Upcoming Benefit Shows in Boston

This Thanksgiving weekend my band, Buffalo Tom, will be playing three shows at the Brighton Music Hall (the erstwhile Harper’s Ferry) to commemorate 25 years of existence. We formed in Northampton in 1986 while students at UMass Amherst. Here is a snapshot from one of the first gigs we played, in 1986, at Sheehan’s Cafe in Northampton, a bar basement where I saw the Pixies, Flaming Lips, and other legendary bands play to between 20-80 people maximum.

Buffalo Tom Sheehan's 1986. Photo by Richard Bonanno

We started to get some traction and by 1989, had recorded our first album, here in Boston’s mythical Fort Apache Studio. The record (yes, record, not CD) was released on SST records, home to our heroes Sonic Youth, Husker Du, and Dinosaur Jr. We started headlining our own tours of clubs across Europe and, only then, were we able to headline shows in Boston, where we were now living after graduation. Within three years of that first record, we were playing the main stage at the famous Reading Festival to 60,000 people.

Buffalo Tom Reading Festival 1992

I wrote a piece for last week’s Boston Phoenix, capturing many of the memories of what it was like to start the band, back before playing the Reading Festival was even a realistic dream, before Nirvana broke through into the mainstream, sweeping along bands like us in the wake, and all the great stuff that came our way during the rest of the 1990s. It was only around the time of the above photo that we were able to quite our day jobs and it never stopped feeling like we had our dreams come true, playing music, touring the world, as a day job. And, frankly, now that we have been back in day jobs for over a decade, playing music is a welcome outlet.

I was going to say it is all just for fun, but that’s not accurate. We still take it seriously, having just released out tenth record in 2010. We still think of ourselves as artists, and making art is not always fun. Fun is overrated. Sometimes you just need a way to exorcise demons, and, as another old man noted, “grappling with hard truth.” And much of truth gets harder as the years accumulate. A rock band seems as good an outlet as any at this age.

I’ve been feeling like an indulgent nostalgic old man these past few weeks. But if a guy can’t reflect after 25 years, when can he? It’s Thanksgiving week. I am thankful for being able to still play music with two people I have grown up with over 25 years. I am thankful for the other friends we grew up with over those decades, all coming down this coming weekend to have their ears blown out. I’m thankful for the exceedingly gifted old friends coming down to sing and play music with us: Tanya Donelly; J. Mascis; Ted Leo; Mike O’Malley (who interviewed us for the Globe last week); Chris Toppin; Hilken Mancini; Bob Weston; Thalia Zedek. And newer friends, like the kids in Mean Creek and Eugene Mirman. And I am thankful that the fans who have followed us all these years. The first two shows are sold out.

Details on this and other upcoming benefit shows:

Buffalo Tom: Special guests including J Mascis, Ted Leo, Eugene Mirman (Friday), Mean Creek, Bob Weston, Hilken Mancini (Saturday), Tanya Donelly, Thalia Zedek (Sunday). (Brighton Music Hall, 158 Brighton Ave, Allston. November 25, 26, 27; 7:30 p.m. 18+. $22. Info: 617-779-0140, ticketmaster.com.)

Read Boston: The next gig for me will be a solo acoustic set at the annual Hometown Authors Reception December 5 at Hotel Commonwealth for the Read Boston organization. Dennis Lehane, Mayor Menino, Ben Mezrich, and Janovitz: happens all the time.

Regent Theater Benefit: December 17 To benefit the Children’s Room in Arlington, a center that provides caring for grieving children, teens, and families. This will be a duo set with Tanya Donelly and me, with other acts the Vivs, Big Dipper, and more.

Hot Stove Cool Music: To benefit Paul and Theo Epstein’s Foundation to Be Named Later. Yes, Theo is comin’ home for this one. I have been an organizer and participant in this event for 11 or 12 years. This year, “will feature performances by Grammy award-nominated Boston Native Susan Tedeschi, legendary Boston rockers The Remains, Grammy award-winning guitarist Derek Trucks, and the Hot Stove All-Stars featuring Gammons, Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz, indie rocker Kay Hanley, J. Geils Band’s Seth Justman, folk rocker Robin Lane and more. Glee actor Mike O’Malley will take the reins as emcee.”