Donkey Island Penitentiary live review - photo Pierce Brochetti

Live Review: Donkey Island Penitentiary at 5 Star Bar in Los Angeles, CA

Material: Donkey Island Penitentiary (DIP) uses a diversity of beats as a foundation for their songs. Whether it’s bossa nova/mambo that captivates the audience or hard rock/ metal beats that slap them into submission, DIP loosens up the crowd and readies them to dance.

The music as a whole is unique. When bass and guitar are added to the beats, they change the style of the song. The songs become hypnotic, sci-fi and weird, but then the melodies and subtleties bring it all back to very cool. “Man in the Shadows” is a good example of a song with a cultish feel but with vocals that are melodic and raspy à la Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister. All the songs have creative nuances, catchy melodies and well thought out lyrics.

Musicianship: All the players are very good, each playing his part flawlessly and then coming together as a unit to make all the songs a perfect 10. Big Dave’s vocals were raspy and harsh at times, but in key, which added great mood and a new dimension to each song. The harmonica added depth and intensity to every number, as in “Prison Break.” Bassist Vasquez jelled well with drummer Perea to form a super-tight rhythm section, which they showed off on “Prisoners of Earth” and “Run Away.” Speranza’s guitar stayed in the background, but added little tinges of melodies, wah and sounds that gave each song a unique flair and personality, as in “Look into My Eyes” and “Going Down.”

Performance: A bit weak in terms of presentation; nothing flashy going on here. Everyone on stage was so into their parts that nobody interacted with the audience much (aside from the singer to only announce the next song). It did look like they were cramped in a tight spot, which made it difficult not to hit a bandmate or a mic stand with the guitar headstock.

Summary: Though Donkey Island Penitentiary could improve their stage presentation, the music was superb–hard driving yet welcoming. People were dancing in their seats, holding up their drinks as if to say, “Great grooves!” Even the ballads were extremely heartfelt and one could tell the lyrics came from the soul. There was a lot of Sex Pistols meets Ozzy or LA Guns or R.E.M. or Van Halen, as there was a little bit of something for everyone. With their punk-punk/ rock format, DIP is a welcome addition to the city’s music scene.

The Players: “Big Dave” Perea, vocals, harmonica; Vincent Perea, drums, backup vocals; Alejandro “Peacock” Speranza, guitar, backup vocals; Miguel Vasquez, bass.

Photo by Pierce Brochetti

Venue: 5 Star Bar
City: Los Angeles, CA
Contact: DonkeyIslandPen@gmail.com
Web: DonkeyIslandPenitentiary.com

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