A sellout crowd of 650 braved crisp weather to pack the Tralf Saturday night, dancing for close to four hours to the music of Ithaca-based jam band Donna the Buffalo. The Herd, as their fans are called, came from all over the region to participate in a live taping of the show, which, along with recent concerts in Syracuse and Endicott, is expected to find a home in CD form on the band's merchandise table this spring.
Like the Grateful Dead before them, Donna the Buffalo gives their twirling, bouncing fans plenty of room to roam in the form of long solos from guitarist/vocalist Jeb Puryear and multi-instrumentalist Tara Nevins. Nevins, who goes from accordion to guitar to fiddle to washboard, delivered heartfelt vocals throughout. Richie Stearns coaxed nice sounds, reminiscent of The Band's Garth Hudson, from his Lowrey organ. Jim Miller added his guitar and vocal harmonies while the rhythm section of Jed Greenberg on bass and Tom Gilbert on drums pumped insistently through the night.
Unlike Phish, the jam band generally recognized to have taken up the freak flag since the passing of Jerry Garcia, Donna the Buffalo relies less on novelty and flash. You won't hear anyone playing a vacuum cleaner on a trampoline. You will, however, hear some nice, understated riffs on the pedal steel guitar. They noodle, but they don't try to show off. The band's fans, many of whom sang along to originals like "No Place Like the Right Time" from last year's "Positive Friction" CD, adore them for it.