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Celebrating 20 years of the Music is Art Festival’s beautiful bohemian vibe | Music

“This is my favorite day of the year every year. And this year, even more so.”

Music is Art founder and Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac smiled broadly as he said these words early Saturday afternoon, showing no visible signs of having just hopped off a plane from New York City – his last stop on the current Goo Goo Dolls tour prior to a short break – and headed straight to Buffalo RiverWorks, home of the annual Music is Art Festival.

“I’m on about two hours of sleep, and I’ve never been happier,” Takac laughed, and then trotted off to mingle with the assembled, stopping for selfies with fans and being what he’s been for the past 20 years –  the heart, soul and face of the MiA Festival. 







Music is Art

Artist Avanna Duff from Atlanta works on a painting during the Music is Art Festival Saturday at RiverWorks.




For MiA’s 20th anniversary, the weather gods smiled on Takac and his team, offering up one of the nicest days of the now-dwindling summer. Fans responded in kind, flocking to the event by the time the gates opened at 11 a.m., and by late afternoon, freely swarming across the grounds in impressive numbers, taking in the broad spectrum of musical offerings that would, by day’s end, total performances from more than 200 bands and artists spread across 21 stages. 

The festival occupied the entire grounds of Buffalo RiverWorks, with stages spread throughout the interior, the rock garden and ruins adjacent to the venue, the abandoned surrounding silos, and the exterior of RiverWorks, along the Buffalo River. The activity also spread across the river, with several stages and a vendors village occupying Buffalo RiverFest Park, accessible by a Tiki Bar-themed shuttle boat, or by foot, across the Ohio Street bridge. 

MiA Fest veterans – I number myself among them by this point, having missed only one of the past 20 –  know that it’s not possible to see and hear and experience everything that happens during the 12-hour party. It’s best to sketch a vague outline for yourself, and then just get out there and wander. 

Even during the early hours of Saturday’s celebration, one could take in a set of swanky blues from Rockabilly Steve & the BR3 on the Wharf Stage, cross the river to hear some searing alternative rock from the Safety Meeting on the GCR Audio Stage at RiverWorks, catch the last few minutes of singer/songwriter Ryan Kaminski on the Tailgate Stage, indulge in the heavenly harmonies and gospel-tinged soul of Jay Aquarious on the Patio Stage, bathe in the deep soulfulness of Cordz on the Floating Stage on the dock behind RiverWorks, and still make it back over to RiverFest Park for a full set of deeply funky live drum ’n’ bass performed by drummer David Wazik and bassist Andy Paladino on the Blossom Village Bandshell stage. 

And by this point, the festival was only still getting started.

It all felt like a far cry from the 2002 debut of the MiA Festival, when a dozen bands and artists occupied two stages and a small arts and vendors community near the corner of Franklin and Allen streets. And yet, at the same time, the MiA vibe felt largely unchanged 20 years on. 

That vibe is a beautifully bohemian one, a feeling of community that freely accommodates day-glow hippies, darkly garbed Goth-heads and everyone in between. From the beginning, MiA Fest has felt like the biggest day of the year for the Buffalo arts community, an opportunity for us to gather together, celebrate our diversity, marvel at our endurance and indulge in feelings of gratitude. 

It’s been a vibrant and jubilant pair of decades for Music is Art. Here’s to the next 20 years.


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