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Surf rocker Donavon Frankenreiter to perform at Petaluma’s Mystic Theatre

Who: Donavon Frankenreiter with Grant-Lee Phillips

When: 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 22

Where: Mystic Theatre, 21 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma

Tickets: $28

Information: 707-765-2121, mystictheatre.com


It’s snowing on Kauai and soulful singer-guitarist Donavon Frankenreiter is to blame. It’s mid-December in Hanalei, and Frankenreiter and his wife are hosting a Christmas party at their store, The Barn 808.

“Frankenreiter waves to passersby, handing glasses of sparkling wine to anyone who looks old enough to drink. A burly friend of his is dressed as Santa and a snow machine is layering the sidewalk with fluffy white stuff.

It’s classic Frankenreiter, creating a party wherever he goes.

A surf rocker who has been pals with Jack Johnson since they were teens catching waves at the Pipeline on the north shore of Oahu, Frankenreiter found his voice years later when he gave up playing cover songs and began to write his own music.

“I got sick of being a live juke box,” he said. “When I met my wife, she said, ‘why don’t you just write your songs, sing your own songs.’ I thought, that’s kind of impossible, I don’t think I could do that.

“But one thing led to another and I ended up doing it. I sent a whole bunch of stuff to Jack Johnson. He produced my first record,” Frankenreiter said.

Then Johnson took Frankenreiter on the road for the better part of two years. That’s when he began to believe he could make a career in music.

Frankenreiter’s live shows are eclectic and idiosyncratic. His fans never know exactly what to expect but are sure they’ll have a good time.

“We just try to have as much fun as we can,” he said.

“When people ask what sort of music do you play, I don’t know. It’s sort of soulful folk, rock ’n roll, blues-based. It’s happy music.”

Frankenreiter’s shows are family affairs, as he travels with his wife and two sons.

His older son, Hendrix, named after guitar legend Jimi, is 14 and a musician in his own right. He has a band and wrote the music for a song called “Little Shack” that’s on Frankenreiter’s 2015 album, “The Heart.”

“All these songs are as close to me singing from the heart as I can,” says Frankenreiter on his website.

“It’s a complete record; the songs are intertwined. I had to call it ‘The Heart,’ (as) that was the theme of the record.”

Those who attend Frankenreiter’s Petaluma show March 22 will likely see Hendrix take the stage.

“He (Hendrix) comes up in the middle of our show and plays a song every night with his band and jams with me — it’s just really cool,” Frankenreiter said during a phone interview while on tour in Texas early this month.

“He’s here (on tour) with his buddies and will be at the show in Petaluma — he’ll be rocking out. He’s home-schooled. We are teaching him the ways of the road.”

Frankenreiter’s 9-year-old son, Ozzy (spelled the same way as Ozzy Osbourne but not named after him), and his wife, Petra, are also part of the entourage.

“It’s like the Partridge Family,” Frankenreiter said. “We are doing 25 shows in a row — no days off. By the time we get to Petaluma we should be nice and warmed up. No excuses for the Petaluma show, bro.”

Asked about songwriting in a WatchMojo video on YouTube, Frankenreiter said he doesn’t really have a process.

Who: Donavon Frankenreiter with Grant-Lee Phillips

When: 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 22

Where: Mystic Theatre, 21 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma

Tickets: $28

Information: 707-765-2121, mystictheatre.com

“I don’t know too much about songwriting, I just go for it, so whatever happens happens,” he said.

“Usually what I write down or say first is the thing that I stick with. If you overthink the words, it loses its innocent passion.”

A former professional surfer, Frankenreiter believes that catching waves around the world gave him the dream life he leads today. Surfing, he said, “has made me the person I am today and introduced me to everything I know.”

He picked up the guitar at age 16 because his surfer buddies played. After more than a decade of playing for fun and in cover bands, he produced his first set of original songs at age 30.

With support from Johnson, he gradually gained a following, and now has eight albums out.

Frankenreiter’s influences range from Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix to Ben Harper and G Love. His songs have that upbeat, catchy lilt that one hears in Harper’s songs, and the relaxed, easygoing vibe of Jack Johnson’s music.

For the Petaluma show Frankenreiter will be playing in a trio with Matt Grundy and Mike Bedard, talented multi-instrumentalists and singers. Grant-Lee Phillips opens the show.

And Sonoma County troubadour Tom Waits will be on the guest list, even if he didn’t ask to attend the show.

“I always put Tom Waits on the guest list just in case he ever decides to show up,” Frankenreiter said. “Whenever we get close to that guy’s house we always put him on the guest list.”

Michael Shapiro is author of “A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk About Their Craft, Lives, and Inspiration.” He writes about travel and entertainment for national magazines and The Press Democrat.