A strong music scene is at the heart of any great city. It doesn’t need to be flashy, loud, or complex. But it needs rock steadiness and a soul. Think Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones instead of Neil Peart of Rush.
As a guitarist and music geek, I set out to explore some of Buffalo’s music venues. Some of my all-time favorite spots thrive on being effortlessly authentic. So, after two weeks of exploring, my takeaway is that the scene somewhat mirrors Buffalo’s narrative of rebirth – priding itself on authenticity and limitless potential.
Nietzsche’s, 248 Allen St.
A bohemian twist on a New Orleans music hideaway. Patrons are greeted by stretches of quirky wall décor, dim lighting courtesy of faux candles and neon signs, and writing scrawled across – of all places – the ceiling. To your right, an antique piano sits just invitingly enough to make you wonder whether it’s been waiting for you. It’s a casual atmosphere with a quiet energy that attracts jazz, jam band, funk, and fusion enthusiasts who mingle around the front lounge bar or at the back main stage. Vintage Allentown.
Sportsmen’s Tavern, 326 Amherst St.
Blues festival junkies and classic rockers, look no further. For tasty guitar licks and dirty fingernail blues, this venue has everything you need. With a renovated ground floor and balcony, the venue has a unique design to accommodate a large crowd while maintaining the intimate club feel. In the summer months, there is also an outdoor patio and seating area for people to enjoy a summer drink while looking in on the band. For those that prefer their tunes up-close-and-personal, there’s the option of tables and chairs so close that your ears feel the hum of a Marshall stack or Fender strat. Bring your dancing shoes.
Buffalo’s Mohawk Place, 47 E. Mohawk St.
No music city would be complete without a vintage rock club. The legend of Mohawk Place started in the early 1990s, built by Western New York music impresario Marty Boratin and his eye for booking talent. He turned a gritty dive bar into a place where playing meant something across circles in rockabilly, blues and Americana. Today, the club stands as a right of passage for many veteran and new artists.
Mezza, 929 Elmwood Ave.
Buffalo’s not only rock ‘n roll. And I like it. In fact, I love jazz. Mezza is less heralded for the genre than the historic Colored Musician’s Club, but it is a hidden gem – if there is such a thing on bustling Elmwood Avenue. A somewhat unassuming exterior leads one to believe it’s a cozy bar and Mediterranean restaurant. It is. But in the middle of each week, it also features Jazz Wednesday – hosted by bassist Wayne Moose who anchors a rotating group spanning across Buffalo’s rich jazz artist community. Moose and company have serious chops and – in true Buffalo fashion – are always open for a chat between sets.
Pausa Art House, 19 Wadsworth St.
Seriously, an art house? Part gallery, part wine bar, part music venue, it’s one of Allentown’s lesser known destinations to catch any range of genres across jazz, bluegrass, gypsy, Klezmer, and others on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Count me in.
(Editor’s note: We also recently profiled Buffalo Iron Works in Buffalo’s Cobblestone District. Check it out here.)