Minnesota’s Dondero brings blend of folk and rock to town


Minnesota singer/songwriter David Dondero performs Tuesday at Boca Fiesta.

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Published: Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 1:07 p.m.

David Dondero never writes a setlist.

Facts

David Dondero

What: Singer/songwriter performs
When: 10 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Boca Fiesta, 232 SE First St.
Tickets: $5
Info: Bocafiesta.com

The Minnesota folk and rock musician approaches live shows with an open mind and two open ears.

“I feel what’s happening in the moment,” he said. “Certain feelings come out of different places.”

Dondero will bring his catalog of nine solo albums and a penchant for storytelling to Boca Fiesta on Tuesday night. Local group Breeze Haven, fronted by Julie Karr, will open the show.

Boca Fiesta co-owner Warren Oakes met Dondero for the first time when he was 17 and the drummer for the Gainesville punk band Against Me! Dondero was on tour with Matt and Kim, and Against Me!, and a budding friendship began between the two. This year, Dondero will celebrate his 45th birthday with a performance at Oakes’ bar.

“He’s an interesting guy,” Oakes said. “He lives with his guitar and travels around. He always seems to have a different home base every time I talk to him. He’s in perpetual motion. He’s an old-school troubadour.”

Oakes said Dondero’s extensive travels make for song lyrics with a clear sense of place. Dondero’s 2005 album, “South of the South,” covers his time spent in Pensacola and other Florida locations, and Oakes said its title track has become one of his mix-tape staples.

“His songs document the places he’s seen,” he said. “If you go album by album, you can tell where he’s at. Each one is a snapshot or a postcard from where’s he been.”

In 2006, NPR’s All Songs Considered named Dondero one of the best living songwriters, alongside artists like Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney. Oakes said the poignancy of Dondero’s lyrics, combined with the clear imagery they create, make for songs that listeners can easily connect to.

“He has a fully realized voice as a writer. He’s able to really communicate with his songs,” he said.

Dondero said his ultimate goals as an artist are expression and connection, not material wealth or fame.

“I find success as connecting with people and writing songs that convey what I’m feeling,” he said.

Dondero spent his younger years in the punk and hardcore band Sunbrain and spent some time as drummer for Fest-favorites This Bike is A Pipe Bomb. Last year he released “Golden Hits Volume 1,” a collection of favorites, but touring and performing live are his focus. He’s toured throughout every nook and cranny of the United States, including Alaska, and traveled throughout Europe. Oakes said Dondero’s approach to live shows is masterful.

“We got to play with a lot of different bands, and we’ve seen a lot of different approaches to capturing the audience. Sometimes it’ll be through sheer volume or outright begging. But it’s your challenge to be compelling and make people choose to come closer,” he said. “When Dave starts playing he’ll captivate a room. Even in big theaters, he creates an intimate space. And there’s a degree of storytelling between songs that ties it all together.”

Dondero is often credited as being the main influence for Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. He advises younger and struggling musicians to carve out their own paths.

“Use your own voice. Don’t try to sound like anybody else. Do your own thing,” he said. “And don’t be afraid to express yourself politically.”

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