Concert Review: Donavon Frankenreiter at Jannus Live (w/video)

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I’ll be blunt – I was in a foul mood on Friday.

The main culprit being that the hiring managers of a position I had been successfully interviewing for over the course of three weeks, informed me that they chose to hire the “other candidate.” Then, among other things like gray skies and rain all day, my boyfriend (and date) for the Donavon Frankenreiter show that night was stuck working late, which led me to miss Mishka, the opening act, whom I was looking forward to checking out just as much as headliner.

So, I was just a little ball of lividness, with the tension and disappointment of the day following me into the car and igniting a petty argument as the boyfriend and I rushed down Interstate 275 South to Jannus Live, both thinking the same hopeful thought — please let the music be good enough to make all the life dramas fade away for a short while.

We arrived just as Frankenreiter was getting into the groove of his set with “It Don’t Matter.” The lanky-legged lead singer cavorting around the stage in maroon pants with a blue button down and floppy brown hippie hat that was accessorized with peace signs and feathers. The backup musicians, Matt Grundy on bass, Eric Brigmond on keys, Craig Barnette on drums and Pete Winders with lead guitar, filled the outdoor venue with a country-folk jamboree meets mellow surf-rock sound.

The relentless rain of the day had finally stopped, which left the St. Pete night air with a cool breeze that complimented the chillaxed, swaying mood of the moderately packed venue. With the amazing-ness that is the outdoor Jannus setting and the musically tranquil ambiance Frankenreiter and Co. provided, I was officially out of my funk for the evening.

As the laidback sonics washed over the crowd and Frankenreiter soulfully crooned out tunes like “Swing on Down,” “Life, Love and Laughter,” and “Butterfly” in his soft-bluesy tone through his signature shaggy mustache, I noticed he was not the only one proudly sporting excess facial hair. In fact, there were guys and hot chicks all around me with burly brown mustaches accentuating their mouths that were so thick I could have combed through the upper lip hair.

The sudden trend was all smoke and mirrors of course — stick on ‘staches — but the mustache effect was a pretty hilarious and fun way to see fans showing their love for Frankenreiter and his characteristic “unstuck in time” style.

I always enjoy when bands choose to do a cover using their own musical brand and, being that I am a total Tom Petty fanatic, Frankenreiter’s souled-down version of “American Girl” was one of the standout moments of the night’s performance. Another peak in the show was when the acoustic rocker plugged in the electric and had a little Jimmy Hendrix infused jam session for the crowd. Matthew McConaughey’s main music-man Mishka also made an appearance during the set, flowing out his soft and bouncy reggae melodies (see video).

However, the highlight of the show was when Frankenreiter and Co. performed his hit, “Free,” in a karaoke, sing-a-long fashion; passing and tossing the mic out to audience members to belt out the main hook of the chorus, “Free-ee-ee,” as Frankenreiter conducted from the stage (see video).

The interactive and entertaining rendition was a success, minus the two drunk (or just tone-deaf?) girls who got a hold of the mic for a few seconds, “It was a great catch though,” Frankenreiter said once he finally got it back. Overall, the crowd was loving it and the cooled out, live concert vibes of Fankenreiter's music were a fabulous way to start the July fourth weekend in St. Pete.

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