The Space is probably one of the most off-beat venues I’ve ever been to. It’s located in a suburb outside of New Haven, in the middle of an industrial park that is filled with random businesses and a couple of churches. The building houses a vintage store, a cafe, a 80’s arcade, and a full service recording studio.
The music space is actually in the basement and has a tiny capacity of about 150 people, if they’re exceptionally friendly with each other. The ceiling is low and the floor seems like it should be sticky (but isn’t). The stage is small and the sound is remarkably good. The Space is quirky and charming; it seems a little run down but it has a lot of heart.
Website | Bandcamp
If you haven’t heard of David Dondero before, you would not be alone. Which is a damn shame; this man is probably one of the most underrated and underappreciated singer-songwriters out there. He is the modern successor to the itinerant traveling troubadour archetype exemplified by Woodie Guthrie during the Depression. He’s been playing music since he was just a kid, exploring music in bands like Sunbrain, a South Carolina-based punk/hardcore band (that counted Conor Oberst among their fans) and folk-punk This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb before striking out on his own.
David Dondero is, first and foremost, a storyteller. He accompanies himself on an acoustic guitar, setting his stories in a soundscape heavily influenced by the places he’s seen, the people he’s met, and the things he’s done. The music is honest and unabashed, raw and sometimes playful. He clearly has a love of words and the way they sound and fit together; it’s rare to see an artist indulge in word play the way he does.
His narratives are very often self-referential with a strong sense of place and sometimes use quirky metaphors that shouldn’t work but totally do, a bit of lyrical magic:
I bit into a lightning bolt
My own tongue began to smoke
I woke up with an empty mouth
Watched the watch tick backwards
South of the south
–from South of the South
Dondero is a brilliant musician, using his guitar to perfectly underscore and support his lyrics. He sings songs about the human experience: about living and dying, about love and loss, about injustice and the search for closure. The show at the Space was an unforgettable performance as he led the audience through laughter and tears, and everything in-between.
If you have a chance to catch David Dondero live, please don’t hesitate to do so. He spends a lot of time on the road, and he’s an artist that really shines on stage.
Alternatively, he has released a dozen or so albums, all which are available digitally from his bandcamp. Some albums are available on CD/vinyl from a few small independent record labels, check out his website for links.
Against Me! has been in the studio for a few months now, working on new music, and Laura Jane Grace decided to play a small string of acoustic shows as a break from the studio. She brought drummer Atom Willard and Marc Hudson on bass along with her for these shows, creating a stripped down sound for very these intimate shows.
Laura Jane has kept journals since she was a teenager, and now she’s working on editing them into a book. For this run of shows, she decided to use her journal entries to give context to some of the songs that she’s written over the years. It was powerful and heartfelt, and probably the bravest performance I have ever seen in my life.
Against Me!’s music has always resonated with listeners; the themes of identity and alienation, disenfranchisement and loss and addiction are experiences that most people can relate to on some level. Hearing the music coupled with snippets from Laura Jane Grace’s journal, placing the songs in a time and a place, assigning an emotional history to them, was a breathtakingly compelling narrative to present to the audience.
Most of us realize that, to some extent, songs are autobiographical in nature; songwriters tend to write what they know, what they’ve experienced while trying to keep some sort of distance between themselves and their songs. With this performance, Laura Jane Grace destroyed that distance and reclaimed the history behind her songs, the good and the bad.
It was great to see the camaraderie between Laura Jane, Atom and Marc up on the tiny stage, watch them work together to create a wonderful acoustic performance of so many great Against Me! songs.
Against Me! has a pretty extensive discography; if you’re not familiar with their music, be sure to check them out. They are a band well worth getting to know. Definitely catch them live if you can, because they deliver a dynamic and exciting show.
It was an unbelievable night, one that I will remember for a long, long time to come.
by cardiac_in_overdrive (@cardiac_ovrdrv)