It was a very special Tuesday evening over at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. Rising indie pop star Donna Missal sold out her second LA headlining show to date. Back in June, the 27-year-old New Jersey native sold out the very intimate Hi-Hat in Highland Park. I was one of the lucky few there and oh my gosh! It’s no secret that once you hear her open her mouth and sing, you’re shook.
Donna Missal has the undeniable raw talent that any music lover swoons over. With only a few songs to her name, Missal has earned some shiny limelight from names like K. Flay, Bishop Briggs and Macklemore. She just finished supporting fellow east coast up-and-comer King Princess on some of her US tour dates.
Having just released her debut record This Time via Harvest Records on September 7, Missal has now taken her talent out to HER fans across the road. I’ll say that without a doubt the fan base has grown immensely since that June show at the Hi Hat. Set with a small, outdated block television, side frame Volvo car doors from her broken down car, and a variety of colorful fresh roses delicately sprawled around and surrounding the stage, the vibes oozed straight vision of the debut album. Fans squirmed and screamed as Missal and her simple yet powerful band walked on stage to the intro of the final track and ballad off the new record, “Don’t Say Goodnight”. The snake charmer music couldn’t be more fitting for the hypnotizing artist.
Joining Donna on guitar has been her very own baby brother, only 17 years old! The heavy energy in the room at that moment could be felt throughout the entire crowd. Planting herself center stage and adjusting her microphone, it appeared that Donna was trying to keep her composure and remain with her game face on, despite the uproar she was receiving. Opening the set with her striking single, “Girl”, Donna sang directly to each audience member. “When women hate on other women everybody loses” is only one of the lyrics that require praise.
With her hair pulled back, dressed in an oversized suit blazer, sports-style black bralette, and business style pants, Missal made it very clear out the gate that she was demanding the attention and to be taken seriously. I personally haven’t taken my eyes and ears away from this artist since I first discovered her back in 2016 at the Troubadour itself! Missal had opened for English singer-songwriter Barns Courtney, whose show I’d been assigned to cover through a publication I work with. I wasn’t familiar with him either, but it was completely understood at that show that Missal’s short opening set without a doubt stole the night’s praise. I remember hearing her raw and gritty track “Keep Lying” and having goosebumps all over my body! I feel so lucky to have witnessed her performance then and find such happiness in seeing her career’s immense growth and success since then.
Tuesday night’s show was carried with all of her straight hits from This Time including “Driving”, “Metal Man”, “Test My Patience”, “Transformer”, “Thrills”, and the heavy-hitting “Jupiter”. Missal could barely get her words in and thoughts out between the songs over the rip-roaring applause. She did thank the crowd over and over for selling out the show and being present.
The show was just as much ours as it was Donna’s. I have to hold back my tears as I write this because the love in the room and the emotion was so real. Donna was so clearly overcome with love from everyone there and she could barely take it. She finally had the undivided attention and addressed the fans to explain the meaning behind the song “Skyline” which she was about to perform. She explained that she’d written it for anyone who has dealt and maybe still deals with feelings of hopelessness, and as if they are on the edge of themselves about to fall off.
Donna: “I remember it just happened that I would show up to venues and not be able to play because I didn’t bring enough people — I was just hoping someone would give a fuck. If there’s something that you’re trying to get at and it’s taking a little bit, it’s okay respect the process. It may take you a little bit to find that self respect but I promise you just be patient. Because everyone here has a reason to love themselves.”
Ultimately the themes are not just heard in “Skyline” but the entire record is all too relatable and Donna Missal is just one of the talented artists at our listening disposal to relate to. The live rendition was completely gripping and beautiful. She couldn’t keep back her tears as she felt so graciously taken in by the listeners at the show.
Similarly, Missal’s song “Thrills” is about self-love and respect which I think everyone needs a bit more of these days just as much as any. Missal’s songs just sway so back and forth between empowering and pure sensuality that it’s hard to keep steady on your feet.
She has the stage presence of a well-grounded musician who so clearly knows her purpose. The show was just so sharp and true that the fans couldn’t let it end! Cheering her on for an encore once the band left the stage, Missal made her way back, joined by her brother Steve again on guitar. She said that they had just discussed side stage having a sing along if the crowd was up for it. And just like that, Donna ended the show with a stellar rendition of vocalist Linda Perry’s “What’s Up?,” and in turn the audience shouted it right back and along. Donna Missal is here and I think it’s safe to say that this is her time and big things are yet to come for her. Until the next time, we have this show to remember for a long time to come!
Words and photos by Danielle Gornbein