Daniel Donato | Hobart Art Theatre | 3/22/24

Article Contributed by June Reedy | Published on Sunday, March 24, 2024

Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country was exactly that, a cosmic unfolding of unparalleled energy and skill as the Young Man’s Country paints the entire nation Cosmic. From the opening chords at the sold-out Hobart Art Theatre on 3/22/24, Donato captivated the audience. There was a loving presence alive in that room that gave us all a fabulous Friday to remember. Donato’s influences are obvious but he twists the old into his own new talents and leaves the audience wondering which lilypad of influence he will leap to next. The entire band has tricks up their sleeve that leave you wondering is that a little Rush? Maybe The String Cheese Incident? A little rootin' tootin’ Waylon Jennings? It’s all cosmic, baby.

Daniel Donato’s Lost Highway podcast drifts off around 2022. Still, with iconic guests such as Steve Vai, Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles, and the Kitchen Dwellers, there is no doubt that the lessons he learned along the way of doing that podcast play out on stage with him every night. This kid has been working hard for many years to perfect the science of his art. Reviews have called his latest album Reflector, a “Masterpiece.” If you know and love the Grateful Dead, you will agree.

Daniel Donato's Cosmic Country | Hobart Art Theatre | 3/22/24

At one point many moons ago, Daniel was a shorty who found himself enamored by Nashville’s music scene, busking and begging to play with Robert’s Westside World house band. A gift of Grateful Dead bootlegs from his high school teacher gave him the fire in his belly. When you see that his rise in fame was worked for and hard-earned, you appreciate the music he is touring with even more.

Daniel Donato has now shared the stage with Bob Weir and so many jam masters, he’s played every major jam festival, and he has gone from interviewing the Kitchen Dwellers on his podcast to touring with them. Next up, he will tour with jam legends Moe. in the summer of 2024. Before that, let's hold our horses and acknowledge our fabulous intimate spring tour rolling around to the lesser-known little gems outside the main commerce centers of our nation. The little towns bring out the real fans, as Daniel said, the frequency is high in these pockets of precious performances that are so worthy of mentioning.

Hobart Art Theatre | Hobart, IN | #campsnap

The Hobart Art Theatre in Hobart, Indiana has a similar feel to a movie theatre. It’s a simple stage with 2 stalls in the ladies restrooms. There are 2 aisles, seating in 3 sections, and a small apron up front to dance without the seats encumbering you. It's you and the band, exclusively. The band includes Will “Mustang” McGee on upright/electric bass guitar. The upright solo in the first half deserves recognition, it first piqued my curiosity about what the rest of the band can do.

Will "Mustang" McGee on bass | #campsnap

With tracks like “Workingman’s Blues” Donato delves into his otherworldly jams channeling the spirit of Warren Haynes and Willie Nelson. The crowd control as they went up and down the number line left the crowd enthralled and coming together into their own loving vibe. Spaghetti Western has found something flashy and neon with Daniel. I thought he jammed into "Ghost Riders in the Sky" but the setlist did not confirm that. It’s Bonanza, The Lone Ranger, Rawhide, and Hell on Wheels all wrapped up into funky fresh windswept windchimes by Noah Winner on full kit drums. 

Schmitty and Robin | #campsnap

Intermission at the show brought a chatty crowd ready to make new friends. Closing out the first set with “Gotta Get Southbound” from the Reflector album left us all feeling high but not lonsome. Everywhere an opportunity to present meaningful art and get kind feedback abounded. I met Justin and Tracey and Robin and Derek or was it Dustin? I forget but I know their faces! It’s so nice to be invited to more festivals and shows out this way. It’s a vibe, not a clique and I’m into that. Thank you for sharing the groove, Hobart!

The second set opened with a Cosmic Country version of Waylon Jenning’s “Where Corn Don’t Grow.” This is where you can really begin to see Daniel Donato’s signature style come alive. The phaser pedal used out of context feels innovative and unfaded, kicking up the dust of outlaw country for today.

Tracey at the Hobart Art Theatre | #campsnap

Throughout the performance, Donato showcased his virtuosity on the guitar with monster shreds and mesmerizing solos but the real treat was Nathan “Sugar Leg” Aronowitz. Midway through the second set, Cosmic Country painted Aretha Franklin’s Respect in a whole new way. Sugar Leg was a songbird while the other band members harmonized “Sock it to me” through the chorus. Sugar Leg then reached for their rhythm guitar and proceeded to join the 10-gallon hat Donato as they led the charge on guitars. Then back to the organ. It was a screaming eagle moment that turned into a cosmic crescendo. The quick jump into “Faded Lovin” brought us to “Ten Feet of Rope> Double Exposure.” 

10 gallon hat Donato | 3/22/24 | #campsnap

That’s when Donato pulled up Tim from the front row. The spontaneity of this rallied the crowd to again wonder, what in the heck is he doing?! Cosmic Country ripped into Donato’s tune "Halfway (In Between)" with 2 bass guitars and a whole lotta love. With that kind of excitement on stage, you can’t help but focus all your love and support on these risky moments that turn out to be memory makers to last a lifetime. 

Half Way with audience member Tim | #campsnap

Cosmic Country Merch Table | 3/22/24 | #campsnap

The encore was a trio of songs from the most recent album Reflector, back to older albums. You have to respect the intense work displayed for all the Cosmic Country glory inside the shining lights of Hobart Art Theatre. The merch table was filled with trinkets and goodies, from bud grinders to hoodies to stickers and gorgeous Half Hazard Press Prints. I spied #221 available for sale and thought to myself, I’ll buy #222. Too bad for me, the fella that bought #221 also bought #222. After “Mystery Train” concluded the performance, the house lights came up, and good ol’ Kermit the Frog simply sang out “Rainbow Connection.” Hippies spilled out into the street but then I noticed someone came out with a print that had Donato’s signature. Were there any prints even left?

I ducked back into the theatre and sure enough, Daniel himself was sitting at the merch booth. A long line had formed to his right, folks standing with copies of his Relix Vinyl Sessions, posters, shirts, even Tim with his homemade sign he held in the front row asking if he could sit in for “Half Way.” 

Donato taking time to meet with fans after the show | 3/22/24

We rode out on a coyote tail, responding to each hello with a belly hoot of an owl, so long! The moon was almost full and the frequency of Donato was the wind at our back. So many special moments as the evening drew to a close. Psychedelic gospel tugged at my heartstrings, content with the idea that this love experienced here will surely grow for many more years to come.