Dionne Farris - 7/12/08 @ Pettoranello Gardens Ampitheater - Princeton, NJ

Dionne Farris. I was beginning to think she didn't exist. I fell madly in love with her debut album (1995's Wild Seed-Wild Flower) in college and almost shit myself when I realized I missed her opening up for DMB on their summer tour later that year. That would have been one hell of a show. I bought every CD single from that record so I could hear all the b-sides and live tracks. I got into David Ryan Harris via his guitar work and songwriting from that record. As luck should have it, I finally got to see him play for the first time ever (after waiting for over 10 years) a little over a month before this gig. Dionne went MIA for over 12 years and then a little rumor finally popped out that she was working on a record...? I believed it when I saw it... which I finally did sometime earlier this year. There were even some tour dates. And then, one in New Jersey! (she's from Jersey, lives in Atlanta). Princeton... never actually been, but it's barely an hour north of Philly. Let's roll. And it was a free show! And I could buy her new (independently released) CD from her, directly. Sweet.

It ended up being at this teeny tiny little public park ampitheater built into a clearing next to a hill. I left straight from work and missed most of the opening act, which was an African dance/drum ensemble. I was worried about whether or not she would be singing with a tape or have a band. I smiled widely when the stage came into my view and I spied the drums.

I was actually sitting right next to the dude who ended up being her bass player, briefly, and had no idea. When her set began, the band started playing and she started singing... from off stage! That little white tent was "backstage" and she came out from behind there with her cordless mic, already mid-song!

She came into view along the path... and check that outfit. She was always a bit of an outcast, or at least not your average run of the mill R&B/soul singer. Her record was proof enough that she did her own thing - and so are those tights!

I had no idea what to expect from her... she's been away from performing for so long. She got right into it, though, stomping and grooving and wailing.

The light was low and I didn't get great pictures. I could have walked down to within 6 inches of the stage if I had wanted to, but I wasn't that brave. And do they make hoop earrings any bigger?!

She was carrying around that little purple napkin/towel thingy for a while. I've seen other "soul" singers do that, like they need to have it handy to blot their sweaty foreheads, mid-song. Right. Well, it WAS pretty hot and muggy.

She was really singing... and sounding great, too. And the band was really rocking. Her newer material isn't as guitar-heavy as the older stuff, but they did a bunch of her older tunes and didn't tone it down very much. In fact they may have revved it up a bit. The guitarist and drummer were kinda blocked from my viewpoint, otherwise I would have plenty of pics of them.

I bought a CD before the big push after her last song, and she ended up coming over to sign them after she was done and a big mob of people rushed the merch table. I was very glad I got mine early, though kinda bummed I couldn't meet her - but I had a long drive ahead of me and I needed to get home to my baby! Dionne knew about half the crowd (who all knew each other), her daughter (and reason for her lack of music over the last 10 years, she was busy being awesome-mom) was right in front. At one point she even told a little kid right up front dancing along that he needed to go back to his mama because she was calling him... when he didn't move, she called to the mom by name... and the coolest part, when there was a technical problem on stage, she broke right into her part from Tennesee - the Arrested Development song that made her famous. She did the whole part of hers, note for note, and nailed it. Lovely big ass singalong, too.

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