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The Donnas Do Seattle: Concert Review

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A few years ago, while in one of my legendary gin-fueled collegiate stupors, I stumbled across the video for The Donna’s Skintight single. It had everything a drunken young man could want: chicks, cars, hostess snack foods, and killer riffs. I was hooked. From the brain-dead Ramones-esque punk rock of their debut to the more retro-70s hard-rock sounds of their subsequent albums, The Donnas provide simple, kick-ass Rock to the masses.

To support their latest effort, Spend The Night, the Donnas have been touring, and I caught their latest visit to Seattle. The show was an all-ages event, so I was able to bring my 16 year old kid sister, an ardent Donnas aficionado to her very first concert. The price was right at $12 ($16 after the TicketMaster price-rapeing), and there were two opening bands: The Campfire Girls, and Your Enemies Friends.

As an aside, you know that creepy old guy you always saw at your favorite show when you were a youngin’, you know, the guy who was way too old to be there? Well, at this show, that guy was me; an old man at 24. The crowd was overwhelmingly of the under-18 variety (no surprise at an all ages show) and female. The Donnas’s teen badgirl shtik seemed to strike a chord with the kiddies.

After waiting in a long, teenaged line, freezing in the fierce fall Seattle weather, for almost two hours to get in (the show was delayed, and they wouldn’t let anyone in until the first band was set up), The Campfire Girls opened up. TCG, a band that achieved a small following in the early-mid 90’s, recently regrouped after a lengthy hiatus. I found their grungy-emoish sound listenable, but unremarkable.

The show’s second act, Your Enemies Friends, were something completely different. A five piece group, recently transplanted to Seattle from LA, they sounded like New Wave that had died, spent a few years in heavy-metal hell, and then risen from the dead as a punk-rock zombie. It really was something different, with speed-metal riffs, punkish songs, and a synthesized organ providing melody. The band’s stage presence was impressive, and, in general, they rocked my balls off. I hope to hear more from these guys in the future.

When the opening acts were finished up, the four Donnas, Donna A (Brett Anderson – vocals), Donna F (Maya Ford – bass), Donna R (Allison Robertson – guitar), and Donna C (Torry Castellano – drums), took the stage. They mostly performed songs off of their new album, and a few from Turn 21 and Get Skintight, thrown in for good measure.

I’d expected more of an act to jive with the vapid, reckless, teenage characters they’d created in their songs, but there wasn’t much of that. Which is good, because, underneath the shtik they’ve been marketed with, these women are one talented group. I was particularly impressed with Allison Robertson’s guitar chops. She owns her instrument, and can shoot out some amazing high-speed solos with the greatest of ease, while slipping in and out of killer rythym sections. For having only one guitarist in the group, they sound big, loud, and powerful.

Also, surprising to me, was the skill and energy of Torry Castellano’s drumming. A good drummer is vital to any band that wants to rock out at a high-level, and The Donnas make the cut. She becomes a large furious blur of long hair and drumsticks behind the rest of the band. Most impressive. Maya Ford’s bass is also solid live.

The only problem with the performance was the mike levels at the venue, which left Anderson’s vocals too low for the overwhelming sounds coming from her bandmates. But that is small complaint, as their set was excellent, their stage presence entertaining, and the overall rockout-level high.

The Donnas are about a third through their current US tour, and if you don’t suck, you’re bound to enjoy their show immensily.

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