Donavon Frankenreiter

Donavon Frankenreiter; Fish Out Of Water

I’m a fan of Donavon Frankenreiter but I will say straight off the bat his show is much better suited to an outdoor venue. Sitting on a blanket on a summer afternoon, grass between your toes, relaxing with friends enjoying a beer or a bottle of red – that’s what this music is about.

The performance felt out of place at ‘Venue’ on Sunday night. The dance floor filled with people just sort of standing and looking, and the Venue’s LED display behind the stage is clearly more suited to more energetic styles of music. I would honestly rather listen to Donavon’s albums at home, than in this night club. Don’t get me wrong he is a talented musician, but his performance was understated at best.

Things started off shaky with Donavon’s vocals missing for the beginning of his first song. The sound stayed pretty muddy for quite a while with the poor use of re-verb adding to the mud and making the venue feel more enclosed, the opposite of the desired effect I’m guessing. And for the first three songs I wondered if Donavon would even look at the crowd let alone interact with them in any way.

But he did have time for a chat after the third song and hand out a couple of birthday beers to some revelers. And the night felt like it really began after that with the familiar favorite ‘What’cha Know About’. Then band brought the funk with ‘Move By Yourself’ which finally gave the audience a chance to move and Donavon pulled out his lead electric skills to prove that he’s not just Jack Johnson in a wig and novelty mustache.

The performance last night was driven strongly by the band, which drew my eye – most of the time – over Donavon. This was especially true of the lead guitarist who appeared to be having the most fun on stage. And my favorite songs of the night were the ones where, the keyboardist pulled out his trumpet and played the parts usually reserved for a harmonica. This bought a jazz sound to the songs that worked so much better in the dark room.

The show improved as the artist interacted more with the crowd, giving away his trade mark hat to the first person that guessed the song name and original singer of the Canadian cover he performed (Wondering Where the Lions Are – Bruce Cockburn). And ‘That’s Too Bad’ finally made use of the dance floor.

The music for most of the rest of the night were ‘hold your girl and sway’ tunes (there were at least four couples around me swaying in unison). Which left the rest of us just sort of standing… and looking. Because – and I may have mentioned this already – the music was good and the band played tight, but ‘Venue’ just wasn’t the right venue.

by Scott Long

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