For the entirety of my childhood and a good portion of my adult life, listening to Buffalo radio stations wasn’t a completely awful experience. Amongst the Foxes and Edges, the Joy and Magic, the Jack and Alice, there was one station that never let me down – Oldies 104. A station devoted to the most exciting period of pop music history, it got The Beatles, Beach Boys, Sam Cooke and Sly Stone in my DNA from a young age, as my mom schlepped me around to Little League practices, piano lessons and such. But several years ago, the station changed its identity, along with its format. As Mix 104, it sounds like pretty much everything else on the dial, a mish-mash of chart-toppers from the last 40 years. I still haven’t recovered.
But my feelings of betrayal were somewhat assuaged on January 9, when I took in the oldies cover band Spare Parts at Arty’s Grill on Buffalo’s East Side (the place is awesome, with the picture here absolutely doing it justice). Over the course of their several-hour set, this group of retired postal workers (and a few younger ringers) dished out joyful, endearingly sloppy renditions of “Sea Cruise,” “Runaway,” “Slow Down,” “Do You Love Me,” “Mustang Sally” and so on. It was the most fun I’d had at a show in a while, and not just because I had some pals in the band. As a crowd of Spare Partisans and Arty’s regulars danced, clapped and raised their drinks in salute, I yearned for the days when this kind of reverie was just a twist of the knob away.
If you’re the kind of person who gets pissed off at the phrase “oldies but goodies” (why do we have to be reassured that they’re goodies? There’s a much better chance that an oldie is a goodie than a new Nickelback song), I’d recommend the Spare Parts experience. Not only will the set list be crammed with several of your favorites, you can look forward to half-assed Elvis impersonations, charming originals, the soft-spoken witticisms of bassist/de facto bandleader Frankie Flame, and a general air of unpretentiousness. Because when a band pays homage to the building blocks of rock and soul without taking itself seriously, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.