It started with an idea. Two friends would celebrate their 50th birthdays by seeing the country and playing music. It turned into a potential world record. Devon Allman and Donovan Frankenreiter have hit the road with the goal of playing all 50 states in 49 days. Day 8, state 9 saw them playing Hartford, CT.
The whole plan kicked off with the June 23 release of the duo’s EP Rollers. The EP consists of six tracks that provide the soundtrack to the journey. Songs like “Calling All You Riders”, “See It All”, and “Where Ya Gonna Run To” all revolve around travel, seeing everything America has to offer, and, most of all, bringing their fans along for the ride.
The evening kicks off with a set by guitarist Jackson Stokes. Although Stokes began the night with his original music, he’d return later as part of the band joining Allman and Frankenreiter.
Next up was Canadian guitarist and singer Matt Anderson. This slot will feature revolving openers throughout the tour. Anderson and his acoustic guitar completely amazed the audience. Anderson has a voice that combines the smooth, country lilt of someone like Chris Stapleton with the blues power of a Ray Charles. His acoustic guitar playing was unlike anything I’ve ever seen and the crowd delivered a well-earned standing ovation when he finished.
The main set kicked off with Allman and Frankenreiter’s take on the latter’s 2006 track “Move By Yourself”. The extended jam was followed by their version of “Fired Up”, a song Devon recorded during his time with Royal Southern Brotherhood. The opening pair of songs showed the talents of the pair’s backing band, especially percussionist, sax player, and secret weapon Daveed Gomez. Gomez’s sax took center stage a few times throughout the night and provided a welcome foil to the talented guitarists on stage.
Five of the six tracks from Rollers were featured in the set (“We Belong” was the only song not played). The new songs fit seamlessly alongside the more well-known songs from their respective catalogs. While songs like “Electric Lady” stretched out into extended jams showcasing Allman’s legendary guitar skills, this wasn’t your typical “jam band” performance. Frankenreiter’s unique guitar style, combined with Gomez on sax, created a sound that felt new and fresh as opposed to the usual extended guitar jams.
Allman and Frankenreiter traded vocals throughout the evening and kept the energy high for the 75-minute set. Allman pointed out that this was the 9th stop so Hartford was getting the band “While (they) were still fresh”. It will be interesting to see if the grueling travel schedule will allow for such energetic performances as the tour goes on.
The encore kicked off with the high-octane “Where Ya Gonna Run To” that got the crowd on its feet as Allman called everyone to the front of the stage. Opening act Matt Anderson then joined the band for an extended run of Frankenreiter’s hit “It Don’t Matter”. Despite the brutal schedule ahead of them, both men still took the time to come out and chat with fans after.
I’m sure there will be ups and downs over the next 41 nights, but on this night, Devon Allman and Donavon Frankenreiter surely succeeded in the goal of bringing their fans on a unique journey through America through music that binds us all.