It had been many a Cinco de Mayo since I'd seen the number of girls wearing fake mustaches as were in the parking lot outside the Culture Club on Saturday night.
The reason was simple. Donavon Frankenreiter, the surfing singer, was in town with his band. His mustache is his calling card, so much so that if you forgot to bring one from home, the merchandising table was selling them for a dollar a pop. This made for a confusing scene. Obviously the women's mustaches were all phony, but you had to do double takes on all the guys with dark hair above their upper lips.
All the hype resulted in the concert's biggest disappointment.
When the man walked on stage, Donavon Frankenreiter's mustache was obscured by equally prominent chin hair. His facial hair was less reminiscent of the Frank Zappa mustaches being sold and more like the shaggy beard of The Dude from The Big Lebowski. Fortunately, the evening's music far exceeded any expectations that might have been lowered with a dollar wasted on an irrelevant mustache.
From the opening song "Free," Frankenreiter and his band brought a jazzier, Steely Dan influenced sound to each song, making them sound more diverse than the original recorded material. Much of the credit should be shared with the band, even if Frankenreiter's guitar playing was impressively precise. The bass player and drummer kept the rhythm, which is even more noteworthy, considering Frankenreiter's onstage announcement that this was a substitute drummer, replacing the real drummer, who ended up in the hospital after a misstep off the tour bus resulted in an injured ankle.
Deserving of particular notice was multi-instrumentalist Paul Clark who brought a poppy hockey arena organ sound to "Your Heart" and belted out a saxophone for "What'cha Know About."
The opening acts were mostly ignored, in spite of their enthusiasm. Karina Skye came on stage with only an acoustic guitar and a very short dress. The lyrics of her songs seemed to be from someone for whom Engish was not their first language. On her final song "Ferris Wheel," she revealed this to be the case as it was mostly in Portuguese, the language of her home country, Brazil. In response, a woman with a fake mustache said, "You can tell by her butt she's from Brazil."
The Crazy Carls consisted of a singer/guitarist with Nothing's Shocking era Perry Farrell dreadlocks and a silent keyboardist. They were pretty laid back for their name, but the crowd was even more comatose. The singer pleaded "Put your hands up if you're having a good time." It seemed everyone was miserable, so he tried again. "Put your hands up if you're drinking." No one bothered to put up their drinks. Maybe, the audience would have participated if he said, "Put your hands up if you're wearing a mustache that's not yours."
When Donavon Frankenreiter took the stage, the crowd was rapt. They sung along to every song, so much so that he felt comfortable bringing up a random girl from the audience to come on stage and sing the chorus for "Life, Love, & Laughter." But I guess that was the theme of the evening. Drummers, singers, facial hair, we're all replaceable.