Thursday, February 26, 1998
With stormy weather along the coastline this winter, the swells have picked up in intensity, sweeping surfers toward the shore on a fluid path of exhilaration, spin drift spray in their wake. At Lovers Point in Pacific Grove, the waves curl around and over rocks jutting out from the shore. Southern California surfer/musician Damian Brawner experienced the surf on the Monterey Peninsula when he was here to play a gig at Whitey''s Place last November. The experience was just another wave along the way as he and his bandmates in Sunchild "live the dream."
Denizens of a community wrapped up in the watery environment of the ocean, the five bandmembers combine the life of touring musicians with that of surfers following the endless summer. Having just returned two weeks ago from a month-long sojourn through Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Hawaii as part of the Warped Tour, Sunchild''s members "surfed the whole entire time," says Brawner over the phone. "Us and the guys in Pennywise (another band booked on the annual touring festival which placed second behind Lilith Fair in attendance last year) had a bus and toured the coast of New Zealand and Australia. We got to teach a bunch of the other guys in the bands how to surf."
Like a fish out of water, Sunchild, a year-and-a-half-old Orange County-based band whose sound combines blues and melodic rock in the Southern tradition of The Allman Brothers and Marshall Tucker Band, joined with Social Distortion and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and many others, on the tour known for its punk and ska/punk sound.
"We were described as the most punk rock on the whole tour," Brawner says, "because we had the guts to go up against the other music. People wanted to mosh and slam, but we found they respected us, sat down and listened to the music."
Laid-back and soulful, infused with the spirit of brother and sisterhood, the lyrics of their song "Giver Man" represents one aspect of their music: "Anyone with love in their heart is a friend indeed/Anyone livin'' without is a friend in need/And if you care for me, then let me take your hand/And thank you for the simple things you gave to a fellow man./The Giver Man, is giving what he can, The Giver Man."
The original song is included on their Surfdog Records live recording Barefoot and Live, produced so they could have something to hand out along the road, and also on a star-studded compilation CD MOM II: Music for our Mother Ocean, a benefit recording for The Surfrider Foundation which works to keep the earth''s oceans clean.
The relatively fast climb into the recording and touring regime coveted by many bands with double or triple the years behind them can be partially credited to the high profile of guitarist Donovan Frankenreiter, the founding member who "came around and hand-picked everyone," says Brawner, a drummer who had the most experience on the music scene and could manage and book the band in the beginning. Frankenreiter is a professional surfer who is regularly written about in worldwide publications Surfer and Surfing. The recognition factor has helped in their sales and in garnering the spot on the Van''s Shoes-sponsored Warped Tour. They also have no problem in gaining sponsors; they currently work with Sol, a Mexican beer manufacturer who dropped out of the business for 10 years, but has returned to challenge Corona''s position as the best-selling Mexican beer.
"They pay us to drink their beer," says Brawner. "They give us money to live on, for all our merchandise, the mailing list and calendar. They''ve been a great help. In fact we''re playing the House of Blues for the Sol release party."
In about a month, the band, which also includes Scott Owen (vocals, guitar & keyboards), Tristan Michael (vocals & bass), and Matthew Hamilton (guitar, a regular Eric Clapton on lead, adds Brawner) will start to record their first studio album with all originals. Their vocal harmonies and interactive, duel guitar leads bring back the ''70s sound of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and The Allman Brothers respectively, yet their young age and lifestyle perpetuate the ideals of youth and the freedom it allows. Therefore this is a show that a wide range of people will enjoy.
Sunchild, Friday & Saturday, 9:30pm. Whitey''s Place, $2 cover, 646-8383.
Jazz lovers now have some more choices when it comes to live performance venues. Last weekend, The Media Room in Pacific Grove officially got back in the swing of things with the Shelly Cullin, John Cortes, David Gitin and Storm Nielson recording/performance sessions. The intimate, acoustically perfect performance room was filled with friends and fans of Cullin on Saturday afternoon, and Rhett Allen Smith manned the recording control booth with a casualness akin to being at home. (Which isn''t far from the truth since he''s probably spent more time there than anywhere else over at least the last year as he designed, built and rebuilt the place.) Music Coordinator David Morwood stopped in to see how things were going before splitting for his new gig at The Hyatt Regency in Monterey. In a phone conversation later, he explained what was up for this weekend at both places.
"Lynne Arriale is playing at The Media Room Friday," he says. "She''s a very innovative jazz pianist. She chooses unique voicing in chords and melodies, and her rhythms are different; she really gets into polyrhythmic ideas. They''re very fascinating, especially as a drummer, I love to hear that." Playing with her is an excellent drummer, Steve Davis and San Francisco bassist John Wiitla.
Lynne Arriale Trio, Friday, The Media Room, 7:30pm, $25, 655-2010.
"On Friday at The Hyatt," Morwood continues, "I''ll be playing drums with Bruce Forman, probably one of the best bebop guitarists on the West Coast, and Buddy Jones on bass. Saturday, I''ll be with Ace Hill on piano and Michael Marcus on bass. What I''m trying to do is keep things mixed up and use different players. I want to keep the music fresh and exciting. The problem with hotel lounge gigs with the same people is it can get stale. We''ll be playing more lively jazz, more bebop and swing, not just background music. The great thing about The Hyatt is it''s right in town and more accessible for locals." The following weekend, Forman returns on Friday, and Saturday pianist Biff Smith will sit in.
David Morwood Trio, Friday & Saturday, 7- 11pm. Peninsula Lounge, The Hyatt Regency, no cover, 625-0735.