9/5/09 Daniel Boone Days Music & Culture Festival, Boone, NC

Movin' On, I Don't Need a Riddle, Positive Friction, Blue Sky, These Are Better Days, Beauty Within, Ring of Fire, Why Do You Want to Leave Me?, Love Time, Locket and Key, Family Picture, Greatest Love of All, Broken Record, It's Just Me, Temporary Misery, Hit the Groove, Voice in My Head
Encore: Hot Tamale Baby

By Paul Roberge

Boone is a college town in the mountains of western North Carolina, the home of Appalachian State University--yes, the Appalachian State that upset my alma mater, the University of Michigan, in football two years ago on this very weekend. At Michigan Stadium, no less. Knowing that it is cool here in the evenings, which a welcome reprieve to the heat and humidity of the Carolina Piedmont, Greenville, SC, Knoxville, and other places that Southeast Herd call home, I threw a sweatshirt in my suitcase. When I reached the hotel, I discovered to my chagrin that the aforementioned sweatshirt bore the name MICHIGAN in salient maize letters against blue background. Not quite like showing up in South Los Angeles in the wrong gang colors, but still an invitation to derision in these parts. (My wife suggested that I wear the sweatshirt inside out.) Happily, Boone is a friendly place that is situated in a beautiful part of the state. I was only teased once, good-naturedly.

The Horn in the West Amphitheater is located near the ASU campus. The stage was set up on a raised embankment of sand, buttressed by a stone retaining wall. That means that the band was elevated rather far above the "groundlings" in the dance area, which is bare ground. There is a large seated area rising from behind the pit, with hundreds of folding metal chairs and good sightlines due to the elevation of the stage. The largely volunteer staff was friendly and welcoming. The sound was not great down close to the rail (or wall, in this venue), but it was better further back. Knucklehead factor: low (at least where I was positioned).

After some delay occasioned by an equipment problem necessitating the replacement of Jeb's amplifier, the band got the show rolling with a familiar opener, gained momentum with "Positive Friction," and hit the afterburners when David McCracken made that organ wail in "Blue Sky." Vic Stafford treated us to some tight drumming in "These Are Better Days," and I particularly appreciated David's solo work in "Why Do You Want to Leave Me." "Locket and Key" struck me as perfunctory, but it segued into a sizzling "Family Picture." The extended versions of "Hit the Groove" and "Voice in My Head" showcased the poetic imagination of Jeb's guitar solos, with the solid accompaniment of his bandmates. To put it simply: More proof, were any needed, that these guys can play.

Overall, the band delivered a thoroughly enjoyable show that was enthusiastically received by the crowd. I was reminded this weekend of the African concept of ubuntu. We do not exist in isolation as individuals; a person becomes a person through other persons. "We're the ones we've been waiting for" is clearly grounded in this idea. The connectedness between band and audience is what makes Donna the Buffalo shows so special (in addition to musical virtuosity in its own right), and that special, indeed precious connection was achieved again this evening in Boone.

That's the report from High Country.

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