TVD Recommends: Amen Dunes at Happy Dog or The Donkeys at the Beachland Tavern, both 7/18

Music fans of Cleveland, pay attention! I present you with a difficult, but essential, choice of plans this Friday evening. There are two awesome shows in town and you should go to one of them. Which one? I don’t know. Read on and make this important life decision carefully.

At Happy Dog you have Amen Dunes, which is a totally rad show. Amen Dunes is the project of Damon McMahon that grew out of a collection of songs he wrote 2006. After shelving those songs and giving up music, he packed up and moved to China.

Unbeknownst to McMahon, the tapes from his 2006 session were being passed along to music people of note in America and he was gaining a critical reputation for the work he had done. A career spawned from half the globe away. Crazy how this world works, huh?

Amen Dunes sounds atmospheric—without being categorized as atmospheric music. Most songs are mellow affairs with just McMahon filling the quiet that hangs in the air with his distinct voice and clean guitar. It has the vulnerability and simplicity of music made and recorded in a bedroom, without the amateurish lack of polish. It’s music for reflection on the poignant moments in life.

Over on the east side of town, The Donkeys will be taking the stage by way of California. I mention where they’re from because they sound like California. If you wanted to capture the sun, beach, and laid back attitude of the west coast, The Donkeys are just the ticket.

The band has a sort of classic feel that I think sounds most like the Grateful Dead’s recorded work, with a hint of late ’90s indie incorporated. It’s super laid back, clean, jangly Telecaster rock that invites you to enjoy a beer on a warm summer night.

I’ve really dug The Donkeys for a while and they’ve been heaped upon with praise from John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats) and Craig Finn (The Hold Steady), who pound for pound may be two of the best/most interesting song writers in rock now. If it’s good enough for John and Craig, it’s good enough for me. I love their 2008 album, Living on the Other Side, and their new album Ride the Black Wave is even more breezy and intricate.

So yeah, you’re welcome. I just made your Friday night a lot better. Who said Cleveland has nothing cool to do?

Amen Dunes are playing at Happy Dog and the show starts at 10 pm (doors at 8:30). Get there early and grab a delicious hot dog or something.

The Donkeys are at the Beachland Tavern with the show starting at 8:30 (doors at 7:30). They don’t have awesome hot dogs like Happy Dog, but the Beachland’s burger is killer.

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