Buffalo Rose, a side project born out of several prominent Pittsburgh bands, made their live debut on Tuesday, June 7 at The New North. Comprised of Shane McLaughlin from Manic Soul, Mariko Reid of The Mariko Reid Quintet and Memphis Hill’s Lucy Clabby and Mac Inglis, the quartet is a veritable supergroup of musicians who have drawn respect and goodwill in their prior projects, making their debut show a highly-anticipated event attended by many of the band's friends and other participants in the Pittsburgh music scene.
The show was opened by acoustic duo Scott and Rosanna, who impressed the audience with their sophisticated songwriting, lovable stage presence and raw talent. The intimate nature of the show allowed them to express the meaning behind many of their songs, which ranged from their neighbor’s negligent parenting to a discussion with their parents about not wanting to get married in a church. They also played a FoundSound favorite, "Nothing To Do," which perfectly displays the group’s talent and captures their stage presence.
Buffalo Rose opened the night with "Mama Have Mercy," a slow track that builds to a powerful climax featuring soulful, four-part harmonies layered on top of McLaughlin’s acoustic guitar and Inglis' masterful dobro playing. The track also served to highlight McLaughlin’s mature songwriting that perfectly treads the line between being unique and universal. The track’s chorus in particular stands out: “Oh mama have mercy / Oh mama be kind / The world ain’t out there to hurt me / I do it to myself sometimes.”
The quartet moved into some slower originals and covers. While McLaughlin sang the bulk of the lead vocals, Clabby and Reid added their own beautiful harmonies. Both of the supporting singers occasionally sang a verse or two in a song, while choruses were usually shared by all to an incredibly powerful effect.
Four or five songs into the setlist, the band performed a very well-received cover of Fleetwood Mac’s "The Chain," which Clabby dedicated to her cat, who is cleverly named Fleetwood Cat. Inglis ditched the dobro for an acoustic guitar and Reid and Clabby’s vocals took center stage, shifting onstage dynamics in a way that many bands are unwilling or unable to do.
Buffalo Rose benefits from having three singers who have fronted their own bands in the past. While McLaughlin’s songwriting certainly carries the ensemble, his style of fronting the band is much more subtle than many singer-songwriter led groups. Instead of standing front and center, he stood inconspicuously at house left, allowing the spotlight to shift to either Reid or Clabby when they sang lead, or Inglis when he was soloing. The result conveyed the band’s authentic joy at playing with one another and obvious respect and appreciation for the talents of the group’s other members.
The band closed the night on "I Can Get High," a song lyrically grounded on the line “I can get high, but I still feel low.” In addition to being instantly relatable to many in the audience, the track also captured the mature desire to find fulfillment in all parts of life without sounding preachy or judgmental.
Buffalo Rose’s debut showcased sophisticated songwriting, deft instrumentation and immense vocal talent, and left us waiting restlessly for an EP or at least a single from the group. They will doubtlessly become a staple of the Pittsburgh music scene in the months to come, and we can’t wait to hear what the group comes out with next.