I had been waiting to see Donavon live for more than five years before finally getting to see him on stage at Byron Bay Surf Festival last October. That’s when I started thinking about his music as kind of a soundtrack to my new life in Australia – I should point out I come from a landlocked Czech Republic in the middle of continental Europe – beach, ocean, surf, waves, my new life is full of love and laughter. Being more than satisfied by his performance in front of a big Byron Bay crowd on the Main Beach I couldn’t wait to experience his laidback good vibes music in a club, particularly at the Shark Bar.
You guys apparently life quite regulated here in Australia. I’m getting used to it but still… I just couldn’t believe my own ears when the doorman at the Shark Bar told me and my friend we can’t enter – in thongs. Seriously? Do you expect a mad mosh pit at Donavon’s gig, mate? The security guy was adamant though and we had to make a quick run home to change into enclosed shoes. But hey, safety first. I get it.
When we got back the venue was half full (which means sold out in the case of Shark Bar) and the support act was already over. The room was full of chatter, a fine mix of people young and old. Apart from the majority of Aussies there was a significant number of foreign people like a group of my Spanish friends who I go surfing with. A drink in hand and chilled out smile on your face seemed to be the dress code for the night. A little later this lovely audience cheered Donavon who mounted the stage with just two more mates – Matt Grundy (bass/guitar/harmonica) and drummer Craig Barnett. Without much ado the band started with Move by Yourself, a signature Donavon groovy funky track which instantly had all the people in the club moving by themselves. The sound was a bit off though at the beginning. Luckily it improved quickly with the next couple songs.
You know the feeling when your favourite artist plays the one song you like best. It’s a blessing, eh. So the tempo slowed down with the third track, the romantic ballad Your Heart. Looking around I could see people smiling absently, rocking to the rhytm of Matt’s Grundy enticing bass. A guy next to me nodded his head: “He’s sending the vibes out.” Donavon’s music revolves predominantly around the theme of love without being cheesy or cliché. As he sang with his rich bluesy voice in one of his biggest hits Love, life and Laughter this dude is apparently looking for love in everything he does and it’s obvious he’s pretty successful at that endeavour. There’s wisdom. He gives the impression that he went through many things which were not necessarily good back in the day and somehow came out cleansed, wiser, giving and loving. Most of his songs are love songs and the rest is about celebrating life and yeah, the good times.
After the heartwarming Call Me Papa dedicated to his kids Donavon and Matt switched to acoustic guitars and let the audience sing along to his super famous song Free followed by Love, life and Laughter and I couldn’t help myself and sing with this uber cool guy… “what about all the things you could have done but you don’t, things happen for reason, you don’t do them they won’t.”
The end of the show came somehow abruptly, Donavon said thanks and see ya next time and was gone from the stage. People seemed as if awoken from a deep dream, confused to such a degree that they didn’t really starte cheering Donavon for an encore immediately and it had to be me with a random guy standing next to me who actually got the audience going with clapping hands and cheering for more.
The encore comprised just two songs but man, it was a blast. What’cha now about was the first one. How much more “feeling” can there be in simple music with one acoustic guitar, a bass and drums. Donavon’s husky yet honey sweet voice together with some masterful guitar work just does the trick. And when Matt Grundy joined in with just another of his awesome harmonica solos people went nuts. Watching the bodies moving to the song tight to one another, there was a lot of sex in the air.
The show ended with It Don’t Matter, this anthemic proclamation of how good it is to focus on important things in your life and just let the tons of debris flowing around go. “Everything, unless I’m with you, it doesn’t matter to me.” And everybody in the room kept singing the last verse of the song along with Donavon for quite some time before the man called it a day.
After the show you could see Donavon strolling among people in the room, chatting, posing for selfies and doing what he does best even though he was no longer on the stage – sending out the good vibes.