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Baldwin returns to Buffalo

Alec Baldwin performs a reading of "Art" in July 2006 at The Church on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo. Photo by Bob Mussell.

Road Less Traveled Productions  (RLTP) announces a special evening of theater when Alec Baldwin returns to Buffalo to read Clifford Odets'  play, "The Big Knife," in a benefit for the theater company. The event is scheduled to take place at 8 p.m. Jan. 27 in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts Mainstage Theatre on the North Campus in Amherst.

Tickets for "The Return of Alec Baldwin" go on sale at 10 a.m. Nov. 1 and go on sale through the box office, online at or charge by phone at (800) 745-3000 and are $60 and $75. VIP tickets, which include cocktails, dinner and priority seating, are $250.

For more information, call RLTP at 629-3069, the UB Center for the Arts at 645-2787 or visit online at

Blitzen Trapper at Mohawk Place

On downright cold Saturday night we checked out Blitzen Trapper and opener Belle Brigade for what appeared to be a nearly sold-out show at Mohawk Place.

The Portland-based headliner is currently on the road touring in support of "American Goldwing" -- its third release on Sub Pop Records and sixth overall. Led by Eric Earley, the band has taken a turn for the heavy recently. They've got what News Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers has called "a heavy gorgeous blend of eclectic alt-folk."

On Saturday, Blitzen Trapper was at its best during its story songs about youthful escapades and society's outcasts. "Black River Killer" from 2008's "Furr" could have been a Johnny Cash song in another era. The title track from that album was another highlight from its set.

Most pleasant of all Saturday night were songs from the self-titled debut album of the Belle Brigade (not to be confused with Scottish indie pop band Belle & Sebastian -- though the two bands have their similarities). This sextet from Southern California fronted by brother and sister Ethan and Barbara Gruska had a genuine energy and enthusiam level matched by few acts I've seen.

"One of the best bands I've ever seen live," remarked Buffalo-native musician Mike Gorman.

The band was a delightful surprise because a different band was listed as the opening act. The band made us into full converts during the jaunty piano of "I Didn't Mean It" (its contribution to the latest "Twilight" soundtrack). At times it used a four guitar attack (two acoustic, two electric) with bass and drums to carry the rhythm. Barbara Gruska even took a seat behind the drum kit for a few songs and proved herself to be an accomplished drummer.

That uninhibited energy, however, doesn't quite translate to the album, which is slightly overproduced. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just surprising to pop the CD in after hearing the band live and encounter slick L.A. vocals instead of the raw delivery we'd just heard. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Barbara Gruska said she nearly lost her voice that day.

The young band is undeniably fun, loud and a must-see live.

--Joseph Popiolkowski

Lily Tomlin to perform at UB

Lilly Tomlin speaks at the Pioneer Center for Performing Arts, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2006, in downtown Reno, Nev. AP Photo/Reno Gazette-Journal, Liz Margerum

Enjoy an evening of laughs and insight with comedian Lily Tomlin when she performs at 7:30 p.m. April 28 in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts Mainstage Theatre in Amherst.

Tickets are $47 (with proceeds to benefit Beechwood Continuing Care's Welcome Home Initiative) and go on sale at 10 a.m. Nov. 4 through the box office, online at or charge by phone at (800) 745-3000.

For more information, call 645-ARTS (2787) or visit

K. Silem Mohammad brings "Sonnagrams" to Rust Belt Books

K. Silem Mohammad, a leading  figure in the collagist and constraint-based poetics known as "Flarf," will read from his work tonight at 8 p.m. at Rust Belt Books, 202 Allen St. in Buffalo as sponsored by the University at Buffalo Poetics Program.

In less than a decade, "Flarf" has transformed itself from something of a 21st century post-"Language" poetry insurgency to an emergent, disruptive, techno-savvy poetics for the digital age that is about to recognized with the publication of its first full-length anthology edited by Mohammad.

Mohammad is the author of four collections of his own poetry: "Deer Head Nation" (Tougher Disguises, 2003), "A Thousand Devils"(Combo Books, 2004), "Breathalyzer" (Edge Books, 2008), and "The Front" (Roof Books, 2009).  He is Associate Professor of English and Writing at Southern Oregon University, where he is editor of a poetry magazine called "Abraham Lincoln."

Continue reading "K. Silem Mohammad brings "Sonnagrams" to Rust Belt Books" »

Miers on Music live chat at noon

Lotus plays tonight in the Town Ballroom

The jam band/improv rock bible Relix recently described the sound conjured by Lotus as “electronic flower-power,” and that’s telling, if a little bit too cute. The band has indeed traveled a remarkable trajectory over the past 10 years, morphing along the way from a likable jam-funk outfit into a thrilling electronic/funk/rock/ improv collective revered for its elegantly unfolding live shows.

The Philadelphia-based quartet has built up a considerable Western New York following through repeated bookings over the past several years, and when Lotus returns to the Town Ballroom at 8 p.m. Thursday, it will do so in fully flowered form. In fact, the new, self-titled studio record— album No.4 —represents an apotheosis for Lotus. It is in-deed a standard-setting recording in the jam-tronica genre, although if truth be told, at its best, Lotus tends to defy easy genre categorization.

At any rate, this new record — which you can stream for free through the band’s LotusVibes. com site —offers the most genuinely actualized electro-rock hybrid this side of Sound Tribe Sector Nine’s last album, “Ad Explorata.” Lotus has moved up a notch, from “very, very good” to “full-on awesome.”

Keys N Krates opens the show. Tickets are $20 advance (box office,

--Jeff Miers

Critics' Corner video chat with Simon, Miers

News Arts Editor Jeff Simon and Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers answered your questions about books, movies, TV and music directly into the camera.

Download audio 

We're back together again and be upon you soon.....

Jeff Miers and I are scheduled to do a Critic's Corner chat today at 1 p.m.  In just a few minutes, in other words. As always, all are welcome and we'll be ready to deal with any subject you bring up.
--Jeff Simon

Tonight: Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman: Project 360

Anderson and Wakeman approved photo

In the (increasingly rockin') Kleinhans Music Hall at 8 tonight, the voice and keyboard that helped make Yes progressive rock's finest band team up for an evening of personal favorites from the Yes catalog, as well as pieces from their new album, "The Living Tree." Tickets are $20 to $45 general, $60 VIP. --Jeff Miers

Tonight: Jorge Porcel at UBCFA

Jose Porcel

As popular styles of dance go, there may be no more elemental form than flamenco.

The purity of that Gypsy song and dance style — with its rhythmic stomps and claps, its piercing vocals and intricate guitar work across ancient melancholy chords — got its hooks into the Spaniard Jose Porcel at the impressionable age of 13. Thus captivated and inspired, Porcel launched on a lifelong mission to master the form and introduce it to new audiences.

He’ll do just that, in his third trip to Western New York in six years, at 7:30 p. m. Tuesday in the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts, North Campus, Amherst. Porcel and his company will present a new program called "GYPSY FIRE," which is meant to adhere to the pure tradition of Andalusian flamenco that stretches back centuries.

As the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca wrote, this style, known as the “cante jondo,” “approaches the rhythm of the birds and the natural music of the black poplar and the waves …It is also a rare example of primitive song, the oldest of all Europe, where the ruins of history, the lyrical fragment eaten by the sand, appear live like the first morning of its life.”

Tickets are $11.50 to $31.50. Call 645-2787 or visit

--Colin Dabkowski

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