Until last Sunday, it had been many moons since I had last seen the great Buffalo Tom live. I believe it was 1994 at Lupo's in Providence. Since then, I had many opportunities to see the band but for whatever reason, did not. I saw frontman Bill Janovitz play solo a few times, including last spring at Brighton Music Hall opening for Ted Leo. That same venue is where I saw BT playing the last of three 25th anniversary shows last weekend.
The first two shows were, from all accounts (including those of the inimitable Rock of Clicky Clicky), awesome with guests including J. Mascis, Ted Leo, Tanya Donelly and others (including new Chicago Cubs GM Theo Epstein). Sunday's show had its own share of indie rock all-stars with Donelly returning to sing with the band on "Torch Singer," "Don't Forget Me" and "Frozen Lake," Thalia Zedek kicking things off with an excellent set, Mike Gent (the Figgs, the Gentlemen) playing on a few songs, and Chris Keene and Aurore Ounjian of Mean Creek singing on a few as well. Actor Mike O'Malley (who graduated from UNH a year ahead of me and now stars on Glee) introduced the band and sang a cover of The Who's "The Seeker" (as he did the previous two nights) with them.
It was a loose affair, as Janovitz and bassist Chris Colbourn had fun ribbing drummer Tom Maginnis for being highlighted in Sassy magazine's "Cute Drummer Alert" feature in the early '90s. Janovitz also had some fun with a drunk patron who blurted out that she bought him a beer; he didn't touch it and she angrily reclaimed it. Later in the evening, she was seen dancing with a wall.
The band mainly focused on older songs in their catalog, especially from 1992's Let Me Come Over ("Staples," "Porchlight," "Velvet Roof," "Larry," "Frozen Lake") and 1994's Big Red Letter Day ("Sodajerk," "Taillights Fade," "Treehouse," "Would Not Be Denied," "Late at Night," "Torch Singer"), while 2007's Three Easy Pieces and 2011's Skins got shorter shrift.
Nevertheless, it was a terrific set from a band that has come a long way from its beginnings at UMass. No big announcements were made, but the event felt like it had some finality to it. All three band members have families and day jobs, so it may be a while before there's another album or tour. Which is too bad, because Buffalo Tom has been consistently excellent throughout their career, from their feedback-laden early days as an act heavily influenced by Dinosaur Jr. and Husker Du to their alt-rock ascendance in '94 with appearances on "My So-Called Life" and countless talk shows. One thing's for certain: When they do play shows again, I'll be there.
(Note: The Flickr photoset only has five photos in it now even though I took many more. Something's funked up and I've been unable to upload the rest of them, but I'll get 'em up eventually.)