by Tom Etu
Reunion show at Town Ballroom pay tribute to the late great music venue
Bricks and mortar may keep a building standing, but kinetic energy and creativity were what kept the Continental breathing. Soaked in local color and spilled beer, it was once the epicenter of the local music scene and Buffalo’s original alternative bar. In the 1980s it was home to local talents such as the Fems, Nullstadt, Electroman, Decay of Western Civilization, and Funk Monsters & Woman.
Friday, the Town Ballroom will play host to the spirit of the Continental in a reunion party that features stand-by artists and newcomers alike.
“I think people tried it a couple times on a smaller scale, and I kind of took the reins and said if we’re going to do this, let’s do it right,” says Bud Redding, event organizer and performer in Funk Monsters & Woman. “There were a few things about it that made it unique. It was all original, mostly local bands. The fact that you had the DJ scene upstairs kept people abreast of all of the new music. The place just had a good vibe about it all the time. I worked there a total of 10 years and I don’t remember seeing any fights or anything like that. It had a reputation of being a tough place to go because people wore leather jackets and dressed in black and there were Goth chicks there, but it was actually pretty calm and everyone got along with each other.”
When asked to recollect memories, he says “I guess my wife would be mad if I didn’t say I met her there. That was probably the most important thing.”
While many bands are returning for the show, there are new elements in the mix. Part of what made the Continental special was its assistance in giving new musicians exposure. Redding says that he “wanted that to continue even though it’s a reunion. Garda has that industrial vibe to it, same with Rustworm.” Rob DeGuehery of Rustworm says, “We’ve used power tools, sewing machines, and electronic noise. I guess we had a lot of similarities to those bands that played when the C was in its prime. What I’m most looking forward to is playing to those people who used to frequent the Cont. I know a lot of people are flying in just for this event.”
The Continental has been gone for many years now, but it left behind more than a few fond memories. Drummer Rändy Käus of Garda recounts an amusing, aromatic tale from the stage. “The owner had Doberman pinschers as guard dogs throughout the night. They’d all sleep on the stage because it was the only part of the room that had a carpet. They’d sleep on the stage and shit all over it, and over the course of years, from musicians to the dogs themselves, they ground the shit into the carpet so it was a fine brown. It was the uniform color of shit, and it smelled like it. So if you spilled beer, you didn’t care.”
“It was like a Jackson Pollock painting,” says Garda bassist Ken Devlin. “It’s weird that things like that are fond memories in a way.”
While this weekend’s resurrection of the spirit of the Continental celebrates a scene and time that was uniquely special, one can’t help but consider the recent closings of music venues in Buffalo. In the past year the city has lost Club Diablo, Mohawk Place, and now Club Infinity as well. Chris Sirgey of Rustworm offers an optimistic view of the situation. “It’s sad to see them go,” he says, “but I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next. It will be nice if a place comes along that bands like us, who don’t really fit in at the other clubs, can call home.”
David Kane has been a musical chameleon in the local scene for decades and was a regular performer at the Continental in bands such as the Celibates, Nullstadt, and Decay of Western Civilization. “I had many great nights at the Continental,” Kane says. “Some I remember and some I was told about the next day. We usually got home when it was light outside. A particular highlight was when Electroman was playing and Donovan showed up, and we did ‘Catch the Wind’ together. Donovan was completely fucked up but Freeland kicked ass that night. I have nothing but fond memories of Bud Burke and the classic answering machine message of ‘You have reached the Continental. Leave a message.’
“It provided many artists the opportunity to try new things in front of an audience and to congregate with like-minded others. I wish the structure still stood but I feel it was largely a product of the times, and we have moved on to a different era. It truly was the hipster club of the ’80s.blog comments powered by Disqus
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