popular, up-and-coming artist, so it seems like a solid pick, even though it’s something I personally have no interest in.

Thursday, July 27th - Theory of a Dead Man

Don’t hold it against these Vancouver-based artists that they were the first band signed by Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger’s record label. Their music is radio-friendly, hook-driven modern rock, and it’s some of the best the genre has to offer. I think this was a smart choice for Canalside and it’s going to be packed.

Thursday, August 3rd - Dark Star Orchestra

There is a very small list of things I could care less about than a Grateful Dead cover band. I’m sure the Dark Star Orchestra are great musicians, but you can find Grateful Dead cover bands all over Buffalo. Off the top of my head, we have Workingman’s Dead, Dead Alliance Buffalo, Sonic Garden and The Grateful Dans. If you’re going to bring an act into town for Canalside, give us something we can’t see anywhere else (like the BPO playing with Strictly Hip). Dead cover bands are a dime a dozen. Pass.

Thursday, August 10th - Robert Randolph and the Family Band

Robert Randolph is one of the world’s finest steel guitar players. He and his Family Band bring their combination of blues, roots rock and funk to all of their energetic live shows. While I complained about Gary Clark Jr. being rather bland, I think the opposite of Robert Randolph and the Family Band; their music is full of  grit and soul. I think they’ll put on a lively and entertaining set.  

Thursday, August 17th - USS

I had never heard of USS (Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker) before this year’s Canalside announcement, but when I checked them out, I was impressed with what I heard. The up-and-coming, versatile Canadian duo brilliantly combines electro-pop drum‘n’bass with hip-hop and guitar driven modern rock. Known for their high-energy live shows, this is a great pick. I think USS will make a lot of new fans this year at their Canalside performance.

Ryan Gurnett has a B.S. in Music Industry from The College of St Rose. He has worked as a studio engineer, live sound engineer, producer and sound editor and has been a musician for 25 years. He is currently the bassist for The Lady, or the Tiger?. Email him at never_really_been@hotmail.com or find him on Twitter @SirWilliamIdol.

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