Since 2008, attendance at shows in the local music scene has fluctuated quite a bit. Although the number of local bands has risen, the number of attendees has been lower than in the past. With a city that is so passionate about local music, what would cause this? Has the DIY (Do It Yourself) crowd taken over? Are people just not into local music as much as they were in the past? Or are people just coming up with excuses instead of supporting the local scene?
At age 12, vocalist of Post Prom, Aidan Licker became involved in the local scene without even realizing it. He played in a band with some school friends. After about a year, he got in contact with an important show promoter, Dennis Ferry, and started playing shows at a popular venue back in the day, Xtreme Wheels on Hertel Avenue.
Xtreme Wheels was a staple in the area. From 2008 until 2012, one could find a local show there almost every weekend. It was one of the only all-ages venues in the area, and when that closed, there wasn’t an all ages space for local music lovers to support the scene.
Before the social media explosion, MySpace was the way to find out about local concerts.
“Myspace was huge for the local music scene back in the day, and the early years of After Dark and Xtreme Wheels were a staple to creating what came after,” said Licker.
The early Buffalo music scene has profoundly influenced Licker. He loved seeing people from Buffalo play big shows and hearing everyone sing-a-long. Bands like Mandy K and My City, My Secret he considered his hometown heroes. Those are two of the bands that influenced him into becoming a musician.
Licker has seen attendance at local shows go up and down over the past ten years.
“2008-2015 was the golden age, I think. Xtreme Wheels to Mohawk Place to Waiting Room. That was my favorite era that kind of faded out when The Waiting Room closed. Since then, it dwindled for a while. I definitely played a lot of empty rooms. A big DIY scene was on the rise for a little bit it seemed, but that appears to have dwindled as well. Although recently, things do seem to be waking up again (hopefully),” said Licker.
Ben Lieber was the drummer of a popular Buffalo band, Head North. He has been playing in local bands since he was about 12 or 13. Along with Licker, he also doesn’t think it has changed in attendance but has noticed waves of groups of people that ebb and flow in the music scene.
In the current local scene, there’s a lot of history repeating itself.
“I see a lot of the same cycles happening, which frustrates me. One thing that always dug into me was how small of a scale a lot of bands in Buffalo thought in. And maybe it’s a reason why Head North never was the “biggest band in Buffalo,” but it was because we focused our efforts nationally, globally even, and Buffalo was a part of that focus, not the entire focus. I want younger artists in Buffalo to see the entire world and think of how they can make a dent, not just the tight-knit community at home,” he said.
When it comes to the DIY scene, Licker and Lieber had a few different views on it.
“A lot of people want to act like “DIY or die” when it comes to playing shows, but it’s the real venues that actually help artists the most. DIY (Do It Yourself, a show that would happen in a backyard or a rented out venue like Sugar City) is cool, don’t get me wrong. House shows and weird pop-up shows(in coffee shops for example) always result in cool, intimate experiences, but generally speaking, you get a better turnout at a real venue with a liquor license. I think it’s nice to have a balance of both,” said Licker.
“DIY got us all into it. You can’t knock it. When we didn’t know how to book actual shows we just made them happen in our parents’ basements or backyards. Making something out of nothing is what makes music so amazing. I think there is a select crowd that ONLY goes to DIY shows, which is whatever. I don’t understand knocking a band when they’re doing things well enough to be able to play real venues. As a musician, I will always prefer the real venue because I feel it does justice to how an artist wants to be heard, but there’s also a ton of merit to rocking out in a damp basement,” said Lieber
If people want to keep the scene alive, they’ve gotta get out to shows. It’s as simple as that. Support your friends and their art cause they work really hard on it, and all they want is to show it off to people they care about and who care about them.