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6/16/02 Clearwater Hudson River Revival, Croton, NY
Photos of this show
My First Donna Show
A couple weeks ahead of time, my wife asked me what I'd like to do for Father's Day. I told her I'd like to find a place where me, her, and our then-6-year-old daughter could see some live music during the day together. I started poking around the Internet to see what I could find.
I found a listing for the Clearwater Festival, which was about an hour from home. I saw Donna the Buffalo on the lineup. I hadn't ever heard them before but knew that they played at some festivals where other bands I liked also played, so we decided to check them out.
A week before the show, I found some MP3s of Donna online. The first, I believe, was No Place Like The Right Time, from mp3.com. Honestly, my first reaction was, "This is way too hick for me." At the time, I knew nothing about country, old time, zydeco, or any other genre that wasn't rock. All I knew was what I liked (rock), and this Donna the Buffalo song wasn't it.
For some strange reason, though, that wasn't the end of me and Donna the Buffalo. I poked around the Net some more, and found complete shows to download for free as MP3s on Funkyside.com. I downloaded one (10/26/01, Red Barn, Deposit, NY), burned it to disc, and let the disc live in my CD player for a few days.
WOW! I had never heard anything like that before. Is that a fiddle I hear...and an accordian...in a rock song?!? What's the deal with those songs that are all accordian and no lyrics? What's that guy mumbling? Who ARE these people?!?!?!?!??
Needless to say, by the time the Clearwater Festival rolled around, I was curious. We hung out all day, enjoyed some other bands (kinda) and then headed to the "dance tent" where Donna the Buffalo was supposed to play. (I'd never been to a concert that had a "dance tent" before.) Turns out it was the wrong tent, so minutes before they're scheduled to start, we hightail it over to the "other" dance tent. Just then it starts to rain, a pouring, soaking rain.
The tent's full, and I decided that either this band's really popular, or the tent's a really good place to stay dry. Me, my wife, and my daughter duck underneath a box truck to stay dry.
A minute later, the band starts to play, and the tent erupts into a sea of swaying, dancing bodies. Anyone who was there just to get out of the rain quickly leaves, and the tent is still full.
This is the part of the review that's going to be a little weak, because being new to the band, I didn't really know any of the songs, and I'm writing this more than two years after the fact. I could just rely on the setlist posted on donnabase.com, only it turns out this was one of those infrequent shows that slipped through the cracks--it wasn't taped, no setlist jotted down, so only those who were there and the band itself knows exactly what was played at this show (if you know, please let me know).
So I can't really comment on how they played this or that specific song. I do remember that they played America, because when they sang the first verse, I remembering thinking, "Oh, how nice, they play a patriotic song," and then listening more carefully to the words, and laughing my ass off. Two years later, when Brian sent me photos of this show to use on this web site, I was able to piece together some of the songs they played by looking at the names of the jpgs: Positive Friction, Tides of Time, Family Picture, Pretty Boy Floyd, 40 Days and 40 Nights, and Voice in My Head. I was hearing each obviously for the very first time, and loving it all.
While I can't comment too well on how they played specific songs, what struck me most about this show was the vibe, which was incredible! We eventually moved into the dance tent, and the joy in that place was so strong you could see it. Everyone dancing and smiling, from little kids to older folks to dreadlocked wookies to men wearing cowboy hats, all touched the same way by the sweet sounds coming from the best musicians I'd never heard of.
A couple of times I caught the eyes of some people dancing around me, and they responded with big smiles, as if they could tell I was just discovering some awesome secret they'd already known for years. I got this kind of "welcome home" feeling I'd only experienced at two other "first time seeing a band" shows.
At one point, I saw a little girl, couldn't have been older than 4 or 5, sitting on the edge of the dance floor, apparently by herself. I thought that was odd, that no parent would be watching over her extremely carefully during a concert. I looked closer, and saw that she was mouthing the words of the song the band was playing. That kid was no stranger to Donna shows, and she was obviously in a very safe place.
The band played for about two hours, which I thought was very generous (I'd soon discover that at a non-festival, non-benefit gig, 3+ hour Donna sets are the norm). I wasn't exactly sure of what the hell I'd just seen, but I knew I wanted to see it again, very soon.