The Steeldrivers/ Donna the Buffalo
January 23, 2009
Nashville’s newest venue, The Loveless Barn could not have come at a better time. The Music City has lost more than a few good venues in the past few years. No matter what you thought of Starwood Amphitheater, when it left so did many large national touring acts. This past fall City Hall closed it’s doors, and with each fallen venue or promoter the music seems to slip right on by. Of course we still have great venues like the Ryman, Exit In and War Memorial, but miss greatly some ingredients to having a magical music scene.
However the Grand Opening of The Loveless Barn brought new hope to a busted scene.
This will not be the home to many rock and roll shows as it is a good 25-minute drive out into the country, west of the bright lights of downtown. Nestled at the top of the Natchez Trace it is the perfect home to shows like The Steeldrivers and Americana darlings Donna the Buffalo.
The Steeldrivers opened the double bill to a mildly confused crowd. The old VIP’s from the neighborhood seemed to enjoy their seats, while those who came to have a good time and dance questioned, “who ever heard of a sit down hoe down?”
This did not prevent the hometown band from trying to burn down the barn with fine bluegrass picking and infectious harmonies. There is no wonder that these talented bluegrass musicians have been the hot ticket in the IBMA world. They offered up crowd favorites like “East Kentucky Home” and “Midnight to Memphis.” These are some first-rate pickers, and lead vocalist Chris Stapleton may have the most intriguing voice in the modern bluegrass world.
As The Steeldrivers worked through their set the barn definitely became livelier, yet the collar was never loosened completely. Spontaneous crowds of dancing popped up in pockets across the crowd, yet the older seated patrons would not give any ground, and unfortunate complaints about space became a drag for the simple fan and venue staff.
After The Steeldrivers set the blue hairs pulled camp, and most of the chairs were removed offering up the dance floor. Although it was a shame for the Steeldriver set, it certainly helped Donna the Buffalo. Their set started with high energy. As though a weight had been lifted from the crowd, everyone seemed much happier and danced around freely.
Donna the Buffalo have been around the block, and have a strong fanbase. However after a few songs I could not help feeling as though there was just something missing. Guitarist Jeb Puryear is talented player, and multi instrumentalist Tara Nevins certainly has a bucket full of skill, yet the band’s play seemed to be held back.
It could have been the presence of the talented organ player, Dave McCracken that never seemed to be fully utilized. Bassist Jay Sanders, who laid it down with Snake Oil Medicine Show and Acoustic Syndicate for many years, held his own though.
The energy did seem to fit the groove during “Funky Side”, “I Don’t Need a Riddle” and “Ring of Fire.” Throughout the rest of the evening all had a good time. The band offered up a solid set – just different then what I was looking for, and I am not giving up on Donna the Buffalo based on the night’s performance.
All the same, the venue learned it has a few kinks to work out, and if nothing else, the youngsters once again got to ruffle the feathers of the older guard – those who think there should be no drums in bluegrass and that a good show should be taken in seated. It always feels good to rebel!