Donna the Buffalo returns to Vail |

Donna the Buffalo returns to Vail

Caramie Schnell
VAIL CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyDonna the Buffalo got its start 22 years ago and according to singer/guitarist Jeb Puryear, the name "Donna the Buffalo" was a mispronunciation of "Dawn of the Buffalo," a name someone had suggested for the band.

During a concert, a good one, there’s a point when the musicians, the audience and the music all connect.

“It’s similar to a whole school of fish in the water that all turn to the left at the same time,” said Jeb Puryear, a guitarist/singer/songwriter for Donna the Buffalo. “How did they know to do that? At certain times in the night, musically that happens and it’s very cool.”

And while that coupling can be as intense and explosive as lovers coming together for the first time, it doesn’t always happen. But that’s always the goal, Puryear said.

“Our goal collectively is to play some decent music and have that happen and it usually does and it’s really fun. It’s great to be a part of – when the music is all connected, it becomes something and you just follow it.”

The Trumansburg, N.Y.-based band returns to town for a show at the Sandbar in West Vail Thursday night.

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“They have a large fan base here in the mountains and when they found out that Donna the Buffalo was coming out here for shows at the Bluebird and Fox Theatres, multiple people came to us and asked if we could try and get them back at the Sandbar,” said Jason Barber, the venue’s general manager and talent buyer. “If there is enough interest from the community, we will try and make the show happen.”

One of those fans is Andrew Zweigbaum, an Eagle-Vail resident who goes by Ziggy. Ziggy first saw the band play at the same venue back in 1997 when it was the Half Moon Saloon.

“I was just walking by and I saw everyone in there dancing and it sounded cool,” he said. “I think the cover was $7, and I thought ‘what the hell’ and it kind of changed my life.”

Since that first show, Ziggy has seen the band play at venues around the country. He estimates he’s seen somewhere around 350 shows, which certainly makes him part of “The Herd” –the fervant, self-named fan base. There’s around 40 members of The Herd flying in from other states for the show, Ziggy said, and a handful of local fans who plan to attend.

So what is it about this soulful Americana band’s Cajun/zydeco/folk/rock-infused sound that speaks so clearly to fans? Well it’s not about the sound exactly, but what that sound encourages.

“They have an infectious dance groove,” Ziggy said. “They get everyone dancing, which is really fun.”

At its core, the band is made up of Puryear and fellow singer/songwriter Tara Nevins, who plays fiddle, guitar, accordian and scrubboard. Rounding out the lineup is Dave McCracken on keyboard, Vic Stafford on drums and Kyle Spark on bass. The band got its start 22 years ago and according to Puryear, the name “Donna the Buffalo” was a mispronunciation of “Dawn of the Buffalo,” a name someone had suggested for the band.

“But it was way too pretentious seeing as how we’d never even played a note,” Puryear said. “Someone said it in a Long Island accent and there was this funny imagery of this big woman buffalo. Our first posters were kind of like figure drawings of a buffalo in a skirt with hooves. And we were off to our whimsical beginnings.”

Even though Puryear has been doing this for 22 years now, he said he’s still learning.

“Yes, believe it or not,” he said. “It’s awesome.”

The band is currently working on a new album. They spent a week in Athens, Ga., recording and plan to go back for another week soon to finish it up. It’ll likely be released late summer or early fall.

“I haven’t listened to any of it yet, but I think it’s pretty good,” he said. “We’re trying to up our tempo of making records. It’s been every three years and that’s a little slow for my taste.”

Even though “people don’t buy records anymore,” Puryear said, it’s still important to record them.

“It’s just part of what a band does,” he said. “It kicks you into gear and makes you have to figure some stuff out. Also it does help to get it out there. Just because people don’t buy the record, doesn’t mean they don’t listen to it … if people fall in love with the music, then they’ll come see you and you’ll have a good time together. If someone gets a record and really likes it, it becomes part of their lives and at that point, it doesn’t matter if we make any money off of it or not.”

Puryear believes music changes lives, and despite that, it doesn’t get near the level of respect it merits, he said.

“Music has an ability to let people be more involved with their emotional side, their artistic being,” he said. “Music is a very interesting thing. And it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what it is and what makes it great … it presents endless possibilities.”

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or

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