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Let's Crowdsource Actual Crowds for Buffalo's Well-Deserving Bands

(EDITOR'S NOTE — The following is an 1120 Press editorial. — Photos by Matt Smith)

We’ll say upfront, we’re not going to offer any solutions here. Who are we anyway to tell anyone what to do? We hold no moral authority. Besides, we don’t know the answers. We’re just music fans.

But because we're fans, we want the music scene here to thrive. And, thrive it should

because the talent in Buffalo is immense and the artists here deserve as much support as possible.

I started 1120 Press back in April 2023. I just returned to Buffalo 11 months earlier after being away for 33 years and I was curious about what was happening here musically. I was a scene kid in Buffalo back in the mid- and late-80s. Yes, that’s not a typo. I’m fucking old.

The first handful of shows I went to last year weren’t well attended. In fact, it was mostly bands playing for other bands. It was discouraging. At first glance, I wondered to myself: Is anything happening here at all?

Maybe it was just the time of year: Summer, people are out doing things, right? I don’t know. It bothered me, though. The bands I was seeing were way too good to be playing to nobody. It bothered me, too, because as someone who has played in bands and still does, I know how shitty it can feel playing to an empty room.

There were bright spots here and there, of course. There was Buffalo’s first-ever Ska Fest which sold out during pre-sale in July. There were a couple of hardcore fests that drew during the summer and early fall. And, of course, there’s always the annual Music Is Art festival.

It’s silly to think I actually wondered whether anything was happening here. There is a lot happening. And, there are more venues now than when I was a punk on the scene in the 80s. There are far more bands in far more genres. And, there is far more talent.

I’ve heard some suggest that Buffalo’s problem is there are too many venues and there are too many shows being held on the same night for a city this size. Hence, the shows are competing, watering down crowds. Possible. I dunno.

A musician friend recently threw out the idea of a Buffalo Punk Rock Collective in which bands all come together and work in unison to promote the scene. I have no idea what that would look like. It’s intriguing. But, again, I dunno.

Besides being curious about the scene, the other reason I started 1120 Press was, regardless of what was happening here, I was interested in trying to build a sense of community. Maybe that’s some lofty, sanctimonious bullshit. But, for me, community was always a cornerstone of the punk ethos on which I grew up.

Back in 1982 — (I think that was the year) — I saw this up-and-coming band play Shea’s. It cost me $12. The band was from Ireland — U2. It was a pivotal moment in my life. I remember leaving Shea’s that night feeling like my life had been changed. It was the moment I realized music has both a transformative power and an ability to create instant community. It was a feeling I would experience over and again after seeing bands like the Ramones, and the Replacements at the old Skyroom, and even smaller shows like The Forgotten Rebels, The Lumens, and The Fems at the Continental.

As I’ve gotten to know more people on the scene, I’ve had many hardcore veterans tell

me they are actually seeing somewhat of a revival in Buffalo hardcore. The shows are drawing better, they say. Young people are showing up, spurred by some of the younger bands on the scene such as Selfish Act, which, when not playing shows, are leading mosh pits and creating energy to support other artists at their gigs. “The mobile mosh unit,” as one well-known hardcore musician described them to 1120 Press recently.

Meanwhile, as we saw in the final weeks of 2023, there is a reason for optimism. Sold-out crowds jammed the hardcore show at Casa Di Francesca’s on Nov. 11, Amy Place on Nov. 17 for the Buffalo Hardcore Fall Brawl, Mohawk Place on Dec. 22 for the annual Joe Strummer Tribute, and the Rec Room on Dec. 30 for Integrity and the return of Despair and Union.

Though I couldn’t attend the show at Casa, I walked out of the other three feeling the same way I did after leaving Shea’s that night in 1982: Hopeful. Music has a transformative power and the ability to build community.

Some have noted that a few of those shows mentioned above succeeded because the bills included a mix of older and younger bands, therefore enabling the drawing, perhaps, from a wider fan base. Interesting. I dunno.

Maybe I’m just thinking out loud here. After all, promoters, venue people, and bands know more than I do. Maybe, in fact, there’s no point in what I’m writing at all other than this: Lately, we’ve been showing we’re capable of rising to the occasion. And, hopefully, as we head into a new year, we’ll keep the momentum going.

There are so many talented bands and artists here. They deserve our support.

— Matt Smith, 1120 Press



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