Willie & The Low

We went to see Willie Nile and The Lowest of the Low last night in a benefit show for the Food Bank of Buffalo at the Town Ballroom.

The Town is probably my favorite venue in Buffalo.  The site lines are perfect no matter where you stand.  There are a few seats but it’s mostly a standing venue.  Even though it gets a little hard to stand for five hours, I much prefer it to seated shows.  If you can’t move to the music, it’s not nearly as much fun.  In fact, I must have danced around quite a bit because my phone said that I met my daily step goal!  I’ve seen some killer shows at the  Town Ballroom, including The Tragically Hip, The Black Crows, Peter Wolf, and Kathleen Edwards.

A local band opened the show and they were pretty good. Willie Nile was who I was really itching to see though.  I’ve seen the Low many, many times and I love them to death.  Until now though, I’ve never been able to catch a Willie Nile show.  He’s a Buffalo native and plays here at least once a year but the stars never aligned until now.  If you’re a fan of 60’s garage rock, of 70’s power pop, of call and response soul music, and of bone crunching American rock and roll, all with smart lyrics and a smoking band behind him, do yourself a favor and go see Willie Nile.  I fear that this type of music is going the way of the dinosaur.  Maybe I’m wrong and there are tons of younger musicians bowing at the rock n roll altar.  I’m not optimistic about it though.

In addition to his own stellar songs, Willie and the band hit us with an amazing cover of Sweet Jane into Heroes!  It gave me goosebumps.  I spoke with him briefly after the show and he signed my CD(almost 50 and still a rock n roll fanboy).  No apologies.

As has been the case all over the world for the past few days, this concert was dedicated to Prince.  I wonder if he had any idea how loved and appreciated he was by so many people?  His heyday was during my high school years.  Although there is a great deal of phenomenal music that came out of the 80’s, commercial pop radio was a wasteland to me with few exceptions.  Prince was one of those exceptions.  His talent and soul always came through the car radio.  I was a rocker, into Zeppelin and The Police and The Grateful Dead.  I loathed Michael Jackson and Madonna and really, I still do.  Prince was a whole different animal.

Last night, Willie Nile broke into Let’s Go Crazy.  The Low did a a short snippet of 1999 in the middle of Eternal Fatalist, which was very cool.  Then at the end of the night, after they played their traditional, sing a long closer, Rosy & Grey, we thought the show was over but the band didn’t put down their instruments.  Instead, they broke into Purple Rain.  I thought the Missus was going to have a heart attack, she was so happy.

I’ve written before about The Lowest of the Low and their connection to and love affair with Buffalo(https://thoughtsfromtheblo.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/31/) but I have a few more thoughts on the topic.  The fact is that Ron and the band just get us.  They identify with our town and they know us so freaking well.  Here’s a quote from the Buffalo News:

“Every time [the Lowest of the Low] come to Buffalo, it’s always the same,” said Hawkins, reached by phone last week. “We get the same vibe and are welcomed with open arms. Everybody in the place are singing all the lyrics, and there’s just a real blood brother/blood sister relationship we have with Buffalo. It isn’t the same anywhere else, and it isn’t the same in any Canadian city, either.”

Between songs last night, Ron asked if The Rendezvous was still around and said that they used to go get po boys there and that it was one of their hangouts here in town.  He went on to say how important it is to have a place to hang out in that’s “your own”.  The Rendezvous is sadly no longer in business. It was on Niagara street(dicey neighborhood) and featured New Orleans food and the occasional blues band.  In another life, it was a mob bar.  You had to be buzzed in and the booths were very high so you never knew who was there.  The jukebox was appropriately stocked with cool tunes.    I loved that place.  And here comes Ron Hawkins saying he loved it too.  He used this as a preamble to his great song about his favorite Toronto bar, The Only.  It’s also my favorite song of theirs.  Here’s a version from 2011 from the same room.

One final thought.  It’s funny to me how my tastes can sometimes change.  I’ve listened to Shakespeare My Butt a thousand times in the last 25 years.  The one song that I used to skip over when I was younger was Subversives.  It hit me the wrong way at the time.  It’s now the song that I look forward to hearing the most.


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