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Artists transform utility boxes along Elmwood Ave.

A utility box at Elmwood Avenue and West Ferry Street features a new piece competed today by Buffalo artist OGRE.

Today, artists stationed at intersections along Elmwood Avenue began work on the second phase of Community Canvases, a public art project that turns utility boxes and other pieces of public infrastructure into artworks.

I caught up with artist Mary Claire Rivera at the corner of Elmwood and Delavan, where she was working on a piece inspired by the culture and streetscape of the surrounding neighborhood:


Here are a couple shots of other works and works-in-progress on Elmwood, which should be completed by the end of the weekend:



A piece by artist Elaine O'Toole at Elmwood and Utica Street.

--Colin Dabkowski

Buffalo poets gather for change today at Silo City

Are poets in fact "the unacknowledged legislators of the world," as Percy Bysshe Shelley suggested in his famous 1821 essay "A Defence of Poetry," or was W.H. Auden closer to the truth when he wrote in his 1940 poem "In Memory of W.B. Yeats":

For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

This is the kind of seeming paradox on which poetry thrives, for it is only out the complexity of the world that poetry resolves and clarifies; just as it is precisely out of the impulse to reduce the world to simple facts, causes, and effects that poetry reveals the dazzling richness and diversity of possibilities in the world: it performs our uncertainty and our doubt. 

Can poets and poetry effect progressive political, economic, social and environmental change in a global, 21st century context?  Perhaps not in the Romantic sense of moral improvement that Shelley argued, nor even in the formal one that Auden, in his deference to Yeats, allowed .  But even the most hardened skeptic would concede that language constructs and transforms our relationship with the world, and poets transform our relationship with language.

So today, from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., when over 125 Buffalo area poets, five bands, a number of area visual and media artists, and many hundreds of poetry listeners and activists gather at Silo City, the abandoned grain elevator site at 92 Childs St. along the Buffalo River, to participate in "100, 000 Poets for Change," a global event focusing on poetry as an instrument of social happening on September 28th in over 500 cities in more than 100 countries around the world, perhaps the "change" we should be listening for is not one that recapitulates the grammar of the old order--how we have grown accustomed to parsing the issues of this species' continued survival in terms formulated for us by corporations, politicians, and think tanks--but rather in the phonemes and syllables of an art form with a somatic connection to epics of the ancient world, to the rhythms of the heartbeat and breathing, and to the kinship with all living things.

Today's marathon reading at Silo City--one of the most robust in the entire 100,000 Poets for Change movement worldwide-- has been organized by Barbara Cole and Noah Falck of Just Buffalo Literary Center, the sponsoring organization that has permitted the Buffalo area celebration of "100,000 Poets for Change" to expand beyond the admirable dimensions the 2011 Buffalo organizers of the event, Susan Hutton and David Landrey (who will do the introduction and host the opening hour of this year's event), were able to establish as a benchmark for the local event.  In the true spirit of democracy and the inclusive nature of the event, each of the participants will read from their own work or the work of others on the theme of "change"  for four minutes at one of two stages--in the former Perot grain elevator and on the Buffalo Riverfront--punctuated by a short set of music (all on the Riverfront stage) by one of the five participating Buffalo-based musical ensembles to close out each hour.

To scan down the list  of participating readers is to recognize a virtual Who's Who of Buffalo poetry and Buffalo poetics, from 2002 Pulitzer Prize winner in Poetry Carl Dennis, to such well-known and well-published Buffalo poetry community leaders as Ansie Baird, Sherry Robbins, Ann Goldsmith, Jorge Guitart, Gary Earl Ross, Perry Nicholas and Celia White, a strong contingent from Buffalo's indie press, book arts, and scholarly scene including BlazeVox's Geoffrey Gatza, Holly Melgard of Troll Thread Press, and David Hadbawnik of Habenicht Press, Earth's Daughter's magazine co-editors Kastle Brill, Jennifer Campbell, Janna Willoughby-Lohr and Ryki Zuckerman, leading voices in Buffalo's spoken word performance community including Erika Haywood Gault, N'Tare Gault, and Brandon Williamson, to the poet-teachers of the various Buffalo area college and university writing programs, including Canisius College's Janet McNally, Alan Bigelow of Medaille College, and Peter Ramos of Buffalo State College, as well as Judith Goldman and Myung Mi Kim of the UB Poetics Program. 

Perhaps even more importantly, interspersed among the recognizable names are several dozen younger poets from a wide range of backgrounds, including students from Buffalo's City Honors, Oracle Charter School, and from Amherst High School.  They represent this community's future, both as heirs to the legacy of its poetic heritage (think: Buffalo-born poets and writers Lucille Clifton and Ishmael Reed), and its over-a-century long commitment to progressive social justice causes (think: Mary B. Talbert and the Niagara Movement).  To see the complete schedule of readings and performances, visit

The international celebration of 100,00 Poets for Change (or 100TPC, as it is sometimes referred to) was first conceived of and organized by Guerneville, California-based poets Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion (previously best-known for their founding and editing of Big Bridge Press and the poetry website in March, 2011, as a worldwide set of events to take place simultaneously on September 24, 2011.  Without substantial resources, event guidelines, or a specific social or political agenda, the event tapped into a widespread interest among poets representing different cultures, traditions and languages around the world to speak to their commonalities rather than their differences, and to engage both their local communities, and the larger national and international audience for poetry in a dialogue about how poetry might contribute the advancement of  cultural and political change "within the guidelines of peace and sustainability."  The success of the initial celebration, which reportedly inspired  700 events in 550 cities in 95 countries, validated Rothenberg and Campion's intention to continue 100TPC as a decentralized network of locally-organized events representing each community's response to the theme.  For more information about the global event, including reports from many different sites around the world, visit

--R.D. Pohl

'Community Canvases' comes to Elmwood Village

Artist Elyssa Harper poses with her work on Tonawanda Street. Photo from Community Canvases' Facebook page.

The art project known as Community Canvases and the Elmwood Village Association announced today that local artists will be transforming utility boxes and other structures along Elmwood Avenue into art installations. The organization's first event happened along Tonawanda Street in August.

According to EVA Executive Director Carly Battin, artists will begin making their work on Saturday morning. Stay tuned to this space for some pictures of the completed work.

--Colin Dabkowski

Songs we just love to death

Songwriters who want their work to resonate with their audience often fall back on a universal theme: love.

To that I say: Big whoop. The true masters are the ones who manage to reach a mass audience with a song about death.

Is there any other topic that makes us cringe in conversation but gets our toes to tappin’ and our radios to blastin' if it’s a got a good beat?

With that in mind, bow your heads, close your eyes and consider 10 of the most memorable songs that are about someone dying or, even better, include the singer singing as he dies.

10) Seasons in the Sun, Terry Jacks, 1974. An awful song in general but appropriate for this list because a) The singer is dying and b) Hearing it always makes me want to die. “Goodbye Michelle it’s hard to die, when all the birds are singing in the sky.” I ... see ... a light ... .

9) Run Joey Run, David Geddes, 1975: The only song I ever heard in which a character apparently bleeds out in the final verse: “Suddenly, a shot rang out, and I saw Julie falling. I ran to her, I held her close, when I looked down, my hands were red, and here’s the last words Julie said ... Daddy please don't, it wasn't his fault, he means so much to me Daddy please don't, we're gonna get married ... aaahhh, ahhhh.” Augghhh!!!!!

8) Tell Laura I Love Her, Ray Peterson, 1960. A cautionary tale about how you shouldn’t try to win money for an engagement ring by entering a stock car race because you’ll die in a twisted wreck and then you’re no good to anybody.  “In the chapel Laura prayed, for her Tommy who passed away. It was just for Laura he lived and died, alone in the chapel she can hear him cry.”

7) Eleanor Rigby, The Beatles, 1966: The heroine in this Lennon- McCartney classic – Did they write one that isn’t?  -  lives a solitary existence, until she receives her final reward. “Eleanor Rigby, died in the church and was buried along with her name, nobody came.” Rarely played at weddings.

6) Billy Don’t Be a Hero, Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods, 1974: Paper Lace of "The Night Chicago Died" fame released it first, but Bo had the bigger hit in the U.S. It's pretty peppy for a song about dying in a war and ignoring your future wife about protecting yourself. “I heard his fiancee got a letter that told how Billy died that day. The letter said that he was a hero, she should be proud he died that way. I heard she threw that letter away.” But can you blame her?

5) Alone Again, Naturally, Gilbert O’Sullivan, 1972: Even for people who like songs about one’s ultimate demise, this one is a little deathy. The song starts as the singer is about to commit suicide having been left at the altar, then he says his father died, which broke his mother's heart, right before SHE died. Luckily the song ends before we hear what happened to his pets. (It can’t be good.) “And when she passed away, I cried and cried all day. Alone again, naturally.” Kleenex recommended. 

4) Leader of the Pack, The Shangri-Las, 1964: Girl meets boy, boy likes girl, girl’s parents don’t like boy, parents tell girl to ditch the boy, girl obeys, boy doesn’t take the news well, boy drives away at a reckless speed, girl’s backup singers tell him to watch where he’s going, boy ignores their good advice, boy meets up with Tommy from “Tell Laura I Love Her” to commiserate about shoddy safety features in early-1960s-era automobiles. “The leader of the pack - now he's gone.”

3) Honey, Bobby Goldsboro, 1964: Another song with a car wreck. At first,  it sounds like it wasn’t a big deal and that Honey was going to be more worried about telling her husband/boyfriend. But then she dies anyway. I always figured it was either internal injuries or a pre-existing condition. “One day while I was not at home, while she was there and all alone, the angels came.” This also explains why angels do so poorly in the field of door-to-door sales.

2) Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Gordon Lightfoot, 1976: An amazing song from an amazing songwriter about an actual shipwreck from the previous year. Lightfoot changed or embellished many of the details of the incident, but no matter: He considers it his finest work. “Superior, they said, never gives up her dead, when the gales of November come early.” Also, possibly the only song to use the words "Gitche Gumee." At least the only one to get serious AM Radio air play.

1) El Paso, Marty Robbins, 1959: There really is no contest. This song has it all. The singer kills a guy at the start for trying to put the moves on a girl he likes, steals a horse and rides away, misses the girl so much he rides back to see her only to be gunned down by a posse - probably for stealing the horse - and then breathes his last as the song comes to an end. It even has a play-by-play of his death, including one of the best lyrics ever written: “I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle, I feel the bullet go deep in my chest.” But that finish, where he reunites with the source of his love: “Cradled by two loving arms that I'll die for, one little kiss and Felina, good-bye.” It’s deadly, but in a good way.

--- Bruce Andriatch


Live chat at noon: Miers on Music

Thursday Theater Roundup

The Thursday Theater Roundup features currently running shows that received three or more stars from our reviewers. Here are this week's picks:

"Dead Man's Cell Phone," through Oct. 5 at Buffalo Laboratory Theatre. ★★★

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Katie White and David Hayes star in Buffalo Laboratory Theatre's "Dead Man's Cell Phone."

"Venus in Fur," through Oct. 5 in the New Phoenix Theatre. ★★★★

Candice Kogut and Adriano Gatto star in the New Phoenix Theatre's "Venus in Fur."

"Buffalo Rises," through Oct. 6 in Road Less Traveled Theatre. ★★★½

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Greg Howze performs in a play Gary Earl Ross' in Road Less Traveled Productions' "Buffalo Rises." Photo by Sharon Cantillon / The Buffalo News.

"The Big Band Theory," through Oct. 6 in the Kavinoky Theatre. ★★★½


"School for Husbands," through Oct. 6 in ICTC's Andrews Theatre. ★★★½

School for husbands, public

"Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," through Oct. 12 at American Repertory Theatre.

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Steve Copps stars in "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson."

"The Gospel at Colonus," through Oct. 13 in Ujima's TheatreLoft. ★★★½

"A Year with Frog and Toad," through Oct. 13 at Theatre of Youth★★★

TOY - A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD - Bobby Cooke as Toad and Jacob Albarella as Frog
Bobby Cooke and Jacob Albarella star in Theatre of Youth's "A Year with Frog and Toad."

"The Kathy and Mo Show: Parallel Lives / The Dark Side," through Oct. 20 at O'Connell and Company. ★★★½

Pamela Rose Mangus and Mary Kate O'Connell star in "The Kathy and Mo Show."

Pianist giving surprise free recital here en route to Carnegie Hall


By Mary Kunz Goldman

In a surprise announcement, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has disclosed that Cahill Smith, who is soon to be giving a recital at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, is going to be giving Buffalo a sneak preview at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The recital is free but reservations are required. For reservations, call 242-7824.

Historically, Buffalo has been a town where performers may run through their material before taking it to New York. It is great that we still play that role. We used to see this kind of thing on the Ramsi P. Tick Memorial Concert Series. Just as one example, pianist Jeremy Denk (who by the way just won a MacArthur Genius Grant) ran through his repertoire in Buffalo shortly before taking it to Zankel Hall in Carnegie Hall. 

Smith, pictured above, is a doctoral candidate at the Eastman School of Music. His recital is unusual in that it focuses on the music of Russian Romantic composer Nikolai Medtner. Medtner is a kind of cult figure for pianists. His rich but thorny music was admired by Rachmaninoff and Glazunov. It's appropriate that Smith is presenting this recital here. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has also been exploring Russian Romantic music, culminating in last spring's performance of Gliere's Symphony No. 2, the sprawling, evocative piece the orchestra took to Carnegie Hall in May.

Joining Smith for the all-Medtner program will be fellow Eastman School musicians Yi-Yeon Lee (violin), Hirono Sigimoto Borter (violin), Wendy Richman (viola), Philip Borter (cello), and Yunjin Kim (soprano).

The concert takes place at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall. 

Don't forget to call for your free reservation!


Canadian pop-rock icon Bryan Adams coming to Shea's in November

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Canadian pop-rock legend Bryan Adams arrives for a show at Shea's Performing Arts Center on Saturday, November 23rd, at 8 p.m. According to, tickets for the show will go on sale at 9 a.m. on Friday, through, Ticketmaster, and the Shea's box office. - Jeff Miers

Jeff Miers: Drake is the poster boy for 'Generation Selfie'


Jeff Miers: Drake is the poster boy for “Generation Selfie” 

Drake is something else.

 Seriously. It takes an incredible amount of fortitude to release a single called “Started from the Bottom” when where you really started from was the set of an incredibly popular Canadian teen soap opera known as “Degrassi: the Next Generation.”

Audacity is not Drake’s greatest talent, however. As the freshly released “Nothing Was the Same” makes plain, the rapper’s deepest gift is his ability to turn narcissism into high art.

 With the possible exception of Eminem, no other mainstream hip-hop star has been able to turn whiney self-examination into cold, hard cash with such élan. Drake wants you to feel sorry for him. That’s fine and all, but when you realize that he wants you to feel sorry for him while he brags about all the hearts he’s broken, all the girls he’s “seen naked”, (as he claims during one new track) and the amount of money he’s able to waste on his materialistic lifestyle – well, a rational mind has got to cry foul. Or not.

Continue reading "Jeff Miers: Drake is the poster boy for 'Generation Selfie'" »

A closer look: Lee Walton's 'Fastball'


Title: "Fastball" // Artist: Lee Walton // CEPA Gallery, 671 Main St. // Through Nov. 23

Lee Walton's installation on the first floor of CEPA Gallery, part of the exhibition "Art of Sport," was designed to be interactive. It consists of nothing more than a pitching machine and some reinforced drywall, which was thoroughly obliterated in the span of a couple hours during the opening reception for the show on Friday night. Gallery workers had to shut the installation down when a ball partially broke through the other side of the wall just inches from the gallery's Main Street-facing window. The simple piece was designed to stress the physical force inherent in a sport that can look rather idyllic when viewed from afar. Judging only by the state of the wall, which looks like it's been hit by a mortar attack, I'd say mission accomplished.

--Colin Dabkowski

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