The Rhythm of Buffalo, NY

By Michael Farrell

Published on

Buffalo’s music scene is energized and inspired after its pandemic hiatus.

The music of Buffalo supplies the rhythm of the city. It moves the region through our seasons, tells our distinctive stories and connects generations through power chords and percussion. It’s not only a vital part of what we are; it’s who we are, comprised of the Buffalo-bred-artists that amplify it all.

So, what happens to these artists when a worldwide pandemic hits the pause button on their performances inside places like Nietzsche’s, Sportsmen’s Tavern and Buffalo Iron Works, and eliminates an essential element of life for locals? We checked in with a few of the city’s favorite musicians to learn how they managed to persevere through challenging times, and what it feels like to be back playing live music Buffalo’s been waiting to hear.

Sonny Baker / Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

Visit Buffalo Niagara: How would you describe the Buffalo music scene to someone playing the city for the first time?

Sonny Baker: This town has some serious heavy hitters, with top-notch players and songwriters. Buffalo doesn’t really get its due when it comes to recognizing the talent here; and for the most part, every[musician] is pretty supportive of each other.

VBN: What does being a Buffalo musician mean to you?

Maria Aurigema: I am Buffalo. I live in Buffalo, I spend winter in Buffalo, and I am super proud of the unbelievable amount of talent that is in Buffalo and has come out of Buffalo. I’ll always be Buffalo, and when I get the winter blues, I just play the blues–and then I feel better.

Eric Crittenden / Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

VBN: How did you spend your time away from the stage?

Eric Crittenden: Lots of walking, lots of eating and binging shows/movies and games. Eventually, I got with [Buffalo singer/songwriter] David Cloyd and we opened the Buffalo Music Club. We wanted to create the love child of [online freelance services site] Fiverr and Etsy for Buffalo music–a marketplace for Buffalo musicians–so we did. It was ignited during COVID, but a longtime coming, given our collective desires and visions beyond our own stages and studios.

VBN: You returned to the stage in June of 2021, with two sets upstairs at Mr. Goodbar. Can you describe your emotions during and after that first performance?

Sonny Baker: It was exhilarating. All the familiar feelings rushing back at once. I couldn’t stop smiling–and then after a few songs, I was thinking, “Oh wow, I’m incredibly out of shape.”

VBN: How did the crowd respond to your first show back?

Eric Crittenden: Hugging and dancing and partying and getting all-the-way lit up. As a live performer who has basically made an entire career in the jam band scene, that kind of music doesn’t exist without the audience, so it was an insanely special experience.

Maria Aurigema / Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

VBN: What will you need to see to know that Buffalo’s music scene is fully back to its pre-pandemic form?

Maria Aurigema: Things will be normal when friends start to argue about which club to go to see which act because there’s so much going on at the same time—and my phone will be ringing with gig offers!

VBN: Now that you can reflect on the past two years, did you learn anything new about your connection to music?

Maria Aurigema: I get very blue when I don’t play music, and I wonder about my purpose. When I’m back out there playing shows, I feel satisfied that I’m using my gift to make people feel good, energized and inspired.

Michael Farrell headshot

Michael Farrell

Michael Farrell is a freelance writer and novelist whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including The Buffalo News.