Strong women to serenade Geeksboro

Photos courtesy of Sarah Donner

Photos courtesy of Sarah Donner

Sophia Lucente
    Staff Writer

On Nov. 21, two forces of passion in the universe of female indie voices will meet and make sparks at Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema.

Sarah Donner, who hails from Princeton, NJ, has a significantly different musical style than Atlanta, GA native Juliana Finch. However, they both wield guitars and present honestly crafted lyrics – and they’re both devout lovers of cats.
The two songstresses, although geographically far apart, entertain a fan base that largely overlaps. Thus is the phenomenon of musical self-promotion in the 21st century: an artist has a vast array of online avenues through which they might broadcast their message and enlighten casual clickers.

Donner and Finch officially met in Los Angeles last summer where they both happened to be performing on their respective tours. According to Donner, they share a number of fans and friends in the “nerd music scene.”

Prior to their current “Cat’s Pajamas” tour, the two had never shared a stage – but both are well-seasoned performers. Finch, who has generated seven records since her 2005 release “omelettes & biscuits EP,” has toured extensively around the South. Donner relies more on the sharing power of the web, as she feels the Princeton music scene is “pathetic” for a college town.

“It’s a good spot in between NYC and Philly where I try to dig in, but it’s hard to be part of a scene when you are over an hour and $30 in tolls away,” she explained in an interview with the Carolinian. “I just keep on doing the best I can and using the internet to reach the large portion of my fan base.”

Oftentimes, a performer’s vocal ability comes second to their band’s overall sound or to their instrumental sensibility – but this is not the case with either Finch or Donner.

Finch’s voice has been described as sounding “the way a good bourbon tastes.”  The fact resonates with her assertion that she is both a musician and a “booze nerd.” Her vocal tone is warm, with all the sighing splendor of genuine Americana. Her vocal adornments are relaxed and deliver all the reverberating, loving fulfillments of listeners’ expectations when reaching for something homey and reminiscent of the South. A blurb on asserts that, “If Mary Chapin Carpenter and Sarah McLachlan had a lovechild and she were raised listening to blues, country and traditional Irish music, she might turn out a little like Juliana Finch.”

Her lyrics frequently center in on love and on gorgeously crafted memories. The first track off her newest record “The Walls of Pompeii,” entitled “Ashes,” demonstrates this. In it, she tells a surprisingly optimistic story of a couple drinking wine at the ruins of Pompeii and realizing that, “All good things/ They fall in time.” There is a somewhat somber quality to Finch’s voice as she pulls her listener along, but in her rollicking guitar playing and soaring choice of melodies there is a sense that music is in fact good for your soul whether the subject matter is hopeful or despairing.

Donner’s vocal prowess is also a piece of her presentation worth mentioning, but is cast in a vastly different light than that of Finch. The daughter of an evangelical worship leader and musical protégé of the church, she found her first true calling in musical theatre. She attended what she describes as a “choir college,” where she added opera to her repertoire, studying extensive classical vocal technique and acquiring skills which she admits is fairly “un-rock and roll.”

Her interest in the technical aspects of singing paved the way to a deep connection with alternative guitar music and singing; she says it was Ani DiFranco’s early years that truly inspired her to harness the abilities of her guitar and “give it a voice of its own.” Her lyric writing is also complex and rarely repetitive. Her drive comes from restlessness and perseverance, a dual sense of forward motion which she says both frustrates and fulfills her.

“The classical scene requires you to audition and in a way, get permission to sing,” she said of her switch to indie music. “I tired pretty quickly of the audition process. It’s still my first love, but I didn’t have the patience to wait tables and wait for the big break.”

Outside of covering a wide array of pseudo-serious subjects in her music, she is also a self-proclaimed cat lady. When she’s not on tour, she fosters kittens; she was the subject of’s “Ask a Cat Lady” advice-giving musical series. She even raised enough money via Crowdfunding to put out a full-length, cat-inspired album, complete with a final, meowed guitar solo-track “Bohemeowian Rhapsody”.

There could be no better meeting ground for fans of all things passionate and nerdy than Geeksboro. The shop is a longstanding icon of book, television, documentary and cult film culture, functioning as a coffee shop and video game lounge by day and screening site by night. They feature board game nights and viewing parties for some of TV’s most-loved series, most recently including the “Walking Dead” and “Doctor Who.” This month, they are gearing up for showings of “Mystery Science Theatre 3000,” “The Room” and the stunningly animated film based on the work of Edgar Allen Poe “Extraordinary Tales.”

Tickets for the show on the 21st can be purchased at the door or online at for $8.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, featured, Upcoming A&E Events, Visual & Performance

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