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Sunchild Is on Rise With Warped Tour

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Donavon Frankenreiter, the founder of the Orange County rock band Sunchild, isn’t afraid to venture beyond his element.

As an internationally known pro surfer, Frankenreiter, 24, went to Iceland a few months ago and rode his board in the dead of arctic winter against a backdrop of icebergs and glaciers.

Now, the guitarist, who lives in San Juan Capistrano, is about to lead his band on its first tour, and the waters out there could be just as chilly.

Sunchild’s music nestles into an unhurried ‘60s and early ‘70s rock vibe, with lyrical guitar leads and voices blended in close harmony. Think of Dave Mason’s “Alone Together” period, or of Crosby, Stills and Nash sitting in with the Allman Brothers Band, to get an inkling of the retro spirit guiding Sunchild, whose six members range in age from 24 to 28.

The band would have a good chance to win over ‘60s-oriented H.O.R.D.E. and Furthur Festival crowds; instead, it will cross the country for six weeks as a satellite-stage attraction on the Warped Tour, an annual traveling festival stocked with aggressive punk and ska-punk acts, including headliners Social Distortion, Pennywise and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

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“I don’t think necessarily they’re going to hate us because we’re playing mellower music, but you never know,” Frankenreiter said. “With the opportunity to travel and get the exposure and play the music in front of people, we’re really stoked.”

In the band’s favor is Frankenreiter’s status as a surfing star. Besides being geared to punk and ska fans, the Warped Tour emphasizes the link between alternative rock and the surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding subcultures.

Sunchild will perform in a special “Surf Compound” featuring bands and merchandising booths that cater to the beach crowd. (O.C. expatriates Sugar Ray will play on the same stage.) Sunchild’s newly purchased touring RV might be an attraction in itself: the members have plastered its interior with 1,000 vinyl LPs culled from Frankenreiter’s extensive collection. The records were hung with care, and he expects to play them again when the band returns.

The first version of Sunchild was a Pearl Jam-style band Frankenreiter started at his alma mater, Mission Viejo High School. He kept playing as his surfing career took off and netted him numerous videos, magazine spreads and sponsorships from surf-gear manufacturers. With such influences as the Doobie Brothers coming to the fore, Frankenreiter put together the current Sunchild lineup: brothers Scott and Joel Owen sing, Tristan Tortorella plays bass and sings backups, Damian Brawner is the drummer, and Frankenreiter and Matt Hamilton take turns as guitar soloists.

The band recently signed with the Encinitas-based independent label Surf Dog. Its first CD is “Barefoot & Live,” a set of originals and classic-rock covers culled from a club gig in May. It’s something to sell on the road until the band completes its first studio album, Frankenreiter says.

In August, Sunchild will make its national recording debut in elite company: Its idealistic “Giverman” is one of the tracks on “MOMII: Music for our Mother Ocean,” the second in a series of star-studded CDs benefiting the Surfrider Foundation. The Surf Dog/Interscope release also includes songs by the Offspring, Pennywise, Sublime, Jewel, Porno For Pyros, 311, Moby, Brian Setzer, Jimmy Buffett, Counting Crows and the Beach Boys, among others.

Frankenreiter will continue as a pro surfer while trying to emerge as a music maker. He sees promotional synergy in a career straddling surfboards and guitar effects pedals. “It all ties in together.”

* The Warped Tour stops Thursday at the Olympic Velodrome, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Victoria Street and Tamcliff Avenue in Carson. Noon. $20.50. (714) 740-2000.

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As the owner of a new club for live music, Mark Wood should know how to keep the talent happy.

For the past 15 years, he has been the talent, a full-time musician earning a living on the local club and barroom scene.

His new, 185-seat Palm Street Beach Club, which opened June 19, occupies the Balboa Peninsula site best known for its incarnation as Bubbles Balboa Club. The 18-foot-tall cylindrical bubble machine that distinguished the former establishment is gone, opening up the sight-lines to the stage. And Wood has banned TVs.

“I want people to relax and enjoy music and food,” he said. “I don’t want them to lose the focus, which is the entertainment.”

As a singer-songwriter and bandleader who has played country, folk and rock, Wood knows the challenge of performing in an imperfect environment. He hopes to prevent some of the indignities he suffered.

“Having played in this industry for so long, I’d be constantly frustrated,” he said. “ ‘Man, if I could have my own place and control the experience people have, make sure the service and food and the music and lighting are good.”’

Wood, who lives within walking distance of the club, plans to emphasize acoustic music and R&B.; He will experiment with the booking policy, but for now it will feature a Monday night showcase for performers playing original music, a regular Sunday afternoon gathering with the Zydeco Party Band, blues talent on Wednesdays, R&B; bands on Fridays, folk-and-blues singer Lucy Van Dyke on Tuesdays, and the Boss himself--Wood, not Springsteen--on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sunday evenings.

Not that he wouldn’t step aside for Bruce. “My goal is to try to get some bigger names interested,” Wood said. “And I’ll use the best of the players I’ve gotten to know over the years.”

* The Palm Street Beach Club is at 211 Palm St., Newport Beach. It opens at 5 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays and at 11 a.m. Sundays. (714) 673-3040.


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