“We’re going to have to find something else to do tonight”.
I’m a bit of a pessimist at times, and those were the words uttered to my brother sitting in a greasy spoon in Bethnal Green. My pessimism was accentuated thanks to a rotten hangover for an impromptu binge around London, which saw us drink in some ridiculously expensive bars (we’re talking £4.50 a bottle here), but generally have a good time. This cafe was a slice of London life rarely seen outside of the well trodden tourist trails, and even with a mug of sugary tea & a cooked breakfast, there were reasons to be fearful for tonights events.
For the entire public transport network between London & continental Europe was brought to a standstill. 3,000 people trapped on both sides of the English Channel, looking to get to the other side. Amongst them was Frank Turner, an English boy with a guitar, who was due on stage in London after performing a gig in Paris the night before. A gig myself & my brother were due to attend. How did we know his predicament? Simple, he has a twitter account, and he extensively tweeted so.
I first got to know about him at my most receptical time for new music – inhebriated. Crashing on a airbed in Leeds at my brother’s, who was living up there at the time. He played a few songs, I Spotified a few more, and fell in love with his angsty music. It’s great, it’s like every single song he’s written is about me. It isn’t, and that’s the appeal, his songs are written about everybody. One of my mates – an 8 year pro wrestling veteran, early 30′s, gay, factory worker & a interesting history (put it that way) swears that “Photosynthesis” is written for him. It isn’t, it’s written for me, no matter how many times he tries and Fujiwara Arm Bar’s me to make me admit otherwise.
We got to the gig at around quarter to 7, the Union Chapel in Islington (a stupidly cool part of London) cold, not really sure what was happening, but in high spirits. The queue was already beginning to form, and we ended up about third way along it when the doors finally opened, about 15 minutes late.
I’m not entirely sure what was happening, but there were what looked like hastily put up sheets of A4 with a lineup (revised or not? I’m not sure). We ended up a number of rows back in the main auditorium. It was there that the non-Twitterati in the audience were informed of Mr. Turner’s pickle. It felt more like “Frank Turner & Friends”, with what appeared to be Frank’s mates supporting him – which was fine, as they were talented musicians in their own right.
Frank arrived on stage amazingly at around 10 minutes late, a monumental achievement considering that Mother Nature & the French stuck two huge fingers up at him. It was there he made a confession – it wasn’t going to be a typical “Frank Turner” concert. Which was good for me – as somebody who’s only really got to know Mr. Turner through Spotify, I’m not a typical Frank Turner fan.
He played a lot of less well known songs, with no Photosynthesis or The Road, but instead a lot of his old back catalogue. A highlight was the Christmas song – Last Christmas – with all the support acts. Everybody seemed like they were having a blast, which – coupled with that not everybody knowing the words, made this gig special. It felt like Frank really enjoyed being there, like everybody in the crowd. Now that Rage Against The Machine have broken the monopoly on Christmas #1′s, can we have this as a Christmas single next year?
The crowd was small, around 900-1000, but the roof was lifted off the church in the rousing finale – The Ballad of Me & My Friends. Something about singing “I’m Definitely Going To Hell, But I’ll Have All The Best Stories to Tell” within the confines of a church certainly made the concert special. No encore, but it wasn’t expected – the few chants of “We want more!” were drowned with “Go get drunk!”. It was a miracle this gig happened in the first place, it was a amazing bonus that this gig was probably one of the best I’ve ever been to.