Surf and Song: Three for the Road |

Surf and Song: Three for the Road

Stewart Oksenhorn
From left: Donavon Frankenreiter, G. Love and Jack Johnson will be performing today at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival.

When it comes to music festival lineups, anything goes. The Steve Miller Band paired with Lyle Lovett seems fairly random, probably based on schedules more than musical compatibility. David Byrne and Sheryl Crow; Lucinda Williams, Cake and Robert Randolph are likely lineups of convenience rather than an attempt at theme and continuity. (The one that makes the most sense, and that I’d have liked best, would be the pairing of Lovett and Byrne, possessors of two of music’s most skewed personalities.)And then there is the threesome of Jack Johnson, G. Love & Special Sauce and Donavon Frankenreiter, who comprise today’s festival-opening bill at the 10th annual Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival. Three more compatible acts could hardly be imagined; they actually are a package tour, scheduled to play 18 dates together through late September.

Some 15 years ago, Frankenreiter, a California pro surfer, rented a room on Hawaii’s North Shore. His landlords had a 14-year-old son who, like Frankenreiter, was just learning to play guitar. Frankenreiter and Jack Johnson spent two months surfing and teaching each other songs on acoustic guitars.A decade later, Johnson used some of G. Love’s music on the soundtrack to his surf film, “Thicker Than Water.” Love, a surfer and a fan of the film, visited Johnson in California, a trip that featured some song-swapping. Love ended up recording Johnson’s “Rodeo Clowns” as a duet with Johnson on his “Philadelphonic” CD; the song became the single and Johnson’s musical career was launched.

After Johnson’s debut “Brushfire Fairytales” became a major hit, Johnson and his longtime friend and filmmaking partner Emmett Malloy launched Brushfire Records. Last spring, the label released Frankenreiter’s eponymous debut, co-produced by Johnson, which featured the single “Free,” a duet with Johnson, who also co-wrote the song. Also making an appearance on “Donavon Frankenreiter” is Love, who contributed to “What’cha Know About.”The label’s latest release is Love’s “The Hustle,” featuring a Love-Johnson duet on “Give it to You.”

Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is


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