The Staylows – Buffalo – Gala South Loft, NY – 2002-05-04

The Staylows
Where: Buffalo – Gala South Loft, NY.

When: 2002-05-04

A couple members of the Buffalo band Astronaut Lost live in the Gala South Loft, and their friends live across the hall. Situated in a commercial area, there’s no worry about loud music or masses of people. This is the perfect spot for a club. With a living room the size of a basketball court, it was bigger than many clubs I’ve been too and the perfect set up for bands. Apparently, the Chicago band Volta Do Mar also consider the Gala South Loft to be something of a home away from home. After all, why else would they drive all the way from Chicago to play one show in Buffalo and one in Michigan over a weekend?

The two opening acts were both local and have pretty unfortunate names. Apparently, The Staylows used to have a much longer name that had a lot of dots in it, but their new name is quite fitting. They use a lot of bass, or perhaps the sound system was muddied, but what I got mostly from this band was throbbing bass lines. At least half of their songs were instrumental pieces, and none really stood out, especially since the vocals were hard to hear. But they kept the crowd interested, which is more than I can say for Saltpeter.

Don’t get me wrong, Saltpeter are really good at what they do and probably one of the tightest live bands I’ve seen in a while, especially for a local band. It’s just that their blend of funk and rock is better suited for festivals and opening for Phish than an indie rock show. Their opener had bass right out of a Primus song, and the rest of their songs contained the traditional funk/slap bass, bouncy guitar lines, and energetic singing. They weren’t bad, but much of the crowd was leaving throughout. It didn’t help that the show, stated to start at 9:30, started closer to 11:30.

But Volta Do Mar rocked the loft hard. You could tell these guys loved every minute of their show, and the fans ate it up. If you told me an instrumental band (primarily, anyway) could get the crowd as involved as at this show, I would have told you you were nuts. But these guys did it. The crowd gathered in tight, almost completely around the four members of the band. And the guys went through most of their latest album as well as a few new tracks.

What set their show apart, however, was the introduction of vocals as a more important element. The louder songs when the singer/guitarist tried to use the mic were foiled by a bad sound system that rendered his words inaudible, but often the band members would just shout the vocals together, sometimes pausing to shout them out, and that’s when it worked best. They got the crowd to shout along, they blasted away with their double-bass assault as the singer and drummer shouted along, and they all shouted together. At one point, the guitarist picked up an acoustic, walked into the thick of the crowd, and went into a full acoustic song, just singing into the air and perfectly audible. Now that’s playing to the crowd.

Volta Do Mar were good when I saw them last, but in their element with a crowd that knows and loves them, they were downright awesome. Not necessarily their best show, I imagine, due to sound issues (and alcohol, I’m guessing), this was still a very fun show. And with the band singing more often, the crowd was even more involved. I envy Chicagoans for being able to see the band play in their element all the time.