Live Report: The Donnas - Rolling Stone
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Live Report: The Donnas

The Troubadour, West Hollywood, Calif., July 18, 1998

“Are you ready to rock?” It may be the most overused rock &
roll cliche inhistory, but for the Donnas, there’s no more sincere
way to let theirteenagerock & roll machine rip. And rip it did.
In the great American punk rocktradition of the Runaways and the
Ramones, the Donnas specialize in three-minute, no frills,
in-your-face punk rock assaults about the usual forms ofteenage
hooliganism (gettin’ drunk, gettin’ laid and gettin’ in
trouble),andthe sweat-soaked crowd at the sold-out Troubadour in
West Hollywood ate ituplike S&M enthusiasts at a leather
convention.

But what’s so unique about the Donnas? Well, it’s probably not the
rockchickthing, which has been done countless times before. The
teen rebellionbandwagon is as old as the hills as well. It could be
the fact that all fourmembers of the band are under the age of
twenty, but then again, Joan Jettwasonly fifteen when she joined
the Runaways in 1975. I guess it’s the factthatDonna R., Donna A.,
Donna F., and Donna C. can (in a not-so-common Americanpunk rock
tradition) actually play. The songs from their Lookout!
Recordsdebut (the same Berkeley, Calif.-based label that spawned
Green Day) losethesugarcoating on stage, becoming full-fledged,
rebellious punk anthems. Tightand cocky, the collective musical
chemistry between the four Donnas andtheirinstruments is a force to
be reckoned with.

Borrowing a tactic made famous by the Ramones, the Donnas don’t
bother withbetween-song banter and audience ass-kissing. It was a
wham, bam, thank youma’am rock barrage without the thank yous as
they tore through fifteen songsin forty-minutes. A beer-spewing
mosh pit broke out in the 450-capacity clubduring “Rock & Roll
Machine,” as guitarist Donna R. and bassist Donna F.pulled off the
classic backs-to-the-singer move made famous by Kiss in
theSeventies. In another show of respect for their rock & roll
lineage, theDonnas put a girl power spin on AC/DC’s “Shot Down in
Flames,” a song thatneatly fits into the band’s mold of teen mutiny
and raising Hell.

Vocalist Donna A. doesn’t look particularly street-tough, but
herhippy-hippyshake, skin-tight leather pants and onstage manner
exude defiance and toughlove (two virtues of any well-to-do punk
rocker). In fact, none of theDonnasseem too terribly street-savvy,
with the exception of Donna F., who lookslikeshe could whup your
ass twice if need be. But lyrically, on tunes like”Looking For
Blood,” you’d think they grew up in the seedy Tenderloin ratherthan
the reasonably affluent suburb of Palo Alto, Calif.

It’s refreshing to see punk rock done so playfully well, even if
the Donnas’music is a testament to the ever-evolving,
ever-worsening phenomenon ofteenage recklessness. I mean, they
aren’t singing about putting dimes in thejukebox, baby. And while
the streets of Palo Alto may not be the roughest inCalifornia, the
Donnas still prove to be the kind you don’t bring home
tomother.

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