Written by: Jeremiah Shea with Photos by: Cathy Bechle
Despite a small setback and some unusual weather for the time of year, Alan Evans’ Playonbrother had the mixed crowd that attended their show in Buffalo on August 13th packed in tight and listening intently. Alan is a Buffalonian, born and raised, but this was the first time playing Larkin Square, and with the combination of the opening band and some enthusiastic fans, the homecoming couldn’t have went any better.
Larkin Square is easily one of the newest gems in Buffalo. The mere revitalization and beautification of area was astounding, proving that the city is on the verge of turning the corner. The venue, which opened up in 2012, had so many great things going for it that it’s hard to list them all. Two pickle ball courts with equipment provided, free parking, numerous food trucks on site, a beautiful covered area for the stage and music, and an all-around good atmosphere for congregating; this is how you host a concert and all venues in the area need to take note.
The night got started when the Forealists took the stage, and if you couldn’t tell by the name, they didn’t just come to warm up the crowd. With special guest/semi-official member Nelson Rivera on saxophone for the night, the band came out strong and immediately grabbed those wandering around the venue and drew them in. You can mark my “Favorite Up and Coming Band from Buffalo” on my ballot right now as the ensemble had a perfect mix of raw talent and control over each and every song. The band laid smooth melodies on top of an ever-pressing rhythm that was propelled by the combination of drummer Deshawn Jackson and bassist Zuri Appleby. The band’s sound was sprawled across multiple genres without being watered down. A Snarky Puppy-esque vibe is all that’s needed to describe what they’re capable of. The band shined on some of their faster-paced songs and had the crowd moving right away. It wouldn’t be surprising if this band one day took off; they just need the right visibility. Knowing that, we worked with our good friends at WNYmedia Network who captured some of their set from last Wednesday for our loyal readers. With a new album due out this Fall, check back at soon for our interview with the talented Zuri Appleby.
After the Forealists finished up, the crowd needed a collective breather to digest what they just heard and prepare for what was on deck. Alan Evans, Danny Mayer, and the newest member, Kris Yunker took the stage behind their respective instruments. The venue was packed, but that didn’t stop people from finding ways to fill in the cracks as the everyone seemed eager to welcome home one of their own. Playonbrother started things off with a song I had yet to hear live. “Tammi”, also the name of the band’s Tiger that sits on stage during their set, came out with a fierce, rhythmic onslaught. If it was any indication of the direction of the new album, you’re going to want to make sure you grab it as soon as it drops. The band paused for a four count before launching right into “Who Dares Knock at my Door”. The newest member Kris Yunker took his first solo with a tone that was muddied and modulated through various effects, creating a spacey feel, rich in the stench of funk that the band is known to dabble in. From new to old, Yunker slipped in without anyone knowing he was only twenty or so shows into his POB tenure.
With the band locking in, the outdoor setting began to rear its head and provide some challenges. It started with the wind creating some noise on Alan Evans’ microphone. That was just a harbinger though as shortly thereafter, his mic completely dropped out on their song “Easy Meat”. It’s impossible to say for sure, but the band seemed to angrily throw themselves into the solo section, taking every note out on their respective instruments. You can’t always prepare for the elements, but the band played on without missing a beat. Their entire set weaved like a car in the thick Buffalo snow, touching on deep grooves before sailing smoothly out of them. Unlike a car though, the band was in tight control, driven by the rhythmic steering of Buffalo’s own Alan Evans.
Leaving the set list on an off-the-cuff whim, Playonbrother took on a Jimi Hendrix cover in “Ain’t No Telling”. The deviation was akin to a quarterback calling the perfect audible. It was on that song that the band turned a corner, syncing up on an undeniable rhythm that transcended the entire crowd.
The venue mid-set resembled a mini-festival with people dancing freely, kids playing catch, and hula hoopers spinning circles in the grass to the music that blanketed the entire area. More venues need to take this approach to shows as it created a spirit and environment that went hand in hand with the music. If adds a “Best New Venue” category to its end of the year writers poll, you know where my vote will lie.
Guitarist Danny Mayer was the nexus between Alan and Kris the entire night, standing in the middle of the stage and using his experience with both to lead the way. There was no denying the effect he had on the crowd either. The guitarist made some easy side money as a fan felt compelled enough to rush the stage and start throwing singles during his blistering solo on “Buffalo”. Post-show, Danny mentioned to me that it was the first time that had ever happened to him. What’s there to say? Buffalo flat-out appreciates a man with a talent.
As their set ended, the crowd beckoned for another showing, and to the surprise of many, both Playonbrother and Forealists joined the stage together, being dubbed as either the Foreal Playonbrother Superjam or the simpler Playonrealists. Either way, pupils were dilating at the expectation of what was about to start. Phones were up in the air recording the members setting up, not wanting to miss the start of jam. There wasn’t even enough room on stage for everyone and Forealists drummer Deshawn Jackson ended up setting up on the side of the stage, directly on the floor. Once everyone was set, the nine piece band dove into the Cream hit “Sunshine of Your Love”. The absolute climax of the night came blasting through the brass in the hands of Nelson Rivera. He cut through the other eight members on stage ripping a solo that exuded his feeling, the crowds collective spirit, and the night as a whole. It might have been a cold night in August, but there was no stopping the positive energy that this show thrust upon all who gathered. It was a great night to be a Buffalonian.
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