I’ve been coming to the Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines, Iowa for about seven years now, and I’m not sure I’ve seen more than 15 people at a show that starts before eight. David Dondero was no exception.
David sat at the end of the bar engaged in what sounded like simple conversation with a man in a baseball cap sitting two seats away, sipping on a beer with a massive orange duffel bag at his feet. His guitar leaned up against the wall behind him. Gloom Balloon (Patrick Tape Fleming’s new project) played sad songs about moms and growing middle aged with Chris Ford on trumpet at the front of the venue. They sounded like an underwater, more intimate version of The Poison Control Center.
After a short set, David walked up to the stage and neatly laid down his guitar and bag side by side stage left and hid his beer behind his orange blob. He looked tired, worn, and ready.
He played a set that lasted no longer than 40 minutes. Half way through, he sipped his hidden beer and looked out to the six of us standing in the crowd. “I don’t do a setlist, so if you have any requests go ahead and let me know.” It almost made me tear up. How can someone this masterful and influential—someone NPR named as one of the best living songwriters—be standing here in Des Moines barely projecting enough to be heard over the PBR Princes in the back blabbing about absolutely nothing? It seemed backwards and out of place.
David maintained a steady demeanor—he made jokes and told stories about smoking-hot dog turds and disliking the Green Bay Packers (contained in the clip below) amidst their accompanying songs. His hands shook throughout most of the show, a steady rhythmic tremble that fit right in with his precise picking and wavering voice. Toward the end of the show he opened up his orange bag and showed the crowd a tupperware container with his homemade compilation CDs inside and the few t-shirts he had left. He’s truly a one man show, traveling town to town playing boring taverns and under-attended punk venues with nothing but a guitar and orange duffel bag, even if only half the room is listening.
He’s playing the east coast the next couple of days, so if you’re within two, three, four states of him, go.
Recorded with an iPhone:
Originally posted on Solid Stated