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5/30/08 Crawfish Festival,
Augusta, NJ

Start 6:25 pm

Way Back When, Living in Babylon, These Are Better Days, Tides of Time, Tomorrow Still Knows, You’re Breakin' My Heart, Temporary Misery, Killing A Man, Hey Trudy, Locket & Key, Family Picture

End 7:35 pm

By Jeff Bauer

This year was Donna the Buffalo's first appearance at the Crawfish Festival, and if the band's three sets over two days here were any indication of things to come, it certainly won't be their last.

The festival, in its 19th year, is an interesting mix of food and music, all served up Louisana style. There's crawfish and zydeco, jambalaya and blues, catfish and swamp rock. And somewhere in the middle of it all there was Donna the Buffalo.

The festival kicked off on Friday, 5/30. Campers had all day to set up, and music started around 4 pm. Friday's music was for campers only--you had to buy a $125 camping ticket to get in, but the night did include free crawfish and jambalaya. I got to the Delta Music Pavilion to catch a little of Mitch Woods' set. While the songs were fun, it was loud to the point of being uncomfortable so I headed back to the campgrounds and relaxed with friends until it was just about Donna time.

DtB came on at about 6:25, opening with a fairly standard Way Back When. The sound was drastically better than it was for Mitch Woods' set. Next came Living in Babylon, which I mostly missed catching up with various members of the Herd, some of whom had flown in from the West Coast for the fest. Things picked up speed with These Are Better Days. I thought the Tomorrow Still Knows that came next was an interesting choice, a pleasant surprise.

Finally it was accordion time, and the band brought in the Louisiana feel with You're Breakin' My Heart. I thought they'd build on that momentum, but instead Tara picked up her acoustic for Temporary Misery, a song I like more now than when they first debuted it, though it still makes me think about Jim Miller.

Next came the highlight of the set for me: Killing a Man. Some fans might not care for the mood of this tune, but I say it's well worth it to hear the band do what I usually call a meltdown jam, when the slow-paced song descends into noisy chaos. During this song, I first noticed relatively new keyboardist Dave McCracken adding parts to the mix that I hadn't heard when Kathy Z was in that spot. Dave's playing what until this weekend I had assumed were Kathy's instruments; he later told me that those keyboards belong to the band. Dave was no stranger to them, having played these instruments for many gigs while filling in during Kathy's maternity leave.

Back to zydeco next, and I can't really remember them ever playing a Hey Trudy that wasn't fun. At this point, I started to wonder about the time, seeing as the band was scheduled to play from 6 to 7:30, with the Radiators slated to begin at 8. The band chose to play Locket & Key next.

What to close with? Family Picture, of course. The energy for this song was through the roof, almost literally. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I am absolutely amazed at the enthusiasm and intensity with which the Buffalo continues to perform this song, night after night, year after year, playing it as if they've just hit stride. The crowd went wild, the lights came up, and the set was over, at about 7:35 pm. It had been a great set, and the weekend had just begun.

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