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Monday, January 5, 2009

Last Night: David Dondero and Rademacher at the Knockout

Posted By on Mon, Jan 5, 2009 at 4:16 PM

(David Dondero)

David Dondero/Rademacher
Sunday, January 4, 2009
The Knockout

Words and photos by Jonathan Kiefer

Better Than: Admitting the weekend, and the holiday, and another year of your unproductive life, is over.

As Sunday night crept toward Monday morning and another crap-job working week loomed, the Knockout seemed to become more subdued even as it became more crowded.

I'd hit the Outer-mission dive early, to warm up with some hooky, architecturally durable indie-pop from Fresno's Rademacher, the virtues of whom I've been known to preach. But alt-folkie David Dondero was the headliner, and understandably so.


By and large, the indie-kid crowd of Tecate-tall-boy-toting bearded

dudes and their Saucony-sneakered girlfriends seemed unfairly

indifferent to Rademacher, but when the local troubadour took the

stage, they focused and gathered around him.

"The coldest city

in the world, you know it's San Francisco," Dondero sang, to knowing

applause. His instrumentation consisted of a guitar and a lack of

affect. Occasionally his buddy Craig D. would emerge from the crowd to

man a snare drum.

Dondero, a documented roamer who has been

known to sleep in his car and to sing about how much better that still

is than "sleeping in your ice-cold sheets," made effective, sparing use

of the vocal quaver that some might call his trademark -- had not Conor Oberst

gotten more famous with it. His set was presided over by the watchful

eyes of a Godzilla painting, and, playing on the Knockout's TV's, the

movie Strange Brew.

"You following the news? Dondero

inquired of the audience between songs. "What's happening on the Gaza

strip?" Digusting." Who knew what to say to that? (I wasn't about to

pipe up with a rueful, head-shaking, "Why yes, as a matter of fact, I

was just listening to NPR in the car on the way over...") So he just

sang a song about displacement and disappointment and violence. Psychic

violence, at least. It was well suited to a sodden evening.


best songwriter of our time," Rademacher frontman Malcolm Sosa later

confided, taking me aside to make sure I'd registered Dondero's

significance. He nodded sagely, tipsily. But I could tell his

appreciation was real. And I could hear why.


As the night wore

on, it assumed a sloppy-drunk melancholy, the sort of vibe that has you

worried someone might blurt "I love you guys" at any minute, only to be

rebuked with "Oh no you didn't."

But no, just sad sweet simple music.

Personal Bias: Sure, I'd have Rademacher's baby. And if they'd have Dondero's, well, I guess we'll be a nice big family, won't we?

Random Detail: The sound guy had his face buried in a paperback the whole evening. Don't know what it was; maybe it helped him listen.

By the Way: Rademacher will be back in town at Hotel Utah on the 18th.

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Ian S. Port


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