On a cold night that felt more like western New York than the Piedmont of Georgia, Donna the Buffalo brought a three-hour party to Duluth with positive vibes and extended jams that had nearly everyone dancing in the aisles. Even those fans who were clearly rhythmically challenged (this reviewer included) shed their inhibitions and shook what they could during two sets that covered a good chunk of the band’s 25-year catalogue.
Club owner Eddie Owen started the night with a glowing introduction that prompted guitarist/co-founder Jeb Puryear to say, “That’s probably one of the better introductions in our career. I should have written some of it down.” The band then launched into the opening favorite “Funky Side” from 2006’s Rockin’ in the Weary Land.
Puryear and other co-founder/multi-instrumentalist Tara Nevins traded lead vocals seemlessly, while Nevins jumped from guitar to fiddle to washboard to accordion and back again. With Kyle Spark (bass), Mark Raudabaugh (drums), and Sam Fribush (keyboards, filling in quite well while original member David McCracken was home with his newborn son), the band laid down some extended jams — notably on “Conscious Evolution,” “America” and “Voice in My Head” — with the relaxed precision and ease of a group who’ve been together for longer than most married couples.
During his solos, Puryear was trancelike, eyes rolling back in his head, body so loose he seemed almost completely boneless but entirely at one with his guitar. It was a thing of pure joy to witness. There were moments, however, when Puryear seemed to be trying to coax just a bit more out of Fribush’s keyboard solos. Most requests shouted at them from The Herd of bouncing fans were honored, with the exception of the raunchy Boozoo Chavis tune “Uncle Bud”, a request that seemed to amuse Puryear to no end. The show was a bountiful gumbo of Grateful Dead-esque jams, country/folk blues, Bo Diddly-beat rockers and cajun/zydeco stomps. The second set also included a new song, “Let’s Make This Easier On Ourselves” and ended with an encore of the emotionally wrenching “Seems to Want to Hurt This Time.”
In a recent New York Times article about the new Paris concert hall Philharmonie de Paris, critic Anthony Tommasini wrote “If anything embodies free speech and the pursuit of enrichment in life, it is music and culture.” With tragic events swirling around the world outside, Donna the Buffalo brought a bit of funky joy for a few hours, where everyone was accepted — even those who couldn’t dance.
Photo courtesy of Lou Raimondi.
Listen to the entire show HERE. (Thanks to Z-Man in row N, between seats 10-11 at “seven-and-a-half feet in the air, the sweet spot,” for recording the show and providing the setlist.)