Christmas comes early for Buffalo alternative fans

Arena rock is alive and well. The Kerfuffle Before Christmas brought some of the best to Buffalo Thursday night.

Just one night after rock and roll great Bob Segar packed the First Niagra Center, Walk the Moon, Neon Trees and Fitz and the Tantrums brought a new generation’s take on arena rock to a new generation of fans.

The show really kicked off as Robert Delong took the stage. One part Skrillex, one part Hellogoodbye, Delong brings a different, fresh take on electronic music. Most famous for begging people the question, “Did I make you fucking dance?” Delong did just that, winding the crowd up for the acts to follow with his quirky DJ act. His DJ rig traded turntables for joysticks and WII controllers, and although it was an interesting approach, it wasn’t clear whether his set was Nintendo product placement or a concert.

A not-so-comprehensive switch occurred as The Airborne Toxic Event took the stage. The band made waves in 2009, as their song “Sometime Around Midnight” made waves, playing all over MTV. Since then, the band has failed to reach that level of success, and frankly, as good as they are (and they’re great) they don’t have a sound that’s meant to fill arenas.

Mikel Jollett somewhat addressed the elephant in the center as he announced, “Some people ask, ‘Are you an electronic band or a folk band?’ And to that I say fuck yourself.” But that’s exactly the issue. Their set made it feel as if you saw a couple different band: one that loves folk, and another that’s not sure if they want to make a phoenix record or be Mumford and Sons.

The band that stole the show for the night came from the unlikely third headlining spot. Despite their quick rise to the top, Walk the Moon show a maturity and energy that proves they are poised to soon be arena-tour headliners.

The self-proclaimed “dork-rockers” aren’t afraid to show off to dance, but they’re certainly slow to shut up. And thank God, because their music is special. Full of glossy synths and harmonies straight from the ‘80s, the band aren’t afraid to cross the sounds of Genesis or the Talking Heads with a pop-rock sound that has both substance and an undeniable, infectious energy.

The band carries an energy that’s both in-your-face in intensity and laid-back in appearance. Not only do they have fun, but they quietly demand that the crowd has fun. It’s no coincidence that these guys have hit the road with Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco, despite the difference in their sounds, because the band could very well reach the incredible popularity of its famous tour mates.

Neon Trees followed with the same kind of energy, bringing their hit songs “Everybody Talks,” “Sleeping With a Friend” and “Animal” to life. Past the bedazzled basses and bleach blonde hair, the band has some serious chops. Tyler Glen and Elaine Bradley both have rock star quality voices, and although their music is fun, both should be taken seriously for the great musicians and entertainers they are. It’s easy to pass them off as a dorky pop-rock band, but they transcend the talentless-but-fun stereotype and put on a hell of a show and sound great doing it.

Fitz and the Tantrums always sound amazing, and closed out a great night of music in classic Fitz style. Always demanding dancing and crowd participation, the band flew through their more classic catalog and played some of the biggest hits from their latest record. Sure they’ve supported the likes of Dave Matthews on the road, but the band made it clear Thursday night that they belong as headliners in big arena shows and will only continue to grow in popularity as they go on.

Thanks to Kerfuffle Before Christmas, alternative fans in Buffalo can rest assured that though the Pearl Jams and Nirvanas of the world have come and gone, arena rock is alive and well.

Show review by Kirk Windus


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