Jeff Miers – President’s Award
BMHOF Class of 2014
Jeff Miers’s involvement in every aspect of the Buffalo music scene has earned him the 2014 President’s Award from the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame.
Most people know Miers as rock critic for The Buffalo News, where he has been writing about popular music since 2002. That makes him the second-longest serving daily publication critic in that role after Dale Anderson (BMHOF, 2003), who did the job through the 1970s and ‘80s.
But Miers also brings the most onstage musical experience of any music critic at The News. He has also participated in educational ventures in the region.
Born in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, Jeff Miers moved to Buffalo in 1990 from Saratoga. He had recently graduated from the State University of New York at Fredonia with a degree in English and with a minor in music. While at Fredonia, he had met Nelson Starr, a fellow student.
Miers and Starr became close friends and eventually started a band in Fredonia called The Beat Unit. They played random and abstract music with Miers on guitar. When Miers graduated, Starr asked him to join The Tails, the band Starr had started in Buffalo. The Tails were together for a total of 11 years. Miers, having joined the band in August of 1990, was a part of the band for 10 of them. The group played frequently in Buffalo and toured throughout the northeast.
Through that decade, The Tails wrote, recorded and released two EPs, two full-length CDs and one live album. The albums were “Floating World on Blue” (1990), “Spiral World” (1994), “Extended Play” (1997), “Money Burned and Beauty Lost” (1999) and “Live at Nietzsche’s” (2000).
The Tails flirted with the big time, almost signed a few times with various big labels. They played a number of showcases in New York City, but no deals ever came of it. Some of the labels found they couldn’t qualify as either pop or grunge, and they didn’t seem to think there was any place for a band that fell in between the two approaches.
The Tails broke up in 2000 when Starr moved to New York to pursue his own career. They played a sold-out show at Nietzsche’s as a farewell performance for their fans in Buffalo. Miers then joined The Dollywatchers, a band fronted by Terry Sullivan. The Dollywatchers were together until 2005. They released one self-titled album in 2003. In 2007, four songs co-written by Miersand with Miers on guitar were included on Sullivan’s CD “Theearthmovesaroundthesun.”
Miers also contributed guitar to a song for Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan’s album “Gillan’s Inn.” The album was recorded largely in Buffalo at GCR studios.
After Dollywatchers broke up, Miersformed The Jealous Gods with Tails bassist Dave Hill. The band wrote and recorded and an album titled “You’ll Want To Wake Up Now” and performed both locally and in New York venues such as Mercury Lounge and The Bitter End.
Recently Miers has been playing as a bassist with a Pink Floyd tribute band called the“Relics” as well as in various ensembles fronted by Terry Sullivan and with several groups assembled by Eric Crittenden. His main project now is the Jeff Miers Band with his son, Declan. The Jeff Miers Band began in early 2013 and developed out of one of Miers’s youth projects.
In early 2013 Miers released a solo album – a self-titled, digital-only release that is available on Reverbnation. He played guitar, bass, keyboard, drums and wrote and produced the album in his own home.
Miers’ career as a music critic started when he published a piece on the 1993 Lollapalooza Festival held outside of Toronto, a festival that started as a traveling tour as opposed to the yearly festival in downtown Chicago that it is today. The piece was published in the weekly arts and entertainment paper, Metro Weekend. Within a year of that piece being published he became the paper’s music critic. By the time the paper was renamed The Buffalo Beat in 1998, Miers had worked his way up to editor in chief. In 2001, the magazine was sold and scuttled.
Miers also co-founded the local music publicationRockstar Magazine in 1998. He was the editor as well as the chief music critic. The magazine focused on original music from the Buffalo and Western New York area. The magazine stopped publishing in 2001.
In 2002, Miers was hired as the pop music critic for The Buffalo News, where he remains today. He covers the Buffalo music scene, which includes writing reviews and feature pieces on local artists as well as national and international touring acts that pass through the Buffalo area. He also writes stories pertaining to general music industry trends. From 2004 until 2005, Miers also worked as a freelance contributor to Guitar Player Magazine.
However, his most widespread exposure may have come courtesy of Bob Dylan. For eight years (2004-2012), Dylan used a paragraph from a piece Miers had written in his prerecorded concert introduction. Miers first heard it at Dylan’s concert at the Erie County Fair in 2004. The critic describes the experience of hearing it for the first time as “completely mind blowing,” and says it still is. It was “very cool” and maybe even “surreal.”
In 2008 Miers was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his music criticism at The Buffalo News. He has also won several New York State Associated Press awards for music journalism; he took the award for Arts Entertainment Criticism in 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Along with being a professional musician and music critic, Miers is also involved with youth music programs. He has worked with young musicians in the area at the yearly Artpark Rock Camp as a counselor. At the camp, kids of varying levels of ability are separated into bands. Those bands are assigned a program depending on their level of ability. Those students then spend a week practicing their program before a performance on the Artpark stage. Artpark Rock Camp has two weeks, one for junior musicians and one for advanced musicians. Miers was also an instructor at the 2012 Music is Art Rock Camp, a similar program that involves more classroom instruction and less practical application.
Miershas also formed the Scorched Earthlings, a band for young musicians in Buffalo that provides a workshop environment for kids to experience live performances in a professional environment. The band was an ongoing project with a rotating cast of student musicians. It has performed at a number of Robby Takac’s Music Is Art festivals, Feed the City benefits and area nightclubs. Over the years and as his own son’s talents grew, The Scorched Earthlings evolved into The Jeff Miers Band.
As a music critic, Miers covers a minimum of 100 concerts a year. His favorite event to cover are the Music Is Art festivals because he loves seeing younger, independent bands play. To Miers, young musicians show the future of music in Buffalo. His least favorite concert to cover was a Britney Spears concert at the then-HSBC Arena. The negative review he wrote about the concert exploded because people either found his views on the concert to be either funny or because his views upset some people.
When it comes to reviewing concerts, Miers knows that his reviews cannot be based solely on his personal taste. Instead he said he determines what the performer is trying to achieve and judges their performance based on whether or not they achieve what they set out to do. He tries to judge every performance based on its own merits. Over the years Miers has heard from both artists and community members about his reviews. Some have responded favorably while others were upset by his comments. Either way, Miers is always glad if his writing can start a discourse about music in the local community. For Miers, writing a bad review is never enjoyable, but it is a part of the job.
As for being both a performer and music critic, Miers has found that the each inform the other. While he considers his talent to be up to others to judge, his involvement with music gives him a basis of understanding that helps him knowledgably judge the performances of others. Afterall, he believes that you had better know what you’re talking about if you’re going to tear someone else down or praise them.
Miers has also found that the composition and improvisation of music is very similar to the composition and improvisation of writing. Writing with a quick deadline is much like improvising on stage – you just have to go for it. As for working as a performer at the same time as he serves as a music critic, Miers said he keeps a low profile and centers a lot of what he does performance-wise around outreach and education instead of a profit.
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