The Canalside free Thursday concert series has consistently been one of the most popular summer events in Buffalo each year. Thousands of people show up each week to hang out and experience live music at what has become one of the city’s most popular outdoor music venues. Last year, the average attendance was 10,000-15,000 people per event while the largest recorded attendance was approximately 21,000. Needless to say, this concert series is a big deal for everyone involved, but especially for the local musc acts that get the chance to open the shows. This year, Canalside and The Public are teaming up let our readers decide which of their favorite local bands should fill those coveted opening slots.
Each week three local bands will compete in an online battle of the bands dubbed The Public Choice. Fans will vote for their favorite bands, and at the end of the week, the band with the most votes wins. The pool of bands has already been nominated by local cultural and community organizations including the Hispanic Heritage Center, Blues Society of WNY, Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, and Sugar City in partnership with Canalside, The Public, and Arts Service Initiative of Western New York, and each contest will, naturally, feature bands that match up by genre, to some degree, with the headliners. For instance, hip hop acts will likely be opening for any hip hop related shows, country acts for country shows and so on, though there will be some creative lineup choices as well. Not only will the winning bands win the chance to open some of the summer’s biggest shows, but it’ll also be a paid gig.
“Buffalo has such an amazing music scene. It is fundamental that we allow for these opportunities, such as the ‘Public Choice’ model to showcase Western New York talent,” says Ryan Coate, general manager at Canalside.
Kevin Stuitje is the bassist of local post-rock band Tomoreux, a band that had the chance to open for Spoon at Canalside last year.
“We had just changed our band’s name and genre so the songs were still really new and unrefined. But it was a cool experience, playing one of our first shows to a couple thousand people. It got our name out there and helped us kinda break into the scene,” says Stuitje.
The free Thursday concerts have been an instrumental part of Canalside’s growth, Coate says.
“The series has evolved into a must attend event every Thursday at Canalside. The distinct lineup and noticeable crowds tell the story of how Canalside is now Buffalo’s backyard at the waterfront.”
Properly executing this concert series, which was taken over by the venue management company Spectra—formerly known as Global Spectrum—in 2014, is clearly an impressive feat. This year, they’ve streamlined the process further.
“The layout of the shows has expanded its footprint. The two main entrances will be on Marine Drive [at Commercial Street and Main Street]. The food trucks will be along Marine Drive and we are adding a second live screen for viewers to see the main stage. Most exciting is our new VIP structure with private bathrooms and catered 716,” Coate says.
“We’re enthusiastic for the summer ahead and to have live music at Canalside for many, many years to come.”
The Public Choice battle of the bands will begin May 11 with the first set of three bands who will battle for the chance to open the first Free Thursday Canalside Concert of the year. Look for more info online at dailypublic.com.