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Santigold brings a fresh sound to the Town Ballroom

Music Santigold
Santigold performs today (May 16) in the Town Ballroom.       Associated Press

Talk about spending time in the belly of the beast. Santigold, the renowned singer/rapper and songwriter, spent a few terms as an A&R person for Epic Records, before emerging as a composer for the likes of Lily Allen, Christina Aguilera and Ashlee Simpson, among many others. Such an insider’s view of the modern pop business gives Santigold credibility when she criticizes that very industry, as she did recently in an interview with the Washington Post, to whom she decried the modern state of a big business where pop stars "hire one of three producers, one of a couple songwriters, and ... pretty much get the exact same song every time." Nice! 

You won’t find the same old tired song and dance on Santigold’s crisp, vibrant new album, "Master of My Make-Believe." Nor will you be likely to leave unimpressed after she makes her Buffalo debut with a performance at 8 p.m. today (May 16) in the Town Ballroom (681 Main St.) with guests Rye Rye. Tickets are $25 (box office,

-- Jeff Miers

Arts advocates speak out for city funding

Earlier this evening, members of Buffalo's cultural community dominated an hour-long public hearing of Buffalo Common Council. The cultural funding advocates, responding to a city budget that includes no funding for the arts, echoed and in many cases built upon the eloquent arguments of last year's Erie County cultural funding crisis.

Together, they made a strong collective case for the restoration of a small and stable level of funding to benefit the myriad cultural organizations within its limits. Buffalo cut the majority of arts funding out of its budget during the economic downturn that followed the Sept. 11 attacks and has not restored it since --though, after much haggling, it did provide emergency funding to arts groups during last year's county funding crisis.

Some highlights from the evening's remarks follow. (Please excuse the shaky camera work and note that most speakers or their organizations are members of the Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance.)

Tod Kniazuk, executive director of the Arts Services Initiative:

Fortunato Pezzimenti, producing director of the Irish Classical Theatre Company:


Meg Quinn, artistic director of Theatre of Youth


Laurie Dean Torrell, executive director of Just Buffalo Literary Center:


Randall Kramer, executive and artistic director of MusicalFare Theatre:


Edmund Cardoni, executive driector of Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center:


Jamie Moses, publisher of Artvoice:


Molly Quckenbush, executive director of the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site:


James Lanker, president of the Give for Greatness board and University at Buffalo professor:

--Colin Dabkowski

"Buffalo Guitar Heroes" perform in the Tralf

Dave Constantino
Dave Constantino is one of the "Guitar Heroes" performing tonight (May 12) in the Tralf.

The Tralf Music Hall (622 Main St.) reprises its successful "Buffalo Guitar Heroes" format today (May 12)to celebrate the formidable six-string skills of four players covering a broad cross-section of the abundant Western New York music scene.

Dave Constantino, best known for his work as a founding member of seminal Buffalo heavy rock band Talas, has had continued significance as a solo artist steeped in the blues-based rock that fans of ’70s stalwarts like Robin Trower and Frank Marino might find warmly familiar.

Mick Hayes has solidified his position as a leading light in our contemporary blues-rock/R&B scene. A connoisseur of tone and taste, Hayes can play languid and eloquent lines, or short, sharp and funky bursts with equal grace. 

Michael DiSanto gets this writer’s nod for being the funkiest six-stringer in the Buffalo area. From his early days as guitarist with soul-funk-rock outfit Bag, through his present status as a first-call R&B, funk, soul and various permutations thereof player, DiSanto has proven himself to be a paragon of subtlety and taste. The man never wastes a note. 

Frank NiCastro, like his colleagues, is capable of making valid musical statements in a wide array of idioms. As a member of Strictly Hip and the Rev, NiCastro earned his alt-rock credentials. He’s also schooled and skilled in jazz and classical.

The four "guitar gods" will descend from Mount Olympus to treat mere mortals to an evening of glorious guitar playing at 8 p.m. today (May 12). Tickets are $11 day of show (box office,

-- Jeff Miers

Big Leg Emma concert celebrates new disc

Big Leg Emma
Big Leg Emma performs tonight (May 12) in the Essex Arts Center.

For 10 years, Big Leg Emma has been fine-tuning a daring-but-danceable blend of folk, bluegrass and rock, in the process becoming a much-loved and oft-requested presence on the contemporary jam band scene.

Touring has always been Big Leg Emma’s thing, and most of its reputation has been constructed on the cornerstone of its renowned live performances to the point that studio work took a back seat. The just-released "Revival" album is only the band’s second full-length studio effort. Big Leg Emma will celebrate the release of "Revival" with a club full of its longtime Buffalo friends at 7:30 p.m. today (May 12) in the Essex Arts Center (30 Essex St.). A Potters Field will open the show. Tickets are $18 day of show (buy them online through, at Terrapin Station, 1172 Hertel Ave., or at the door). "Revival" can be sampled through Big Leg Emma’s site,

-- Jeff Miers

Darien Lake Theme Park Resort opening for the season

Darien lake FIN KIRKHAM darien lake 11
Darien Lake Theme Park Resort features rides, entertainment and games for the whole family.     Robert Kirkham/News file photo

This crazy weather has been wreaking havoc with us -- cold and rainy, hot and humid, what season is it? Well, forget the weather. To many, the opening of the Darien Lake Theme Park and Resort spells summer like nothing else.

The park officially opens from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. today (May 12) and Sunday (May 13) with limited hours continuing through May (the full daily schedule is available online). New this year are seven live shows, including magic, comedy, performing dogs and a hypnotist, plus the "Rowdy’s Ridge" family area where kids can enjoy such attractions as Raccoon Rally (bumper cars), Hoot N Holler (miniature roller coaster), Heave Ho! (pull yourself up to the top of a three-story tower) and Hornet’s Nest (fly on a tall swing).

Daily tickets are $44.99 at the gate or $39.99 online and at Wegmans. A season pass is $69.99 or $59.99 each with the purchase of four or more. For more info, check out

-- Toni Ruberto

Tom Dudzick's 'Miracle on South Division Street' opens off-Broadway


On Sunday, the Penguin Rep Theatre will open the off-Broadway premiere of Tom Dudzick's comedy "Miracle on South Division Street." The show, which debuted in a Penguin Rep production in 2009, is about a Buffalo family dealing with changing times.

Here's how a release from the company puts it: "The Nowaks of Buffalo always thought they were special, ever since Clara’s father, an immigrant from war-torn Poland, had a miraculous vision in his barbershop. But 65 years later, Clara’s youngest daughter has stopped going to mass, her son is dating a Jewish girl, and a deathbed confession causes the family legend to unravel with unexpectedly hilarious results."

For anyone who happens to be in New York City, the show, now in previews, opens Sunday at 2 p.m. in St. Luke's Theatre, 308 West 46th St. More info is here, and a New York Times review of the 2009 production is here.

--Colin Dabkowski

Echo Art Fair announces artists and galleries

Echo Art Fair, slated for July 7 and 8 in the Larkin Center of Commernce, announced the list of included artists and galleries for its second incarnation. Here it is:


464 Gallery (Buffalo, NY)
The Benjaman Gallery (Buffalo, NY)
Cappuccilli Fine Art (Syracuse, NY)
Charles Bank Gallery (New York, NY)
Daniel Faria Gallery (Toronto, Ontario)
Indigo Art (Buffalo, NY)
Jessica Bradley Art + Projects (Toronto, Ontario)
Meibohm Fine Arts (East Aurora, NY)
Nina Freudenheim Gallery (Buffalo, NY)
PDX Contemporary Art (Portland, OR)


Monica Angle (Buffalo, NY)
Michael Amrose (Buffalo, NY)
Dorothy Fitzgerald (Buffalo, NY)
Estate of Jackie Felix (Buffalo, NY)
Timothy Frerichs (Fredonia, NY)
Fotini Galanes (Buffalo, NY)
Gigi Gatewood (Brooklyn, NY)
Amy Greenan (Niagara Falls, NY)
Melora Griffis (New York, NY)
Jody Hanson (Buffalo, NY)
John Harrigan (Buffalo, NY)
Jeremy Holmes (Ithaca, NY)
Richard Huntington (Buffalo, NY)
Kasia Keeley (Buffalo, NY)
Felice Koenig (Buffalo, NY)
William Maggio (Buffalo, NY)
Mark McLoughlin (Buffalo, NY)
OGRE (Buffalo, NY)
James Paulsen (Albany, NY)
Esther Neisen (Buffalo, NY)
Jean-Michel Reed (Buffalo, NY)
Karen Sardisco (Rochester, NY)
Katherine Sehr (Buffalo, NY)
Kathleen Sherin (Buffalo, NY)
Shasti O'Leary Soudant (Buffalo, NY)
Joshua Sperling (Ithaca, NY)


Birch Libralato (Toronto, Ontario)
Diaz Contemporary (Toronto, Ontario)
Georgia Scherman Projects (Toronto, Ontario)
Susan Hobbs (Toronto, Ontario)


Dennis Maher (Buffalo, NY)
Gary Sczerbaniewicz (Buffalo, NY)

--Colin Dabkowski

Manhattan Project explodes onto the Soundlab stage

Manhattan Project_highres
Manhattan Project performs in Soundlab.

As one of the pre-eminent live-tronica ensembles on the contemporary scene, the Manhattan Project has made true believers out of naysayers with routine ease since forming in 2010. Listeners who might have initially been a bit skeptical concerning the marriage of live performance and computer-based sounds have a tough time clinging to their skepticism after seeing the Manhattan Project in concert -- which they more than likely did when the band was opening for the likes of Lotus, Conspirator, Future Rock, BioDiesel, Ozric Tentacles, Ludachrist or Communist Party. 

Now, the duo -- Shawn Drogan on drums and electronics, Charlie Lindner on keys and synths -- is making the well-deserved jump to headliner status. The Manhattan Project, with special guests Buffalo’s own "trance-jam" outfit Space Junk, plays at 10 tonight (May 11) in Soundlab (110 Pearl St.). There will be between-set intermissions presided over by DJ Papi Chulo.

Tickets are $8 and can be purchased through

-- Jeff Miers

BlazeVOX presents a reading by Four Women Poets

BlazeVOX Books, the Buffalo-based independent publisher of innovative writing that has weathered controversies involving a discontinued policy of financial participation by some authors in some of its publications and a subsequent "blacklisting" of all of its publications from consideration in awarding National Endowment for the Arts fellowships in recent months, continues to enjoy the goodwill and support of a substantial portion of the writers' community nationwide.

In a special National Poetry Month feature in April, Huffington Post literary blogger Anis Shivani interviewed BlazeVOX publisher Geoffrey Gatza on the NEA ban, the distorted "vanity press" charges against BlazeVOX, and new business models for avant-garde small presses in the age of e-publishing.  Shivani, a well-known literary iconoclast and critic of the creative writing industry wondered aloud in the interview why the NEA had singled BlazeVox out for censure when so many more egregious examples of exploitation, self-dealing and conflict of interest could be  pointed out in the publishing world.  

Were there any doubt that BlazeVox's reputation in the writer's community remains strong, tonight's BlazeVOX reading featuring Four Women Poets should dispel them.  The reading, which begins at 8 p.m. tonight (Friday) at Rust Belt Books, 202 Allen St. in Buffalo presents four distinctive women's voices and approaches to poetics, each of whom has published at least one book with BlazeVOX.  

Debrah Morkun and Anne-Adele Wight are poets from the greater Philadelphia area, both of whom are active in the writers' community there.  Morkun curates The Jubilant Thicket Literary Series and co-curates The General Idea Reading Series.  She is the author of "The Ida Pingala" (BlazeVOX, 2011) and "Projection Machine" (BlazeVOX, 2010) as well as several chapbooks.  Wight works with the Poets and Prophets literary series and is author of the BlazeVOX poetry collection "Sidestep Catapult".

Joining Morkun and Wight are two well-known Buffalo-based poets.  Robin Brox holds degrees from the University at  Buffalo and The University of Maine–Orono.  She is a writer, teaching artist, publicist for Just Buffalo Literary Center, and the founder of Saucebox, a small press and occasional performance series devoted to women artists.  Her much-praised full length collection of poems "Sure Thing" (2011) was published last summer by BlazeVox.  She is also the author of numerous chapbooks and broadsides, including "Who’s That Girl" (1999), "Word/Body" (2000), "Tinsel Strength" (2005), and “When In Doubt, Cowboy Out” (2011) published by Binge Press.

Nava Fader received her Master's degree in Poetics from the University at Buffalo, writing her thesis on the poetry of Adrienne Rich. She is the author of two chapbooks: "Stonesoup" (Slack Buddha, 2009), and "The Plath Poems" (Dancing Girl, 2009).  A school librarian in Buffalo, she is a frequent practitioner of the technique known as "false translation," including in her 2009 BlazeVOX collection "All the Jawing Jackdaw."

Tonight's reading is free and open to the public.  A selection of books by each of the authors will be available for purchase at the event.

--R.D. Pohl

Green Day's 'American Idiot' visits UBCFA

     "American Idiot," the rock-driven musical and Green Day vehicle that opened to enthusiastic reviews on Broadway in 2010, will come to the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts for a two-day run on Sept. 8 and 9.

     The show, an outgrowth of Green Day's 2004 album of the same name, is a breathless one-act propelled by the band's addictive riffs and a message that melds teen angst with American politics. The show features Green Day hits like "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "American Idiot" and "Wake Me Up When September Ends."

     Tickets are $47 to $67 and go on sale at 10 a.m. May 18 through the box office, Ticketmaster and charge by phone at (800) 745-3000. More information is available at 645-2787 or

-- Colin Dabkowski

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