Donavon Frankenreiter brought an energetic set to The Tuning Fork last night as part of his Australia and New Zealand tour. The singer/songwriter has gained a healthy following with his style of music, which, to him, is “all surf music.”
Catching a wave of fans around 8, I arrived to see local support act Sophie Mashlan. Standing alone but with huge confidence, the 19-year-old played a folky/indie set of love songs.
Although I found it a little too sappy for my personal taste, her guitar playing and vocal lines were welcomed by a hungry and merry Auckland crowd. With an album in the works, Mashlan has just released the single Let You Down.
As Frankenreiter prepared to take stage, a tide of fans pushed its way closer to the stage. First impressions of Move By Yourself draw pictures of beaches, sun, and the big blue; the washy guitars jousting over the blues scale, bass walking, drums splashing and dreamy vocal lines calling for the crowd to “move on.”
A note on how darn cool this 3-piece looked. Frankenreiter floated around in a technicolor dream coat, a worn top hat, with a mighty moustache that made his tiny single coil guitar look even smaller.
Bassist Matt Grundy stood proudly with his beret, double necked bass and electric guitar, occasionally summoning his harmonica to the delight of the crowd. The drummer smashed his kit with a turned back cap, groovy shirt and eyes that connected the other two musicians in tight energetic rhythms. All of them seemingly rolling off the beach, into the camper van, and up on stage.
In an interview at Sunlive, Frankenreiter explained his bands dynamic for this tour:
“I usually play acoustic guitar, but I’m going to be playing the electric guitar the whole time. I’ve got a great drummer that sings, a bass player that sings, so we’ll just choose songs from all the different records, and then if somebody yells something out and we remember it, we will play it.”
Although no one yelled out for any song... whistles, wails and rustles of movement reacted to the third song for the evening What'cha Know About. Short and snappy, this song benefitted from Frankenreiter’s signs to the sound technicians for his microphone to put up in volume – contending with a masterfully played harmonica solo.
Midway through the set the more bluesy song Heading Home really gave Frankenreiter’s guitar playing a chance to shine. Shaking the guitar with emotional fervour, his hands whipped up and down the neck, producing distorted jolts, jabs, and snaps that shocked the audience into moments of dance.
The crowd pleaser of the night went to one of his most well-known tracks Free, off the 2004 self-titled album. With a more electrified version of the acoustic track, you could really sense the enthusiasm from the crowd – showed through ecstatic yelps, sing-a-longs, but mostly phone recordings.
Wrapping up around 10.15, this bluesy night had a healthy surfer glaze reminiscent of long time collaborator Jack Johnson. Maybe a little too sweet for my taste, the all ages crowd at The Tuning Fork lapped it up.
After playing a slew of shows in Australia, here in Wellington and Tauranga, you can catch Frankenreiter’s wave of surf music tonight in Leigh at Sawmill Café, and Coroglen Tavern in the Coromandel on Saturday.