Last Night: Buxton & The Donkeys At Rudyard's
See pics of the bands (and a birthday girl) in our slideshow.
Photos by Marc Brubaker Buxton's Jason Willis (background) and Sergio Trevino
Buxton, The Donkeys, Steve Reno & Wayne Wilkerson
August 21, 2011
For a gig whose poster involved a tragic school-bus wreck, Sunday night's show at Rudyard's was anything but disastrous. True, the crowd may have been a bit thinner than expected, but between those with work and those starting back at school Monday, that's not too strange. Buxton continued doing what they do best, delivering a solid set of their ever-richer tunes to the delight of a crowd speckled with friends and other fans.
Gray-haired, ponytail-sporting Steve Reno opened up the evening, accompanied by Wayne Wilkerson. Fans of acoustic songwriters may have seen Wilkerson hosting the weekly open-mike night at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, as well as co-hosting Anderson Fair's Thursday-night "Songwriters In The Round" series.
Reno happens to be an old friend of Larry Sepulvado - that would be Buxton member Austin Sepulvado's father - from their days playing in California decades ago, but he's also Cody Swann of the Wild Moccasins' uncle. Life is strange that way sometimes.
Reno's country music harkens back to the old story-songwriters of the '70s, feathered with Neil Young and early Willie Nelson vibes, with some mighty-fine pickin' and a-singin.' His songs floated by like a breeze swooping through a pickup's open windows, and our favorite involved a cautionary tale about "soft shoulders and dangerous curves."
Wayne Wilkerson (left) and Steve Reno
The Donkeys may have stolen this show out from an unsuspecting crowd's noses, including Aftermath. The energetic band of young Californians riffed off a rolling set of strong song after song, throwing the binding ropes of genres to the wind. There were hints of nearly everything in the canon they played: Blues, country, funk, rock, Americana, soul, Chuck Berry, Ravi Shankar, and more.
It brought to mind the big acts of the '70s that had a large blend of sounds and didn't worry about their music being labeled or filed a certain way, because everything was still rock and roll.
A Donkey and a sitar
The smart songs eclipsed and blindsided the recorded material we'd previously encountered (which, upon further research, was from fairly early in the Donkeys' career). As the four bounded about the stage, they commanded the room and injected a dose of revelry into the crowd. It was simply four fellows playing music and having a lot of fun doing it.
That goes a long way towards a great show experience, and it doesn't hurt that the music was pretty wonderful to boot. The set list focused heavily on their newest album, with seven songs coming from Born With Stripes (Dead Oceans), which was released in late April.
Four more came from 2008's Living On the Other Side, with just one song predating that.