Upcoming Concert Reviews of Donna The Buffalo, Blue Cheer and More...
Donna the Buffalo
Thursday · Southgate House
Donna the Buffalo is a versatile quintet from Trumansburg, N.Y., whose mastery over genres like Roots, Country, Bluegrass, Folk, Zydeco, Reggae and Rock have earned the band a very loyal and vocal following among the Jam scene, which they have dubbed The Herd. Donna the Buffalo began in the late '80s, named when they were kicking around antique-sounding band names and someone suggested Dawn of the Buffalo, which everyone else misheard as Donna The Buffalo, the name everyone happened to love.
The band's early focus was on straight Appalachian music, but over time they began to incorporate more contemporary electric Roots Rock sound and vision into their varied presentation. The band — at its core, vocalist Tara Nevins and electric guitarist Jeb Puryear — coalesced in the early '90s and immediately attracted the attention of the Deadhead audience taping crowd, who embraced DTB's first independently released tapes and CDs. One of DTB's early appearances at MerleFest, an annual festival to honor the memory of Bluegrass legend Merle Watson, was seen by reps from Roots label Sugar Hill, and they signed the band quickly, increasing their distribution and audience exponentially.
As their following grew, so too did the band's desire to blend more and diverse musical elements into their sound, resulting in something that is simultaneously very hardcore, old time and yet organically modern. With DTB now comprised of Nevins, Puryear, bassist Bill Reynolds, keyboardist Kathy Ziegler and drummer Tom Gilbert, the band has produced a number of well-received releases over the past dozen years, including an energetic live album, a number of great studio projects, a collaboration with Jim Lauderdale and a solo album from Nevins.
DTB was together for nearly 12 years before they managed to put together a tour of the Western states (having never been further west than Indiana at that point) and Europe; the year after that they released Positive Friction, their breakthrough album, followed by the two-CD Live from the American Ballroom. They grew their stature even more with a wildly successful opening gig for The Dead at Alpine Valley in 2002.
Last year, Donna the Buffalo worked out a contract with Reincarnate Music to release their latest album, Life's a Ride, maintaining the creative control of an indie while still enjoying the distribution of a major. (Brian Baker)
The Black Keys with The Black Angels
Thursday · Madison Theater
Cruising down the corridors of I-71 again, shooting straight from Akron, Ohio, comes the Blues-stompin', dues-paying Black Keys. This guitar/drums duo just released their fourth full-length, homemade record, Magic Potion, and are now slinging their six-string fury all over club stages like our own Madison Theater in Kentucky.
They're signed to the Fat Possum label, which specializes in signing Blues artists of the greasy, juke-joint, throwback variety. Rural Mississippi legends, such as R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, originally put this label on the map, and the Keys are continuing the legacy. In fact, their last EP, Chulahoma, covers six Kimbrough songs as a tribute.
These Blues embody the dark pulse of throbbing, raw, monster-riff music. It's the opposite of B.B. King's more elegant styling — instead, this claustrophobic music pounds the floorboards and grinds the grooves down into a relentless din of thick, clotted guitar and muscular drums. Unlike their predecessors mentioned above, the Keys are two white boys from the suburbs of northern Ohio. Nothing wrong with that, though, since the black Blues have been co-opted each generation by everyone from Elvis to Eric Clapton to The White Stripes. And it's this last duo, with its stripped-down but heavy Blues sound, who probably led the Keys by example.
The Keys record in drummer Patrick Carney's basement studio. And their music bleeds this garage aesthetic with Dan Auerbach's fuzzed-out guitar, chuggin' lead lines and growling vocals. This is stick-to-your-ribs music, make no mistake. At times, they sound much closer in spirit to the swamp-fury of early Creedence Clearwater than to the virtuoso Blues pyrotechnics of someone like Stevie Ray Vaughn. If you're even remotely tuned in to this kind of minimalist Blues Rock, then the Black Keys are worth checking out this week. (Gregory Gaston)
Blue Cheer with Buffalo Killers
Tuesday · Southgate House
It hardly seems possible that next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the formation of Blue Cheer, one of the most visceral and pummeling Psychedelic bands of the '60s. Although the band's line-up has been malleable over the years — bassist/vocalist Dickie Peterson has been the only constant since 1967 — its thundering Psych/Garage/Metal groove has remained blissfully intact.
Blue Cheer formed in San Francisco — named for a potent kind of LSD concocted by chemical legend Owsley — at a time when music was taking a gentle turn toward acoustic Country Rock. But the trio was having none of it. Their debut album, 1968's Vincebus Eruptum, contained a blistering version of Eddie Cochran's classic "Summertime Blues," and both single and album wound up in Billboard's Top 15, the only real commercial success the band would ever enjoy. After that, Blue Cheer changed personnel more than George Steinbrenner changed Yankee skippers, typified by 1969's New! Improved! Blue Cheer, on which each side of the record was represented by a different guitarist. By the start of the '70s, Blue Cheer had polished some of the rougher edges off their raw Psych/Blues approach in order to appeal to a broader commercial market, but they never matched the gut-wrenching verve of their debut and they eventually called it a day.
Although they remained marginally active in the '80s, it wasn't until 1988 that Blue Cheer began touring with some frequency; 1989 saw the release of the first live album in the band's history, Blitzkrieg Over Nuremberg, recorded on their first European tour since the '70s. By the '90s, Blue Cheer were working to balance their raw early sound with their more sophisticated attempts of the '70s, with a good deal of success, particularly on 1992's Dining with the Sharks, featuring ex-Monsters guitarist Dieter Saller. For the better part of the last 15 years, the lineup has generally consisted of Peterson, original drummer Paul Whaley and guitarist Andrew "Duck" McDonald, although others have stepped in and out in that time. Recent remastered, bonus-tracked reissues of the band's early work have sparked a resurgence in interest in Blue Cheer, and the band maintains a vigorous touring schedule throughout the year. Earplugs recommended, smiles mandatory. (BB)