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Wednesday, November 13

Review and Photos: Donna The Buffalo - Vinyl Music Hall - Pensacola, FL - November 7, 2013

Twenty-Five Years to Pensacola: Donna the Buffalo at Vinyl Music Hall, Pensacola, FL

Only a few minutes after local band, Timberhawk, left the stage at Vinyl Music Hall, Donna the Buffalo cast their first shadows on a Pensacola, Florida stage. The venue, a 450-person maximum occupancy former Mason’s lodge is the kind of intimate place we all dream of seeing our favorite bands perform. What a treat!
Jeb Puryear opened the show with the familiar riffs of “Movin’ On,” and set the tone for a helluva good night of music. His voice was spot-on. It had been more than five years since I’d seen Donna live, but it could have been last weekend. The sound was amazing and brought me back to a different time. Tara Nevins seemed a little distant, like something was amiss. Fortunately, it only took a few notes of “Temporary Misery” to know that whatever was troubling her off stage wasn’t going to affect her performance.  These people could sing to us all night, and we’d listen.  
By the third song, the accordion had been brought out and the hoedown had begun. A lively “In This Life” led into Tara asking “Why You Wanna Leave Me?” and reminding us why just she’s our favorite girl. Still reeling, they broke out “Heaven of the Earth” which built to McCracken playing one of the hottest organ solos I’ve heard in a long, long time. Smiles, bobbing heads and shuffling feet slid right into the mellow “If You Only Could,” giving us pause and perspective followed by a smooth, “Each and Every Direction.” 
Bringing the shuffle back, everybody got high on love while listening to a great “Blue Sky” which settled on the crooked fence of “No Place Like the Right Time,” a clear crowd pleaser. In a tight, well-orchestrated effort, the entire band built “Me and Depression” into the kind of booty-shaking jam these shows are made for and followed it up with a beautiful “Locket and Key.” Riding the ebb and flow of the crowd, “Family Picture” got us all moving. It was also a great opportunity to Jeb watch. Eyes rolled back and head bobbing with every note from his fingers, it was clear he was born to caress that faded yellow Stratocaster. 
After a song I was unfamiliar with, a comfort song from Rockin’ in the Weary Land, “It Will Be Right,” with its part-reggae groove swayed the audience into blissful submission. Another song with which I was unfamiliar segued into “I Love My Tribe” and set-closer, “Working on That.” 
A nearly full beer atop the monitor between bassist Kyle Spark and drummer Mark Raudabaugh’s stations let all of us know the night wasn't over. Less than two minutes after leaving the stage, Jeb and Tara returned for a stripped-down version of the new album, “Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday’s” title track, after which the remainder of the band returned to the stage. What they brought with them was the kind of jam that says “you’d best keep your dancin’ shoes on for a bit” which led into a whole mouthful of “Cornbread.” Dee-licious! The final song of the evening, “On Our Way,” was a lullaby dedicated to Jeb’s son, Jonas.
When the last note had been played, the banter continued. Band members lingered in the stage area, slowly striking their instruments and equipment while talking with members of the herd who stayed behind for one last “hello” or “good show.” Throughout the evening, conversation between band and audience was pleasant and fun. Twenty-five years of great music and these folks haven’t lost touch with the people they play for, and I don’t believe they ever will.
Words: Dan Fugate
Photos: Jake Kreulen
 ©Grateful Music LLC