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Catching up with local concert promoter/club owner Chris Ring

Photo by Jessica Schmelzinger

Ring in the New Year

2014 has been a remarkable year for Buffalo. Local craft beer breweries have multiplied, dozens of new restaurants have opened, Sabres owner Terry Pegula purchased the Buffalo Bills, the Buffalo school board has been transformed, Canalside and downtown residential development have experienced relentless growth, and clubs like the Town Ballroom, Sportsmen’s Tavern, The Tralf, the Waiting Room and others have offered more quality live music than the city has seen in decades.

Chris Ring, the president and founder of After Dark Entertainment and owner of The Waiting Room plans to end 2014 with a bang with his 10th annual Every Time I Die Christmas Show. Ring, who has played an active role in promoting Buffalo’s music scene for over 15 years didn’t expect to be one of Buffalo’s most successful concert promoters. It’s a job he took on out of necessity.

“In 1997, I started a punk band called The Budgets,” said Ring, “Shows were extremely hard to find for us, so we ended up renting out a roller rink in West Seneca for a birthday party and I had a bunch of my friends’ bands play. Almost 200 kids showed up and it was awesome. From that point on I started putting on small punk rock shows since no one else was doing it at the time.”

In addition to promoting his band The Budgets, Ring had a chance to help other struggling groups at the time.

“It was all very DIY at first. I started putting on shows with my cousin Don Walker and we were called DC Connection. We would bring in out of town touring acts and book local bands that couldn’t find shows on their own. We started building our name and people began to notice. A lot of bands started to reach out to us. We actually got our big break when we booked Vanilla Ice at the Showplace Theatre. I was only 19 years old and it was the first time I worked with a real agent, a real act and a real production.

Vanilla Ice was a certified star at the time and his song “Ice Ice Baby” was the first hip-hop single to top the Billboard charts. So with his first promotional experience with a national star a success, it became clear to Ring that he had an opportunity to create something much bigger than he had anticipated.

“After Vanilla Ice I started working with Showplace a lot and started to gain some momentum on a national level. Booking agents started reaching out to me and before I knew it, this was my profession.”

Ring started booking bands through ESI Events over the years and in 2001 started After Dark Entertainment. He became a staple for the music community and put on some of the biggest shows in Buffalo.

In 2012, he started to face some obstacles as a few concert venues started to shut down throughout the city.

“I was losing a lot of the venues that I would use to book shows in the Buffalo area. The Mohawk closed and the Club Infinity and Extreme Wheels also closed.

“The Waiting Room was kind of a forced situation. Opening a bar/venue was never really anything I wanted to do, but with three great clubs that were no longer open, I had nowhere to book smaller bands and put on local showcases.”

Then Ring found a unique opportunity to fulfill his passion for music and local artists.

“My current manager, Brent Gardner approached me about doing shows at the location where The Waiting Room is when the club was still called Sinful. We did a few shows and we agreed that it was a great spot. I realized that there were really no other smaller venues opening up at the time and decided to take over the property and make the Waiting Room a permanent stop. The location made sense and the kids really seemed to love it.”

Ring had a great venue that was up and running, but still wanted to showcase more towards the smaller bands that weren’t getting enough attention.

“When the club first opened, it was going very well but it was still too big for local showcases I wanted to put on. I wanted to create a room to hold the intimacy that I loved to see at shows without the stress of open space.

“We opened the upstairs room, which holds 300 people and called it the Studio. It’s perfect for smaller bands to play without worrying about packing a big room full of kids.”

Now that he has a venue of his own, Ring has had a very successful run this past year.

“It’s all going really great. I’m still trying to learn the bar business but it’s a work in progress. We still have a lot of exciting plans taking place for the month of December.

“One of my favorite events of the year is the Annual Every Time I Die Christmas Show.”

Buffalo’s own metal-core band, Every Time I Die will be performing three sold out shows on December 18th, 19th and 20th.

“This will be the 10th year of the annual concert series and it’s one of my favorite events to put on. We have three shows total, one at the Town Ballroom and two at The Waiting Room. The Town Ballroom show sold out way back in September and the second show at Waiting Room sold out in October. We still have a few tickets left for the third show at Waiting Room, but we are expected to sell out very soon.”

Every Time I Die has had a cult following in their hometown of Buffalo ever since their 2001 debut release Last Night in Town (Ferret Records).

“That band has some of the craziest fans I have ever seen,” said Ring. “The shows are going to be absolutely crazy. It’s an event that every hardcore kid in Buffalo wants to attend.”

Keith Buckley, singer/front man of Every Time I Die is proud to call Buffalo his hometown.

“I feel like everyone that has ever been involved in the Buffalo scene since the 90s has a mutual respect and adoration for each other.” Buckley says. “Our Christmas shows aren’t just about the music. They’re a chance for old friends to converge upon the same tiny venues while home visiting families.

“We all want warm nostalgia. We all want to have a drink after having to deal with relatives. It’s not just an Every Time I Die show. We just happen to be playing music while you catch up with the dudes you haven’t seen all year.”

Not only will Ring aim to please the die-hard fan base of maybe the rowdiest bands to hail from the Queen City. He also has his New Years Masquerade Ball to close out the year.

“We’ll be having our 5th annual Masquerade Ball on New Years Eve at the Foundry Suites Hotel.” Says Ring. “We have the entire hotel and 2 banquet facilities at our disposal. It’s a really great event and what makes it unique is that you’re not dealing with the downtown craziness that might turn you off from going out in the first place.

“The party is being held at the brand new Foundry Hotel located in the old FWS building on Elmwood near Hertel Ave. It starts at 8:30PM and we’ll provide 4 hours of a premium open bar with an excellent midnight buffet.”

Through success and turbulence, Ring has managed to stay afloat and ignite musicians and music fans all over the city. Whether it’s putting on a good ol’ fashion punk show, or throwing one of the biggest parties of the year, Chris Ring is there for Buffalo.

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