Wednesday, July 23, 2014

17 Jul 14 - Sarah Donner


This touring troubadour is all about “...kittens ...sequins ...alternative and [the] ukulele...” as well as interesting yet heartwarming stories, blogspot readers. So why would this colorful artist describe herself as such? Well, “...rescuing kittens is how I live my life when I'm not on the road. They are a huge part of my daily life and also part of my image online. Those kittens are marketing wonders...” Pink? “...My hair is pink...” Sequins? “...I am like a crow and easily get distracted by shiny things. Sometimes I put those shiny things around my neck or on my guitar...” Alternative and ukulele? “...I think I teeter on the edge of pop, rock, nerdy, musical theater, and folk music. I am drawn to sub and counter culture. When I'm presented with a choice or viewpoint, I often look for the alternative, something that I can find or make myself...” then she adds the following “....I tour with three guitars and two ukuleles. It's always the ukes that get attention, though as they get too popular I might have to find another alternative! The banjolele perhaps?” She also forgot to mention that she has a witty sense of humor. And this reviewer had the extreme opportunity not only to interview but also review singer/songwriter Sarah Donner recently when she performed an intimate one-night only set at Wanderer’s Refuge ( Yet this wasn’t your average venue for such a show, blogspot readers. Located in the Lincoln Square neighborhood, Wanderer’s Refuge is a gamer’s dream place to find and/or play an array of board games from Monopoly to Dixit, Dungeons and Dragons and so much. So it was fitting to feature an musician like Sarah Donner at a “venue” like Wanderer’s Refuge to promote her latest release – That Is A Pegasus. Sarah, about the album, said “...[it’s] is a fair representation of how I would always like to sound....” however when on tour, it’s just her, guitar and ukuleles though she does hope to have a full band touring with her one day.

It was an enchanting evening of music, stories, humor and nerdy fun, blogspot readers. Sarah Donner with her eclectic array of guitars and ukuleles dazzled this audience amidst her pink hair and glimmering sequin skirt as well as heartwarming songs ...some dedicated to her sister, a friend with boyfriend troubles (who subsequently married him) and her cats. All this without using a microphone and amp too. Just her strumming on the acoustic instruments and her dynamic vocal usage which was totally amazing ...especially how she kept the audience attentively glued to her performance throughout, blogspot readers. That’s the type of entertainment Sarah told SouthSide during a recent interview with the singer/songwriter to which she also added “...they should also expect me to forget a few lyrics here and there! It's part of my charm...” which she did at one point of the show. Then this reviewer wondered besides her songs and music what did she attribute fans returning for more Sarah Donner. She answered saying “...The fans who keep coming back enjoy the melodies and quick, witty lyrics. I think they like my pink hair too. It's like a homing beacon...” Before opening with a heartfelt apology (many years later) to her sister titled “Signal”, there were a few interesting minutes of idle chatter with topics like a two- person game on a poor musician’s budget and cat-inspired games while Sarah tuned her guitars. Thereafter, she had us mesmerized and wrapped inside her pink hair charm and musical entertainment during a two intimate show, blogspot readers. That’s simply one half of her “secret” weapon. According to Sarah, “...If everyone is intently listening, I love to slip in the slower pretty ballads just to give my fingers and vocals a break. Usually I keep it upbeat and very rhythmic on guitar. My lyrics are usually wordy and don't repeat all too much, which I think keeps everyone interested...”

That last part is absolutely true, blogspot readers. Sarah’s song lyrics featured unique descriptors and metaphors with a dash of wit and/or realism here and there. Throughout the course of her performance, you just might learn something about saying a belated apology (“Signal” track 1 [“...I wrote it as a belated apology to my sister who I provoked back when I was thirteen and the big sister babysitter. She was only nine, but I made her so mad she punched her fist through a glass window...”])  to voicing a serious problem about a relationship (“Daniel” track 8) to how it feels losing a precious kitty (“Perspective” track 4) or capturing the heart and soul of a troubled antagonist from a popular musical (“Seine” track 10) – just to name a few. Whether the lyrics are laced with emotion and/or satirical wit, Sarah wonderfully captures the feelings of her subjects by placing herself in their shoes instead of looking outside the box. For example, in “The Rebuttal of Schrödinger's Cat”(track 5 of That Is A Pegasus) that “...addresses a quantum mechanics thought experiment by one of Einstein's contemporaries...” puts you the audience in the mindset of the cat turning the tables on the scientist by placing him in the box with the poison. Does he survive? Good question ...better ask the cat. Besides it being a tad “nerdy”, blogspot readers, Sarah had this audience laughing at her whimsical songwriting skills while performing this particular song on the ukulele. Or how about the question – is it safe to give a pregnant cat some catnip? (Answer: according to Sarah’s song, it’s okay to have a hit since catnip is only herbal medicine.) Another particular song involved the person who stole her car and purse yet very adamantly telling said thief that he/she “...can’t steal my rock-n-roll...” And it wasn’t just Sarah spending nearly two hours entertaining us, blogspot readers. We also had an opportunity so show off our singing abilities as well during the song “With Pride” in which our lines were “That’s a Pegasus”, “I don’t think so” and “Hey” when it was time. Yet for SouthSide the funniest highlight of the night (besides singing her “Kickstarter” about things she could have sold and/or done to fund her album and “The Longest Road”, an incomplete song about her favorite game) came when she performed her favorite YouTube cover “Dumb Ways to Die” – a whimsical look at the many ways we could die by doing some of the following stupid things like sticking a fork in the toaster, gluing your mouth with super glue, standing over the edge on the train platform or dressing up as a moose during hunting season. Yes, blogspot readers, there are SO many dumb ways to die and Sarah highlighted each one with a bit of satirical humor within her voice.

From Princeton, NJ, SouthSide asked Sarah what the local music scene was like over there during her interview with the singer/songwriter to which she replied “...the local scene is pretty disappointing in Princeton NJ. You would hope a college town would have a more thriving music community, but it's mostly a culture of fine art, theater, and classical music...” With that being said, blogspot readers, Sarah does have her fans here, there and elsewhere. “...I have a wonderful fan base here, and I think it's because Princeton lacked a music scene. I worked hard for six years on a monthly series I called Indie Music Night. We had an amazing audience that supported all the artists I brought through. I ended the series last year after a lack of technical support and space, but I still do one offs now and then...” She mentioned that New Jersey's music scene (mostly) “...caters more to punk and cover bands...” but “...the handful of successful independent artists that I do know spend a lot of time in NYC or Philly, so in a sense NJ is great for location for us musicians...” If Sarah had the chance to collaborate with anyone, she instantly chose Imogen Heap. “...Her music runs deep in my life. I know she started on the acoustic route with piano, but her sound shifted to the electronic side with the band Frou Frou, which I hope to achieve someday. I love the atmosphere she creates in her songs, and her lyrics are smart and unexpected...” And besides touring, Sarah has other projects (and albums like a cat-only one ...someday) in the works, blogspot readers. She has scheduled appearances at Gen Con (in Indianapolis during August) and Internet Cat Video Film Festival’s after party at Metro in September as well as “...[writing] a musical with playwright David Lee White (who studied in Chicago), and we hope to have it in full production by Spring 2015. Right now we are working on the third draft. Also, I'm working on more collaborations with the web comic The Oatmeal that are due out by the end of the year...”

Sadly, it was time to end SouthSide’s fascinating chat with Sarah Donner. Yet before leaving, she had one more thing to say to you, blogspot readers, “...Keep your pets spayed or neutered, or as I like to say, speutered...” Funny. This reviewer highly recommends check out Sarah Donner either live in person ...with her fabulous pink hair and sequins at her next scheduled performance and/or snagging a copy of her new album That Is A Pegasus. For more information, visit this singer/songwriter at

Until next time, support your local scene,


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