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Major live arts & cultural events trumpet their long-awaited return

The lawn in Cazenovia Park is full of people in lawn chairs listening to the BPO Brass on stage
Mike Desmond
The lawn is full at Cazenovia Park for a live concert by the BPO Brass Thursday afternoon.

Guitarist Mikee Strongman kicked off the 17th Annual Buffalo Infringement Festival Thursday with a live concert from a porch at Elmwood Avenue and North Street during rush hour. The festival runs through Aug. 8.

Thursday evening, Shea's Performing Arts Center held its first live performance in 504 days. "The Music of Disney on Broadway" kicked off a heavyweight season, after dust had gathered on the seats and many employees were let go.

Patrons enter the lobby of Shea's Performing Arts Center
Mike Desmond
Patrons are welcomed back to Shea's Performing Arts Center Thursday evening for its first live performance in 504 days.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra brass performed in Cazenovia Park, while Sonny Baker performed at Fountain Plaza's "Thursday and Main" series. Buffalo Place Marketing Manager Jackie Jonmaire said it's part of a tradition.

"The point of 'Thursday and Main' is to continue the mission of 'Thursday at the Square' and that is to encourage people into downtown Buffalo, to visit with us for a little bit, but really to visit a downtown business, a bar, retail, a restaurant, somewhere, to spend their dollars and to create economic spinoff for the district as a whole," Jonmaire said.

Shea's President Michael Murphy said it isn't just that culture is back, but so is its economic value and impact.

"Being able to be back with live productions, allowing us to hire our stagehands, our wardrobe crew, musicians, performers and all of our staff that work every performance, it's very important to the economy of Buffalo," Murphy said. "What we do with our touring shows is we have over a $100 million economic impact in Buffalo and being able to launch three national tours from Buffalo this year, that's an additional $25 million economic impact."

A guitarist plays on a brick porch in front of windows
Mike Desmond
Guitarist Mikee Strongman opened the 17th Annual Infringement Festival Thursday afternoon with a performance on a porch at Elmwood Avenue and North Street.

Infringement Music Coordinator Ryan Gurnett said the massed bands are a big attraction in Allentown.

"I first played Infringement about 10 years ago and I had no idea what it was about. I started helping run things three years ago and the people in this neighborhood absolutely love it. And it seems like it's so important to all of them," Gurnett said. "I moved down here two years ago and I can see it now. I dropped off some programs yesterday at Nietzsche's and three people were like, 'We were just talking about it. We're so excited.' So it seems like the whole neighborhood is amped up for it."

Wednesday evening, Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center was able to host one of its popular live events for the first time in two years. "Mid Summer Night's Draw" brings in artists who create illustrations from scratch, which are then auctioned off.

Hallwalls Executive Director Edmund Cardoni said a series of other live events are also on the calendar if state and local mandates continue to allow them.

A group of people walking around looking at artwork on tables
Mike Desmond
Hallwalls' " Mid Summer Night's Draw" welcomed art lovers to Asbury Hall for the first time in two years Wednesday evening.

“I'm not too worried about the exhibitions program. If things get bad again, we just might not have an opening next time, which is in mid-September for Jay Carrier's show," Cardoni said. "That would be sad. He's a local artist. A Native American artist. And I want that to be a crowded opening for him. So I hope that we're still able to do that at that point."

Cardoni said Hallwalls was also able to hold the first live concert in its new collaboration with the Colored Musicians Club July 24, after being delayed a year because of the pandemic.

On Saturday, Broadway will be closed from Michigan Avenue to Elm Street in downtown Buffalo for the day-long International Jazz Festival.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.