Twenty five years is well over the median for a band’s existence as a creative force, and when that milestone is reached, what better way to celebrate than to gather up your friends, book a local venue for three days, and churn through songs old and new? That’s exactly what hometown heroes Buffalo Tom did, commandeering Brighton Music Hall for a post-Thanksgiving homestand and scanning through their contacts list to put together something truly special.
The band self-released an excellent LP this year in Skins but the pressures of balancing (non-music) careers, families and playing in a rock band require some tough choices, and earlier this year Bill Janovitz wrote a bittersweet article on those very pressures and where that put the band. If this is the last hurrah for the time being, they made the most of it by inviting a plethora of friends and music colleagues to make it a most memorable event.
After a spirited solo set from Ted Leo (who knew that hot sauce and Irish whisky is a cure for throat problems?), Mike O’Malley welcomed the band out and they greeted the audience with “Velvet Roof,” one of their more beloved songs. A few more songs in and it was time to for the guests. J Mascis was a logical choice to have on hand, as he produced their first record, and also pitched in with some guitar work. Newly minted by Rolling Stone as the 86th best guitar player in rock history, he helped recreate the dense sonic structures of “Impossible” and “Sunflower Suit.”
Additional appearances included Tanya Donelly, providing her vocals to “Don’t Forget Me” as she did on Skins, and two members of Fuzzy (Chris Toppin and Hilken Mancini) took solo turns on the guest mic before they all came out to sing along with “Tree House,” a bouncy treat of a song that also disguises lyrics of bitterness and loss.
If there’s one song that Buffalo Tom is known for, it would have to be “Taillights Fade,” a tremendous song that puts Janovitz’ full-throttle delivery (both singing and guitar playing) front and center. The night wouldn’t conclude before a couple of choice covers were wheeled out, with O’Malley stepping up and presenting his inner Daltrey on The Who’s “The Seeker.” But the big guns were fired at the end, when Mascis got back on stage, Chris Colbourn took vocal duties, and the band launched into Neil Young’s “Cortez The Killer.” The ending lyrics of “what a killer” couldn’t be more apt.