DONAVON FRANKENREITER at the El Mocambo, February 5. Tickets: $15. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NN Rating: NN
I'm always a little suspicious of guys like Donavon Frankenreiter. You know, he's almost too good to be true.
He's the cool, super-chilled dude you meet at those rare house parties where the vibe is a little too happy and everyone except you is having a really great time.
And like Sublime, Ben Harper and his surfing buddy/producer/label boss Jack Johnson, Frankenreiter writes the kind of sun-kissed "it's all good" tunes that suburban hippies go absolutely bananas for.
No kidding. From the moment Frankenreiter (looking very David Crosby in a tasselled suede jacket, scruffy moustache and Joey Jeremiah hat) hit the Elmo's cozy stage with his two-piece band, he had the packed room in the palm of his tanned, rugged hand.
A pro surfer since the age of 13, Frankenreiter's a charming scamp who plays a mean slide guitar and peppers all his sentences with "all-rat," as in "This next song is about gettin' together with some good friends and smokin' some pot all-rat," as he said before diving into Our Love, from his new self-titled LP.
On cuts like Butterfly, Frankenreiter and his bassist sat on stools, which allowed them to get really down home. Other tunes - It Don't Matter, the G. Love-approved swagger of What'cha Know About and the shuffling Heading Home - were straightforward blues fare, all delivered in a rough rasp and aided by some tasty pentatonic guitar licks.
However pleasant the ganja-kissed vocals, though, Frankenreiter seemed to sing the same four notes all night. Like that pair of "pre-loved" jeans you got at American Eagle Outfitters, his "soulful" croon felt worn out in a contrived way.
His lyrics are clichéd, too: "Gotta keep the wheels in motion, cuz the best things in life are free." Is that the best you got?
That said, his audience absolutely loves him, and they spent the entire set grooving along and showering him with waves of adoration. In fact, it was almost like we were hanging loose around the fire after a long day of surfing, getting stoned and listening to Frankenreiter jam out on his old acoustic gee-tar.
Life's a beach, man.