Friday, 19 May 2017

Gig Review: Frank Turner’s Last Minutes & Lost Evenings, Sensible Sunday 14/5/17 (by Emma Prew)

The weekend of Friday 12th through to Monday 15th of May saw a new festival of sorts take place in Camden – a collaboration between OneFest, a not-for-profit organisation that supports talent development within the music industry, and Frank Turner. Last Minutes & Lost Evenings was a 4-day festival with events running throughout each day, culminating with a unique gig each night at the wonderful Roundhouse – headlined by Frank Turner, of course.

The first and last nights featured ‘Greatest Hits’ sets (which, to be honest, I wasn’t sure how that was any different from a standard Frank Turner show) while the Saturday saw Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls performing ‘Sleep Is For The Week’, Frank’s debut album, in full – as it has celebrated its 10th birthday this year. However it was the Sunday that we chose to attend (partly because Sunday is the only day/evening of the four that Colin gets off!), which had been dubbed ‘Sensible Sunday’ after the infamous Nambucca club night.

Sensible Sunday was a night of stripped back and acoustic music featuring a solo Frank Turner, rather than being accompanied by The Sleeping Souls. Alongside Frank, there were five acoustic-based support acts in the evening across two stages within the Roundhouse. But before the evening event kicked off, there was plenty happening in other locations around Camden as well. 

With a busy start to our Sunday before heading to London (On a slow ‘fast’ train with no seats! Why are trains so rubbish on Sundays?!), we didn’t make it to Camden until Last Minutes – the prequel to Lost Evenings – was well under way. Heading first to The Roundhouse, we arrived just before 4pm and caught the latter half of Sad Song Co.. Sad Song Co. is a musical project of Nigel Powell, better known for being the drummer of The Sleeping Souls – Frank’s band. I hesitate to call it a side-project as it’s really just a different music endeavour entirely and one that Nigel has been working on on-and-off for as long as, if not longer, than he’s been playing with Frank – over 10 years. Sad Song Co. was performing on the Nick Alexander Memorial Trust (more about that here) stage and it was packed out when we arrived. I personally couldn’t see the stage very well but I just about worked out that alongside Nigel, who played guitar and piano, there was a bass player. I’d not listened to Sad Song Co.’s music before but I soon discovered that the music was a sort of atmospheric indie rock. I wouldn’t say it was exactly my thing but it was great to see one of the members of The Sleeping Souls doing his own thing and clearly doing it well. Although he’s a fine drummer too, of course!

After Sad Song Co. we stuck around to watch the next artist. Until a day or so earlier, it was supposed to be The Lion And The Wolf gracing the NAMT stage at this time but he had to swap his slot for an earlier one to get a train to Manchester for a second gig. I must admit I was pretty gutted about this as I love hearing Tom’s beautiful yet melancholic music live, but I will be seeing him at the end of the month on the acoustic stage at Slam Dunk South anyway. The slot switcheroo meant that we would instead be checking out a brand new artist, which although risky could also end up being great – and that new artist was Harry Pane. With just an acoustic guitar in hand, he instantly drew me into his songs with a great sense of storytelling. His vocals, and even his guitar playing as well, initially reminded me of the more traditional English folk musician, Seth Lakeman – who ironically played the previous night of Lost Evenings. Although after a few songs I thought that Harry was more bluesy. Either way, he had a lot of talent and I thoroughly enjoyed what I saw of his set.

We didn’t stay for quite all of Harry Pane’s set as I thought it would be a good idea to go and check out the other Last Minutes venue, The Hawley Arms, and see if we could catch a bit of Sean McGowan. Sean McGowan is one of those artists that I’ve heard good things about and know that I should check out… but hadn’t yet. So what better time to check him out! Unfortunately The Hawley Arms wasn’t a large venue, well it was a pub obviously, and the awkward layout of the second floor bar where the stage was set up meant that once the room was reasonably packed it was difficult to see. Not being able to see wouldn’t have been so bad if the sound was good but I have to say that that wasn’t all that great either. We could just about hear Sean’s vocals but the guitar wasn’t nearly loud enough. It was a shame for us but there were plenty of people closer to the stage that I’m sure loved Sean’s performance – we’ll just have to go and see him again as soon as we can!

Last Minutes, both at The Roundhouse and The Hawley Arms, finished around 6pm and then there was a half hour gap until doors opened (again) at The Roundhouse for the main event. We took this opportunity to go and grab some good ol’ Camden street food (word of advice: don’t go for the first Mexican place you see for a veggie burrito – they didn’t even wrap it in foil!). After filling our tummies and sheltering from a torrential downpour – it had been gloriously sunny all afternoon prior – we made our way back to the venue and joined the growing queue. As predominantly punk fans (Colin especially) we hate queuing – you don’t generally have to for punk shows, unless it’s like NOFX or something. There was a bit of a delay getting into The Roundhouse but we did at least manage to get inside in time to catch the first act of the evening over on the Nick Alexander Memorial Trust stage, Uri Sade. Uri Sade was not a name that either of us had heard of before and that wasn’t really a surprise when his set began and we realised his style of music was nothing like what we usually listen to – ie. not remotely punk. I don’t mean to say that I’m not willing to listen to something different, only that I might struggle to review it! What I will say is that Uri Sade had an amazing set of lungs with a voice to rival Matt Bellamy or Thom Yorke.

Soon it was time to set foot inside the main Roundhouse space, a stunning round (duh) room with plenty of floor space and a decently elevated stage, as well as a seated balcony. When I first got into going to gigs in London as a teenager (and generally went to see bigger bands than I do now), The Roundhouse was one of my favourite venues. Now I think it’s too big for my tastes but it’s still a wonderful space anyway. The Roundhouse also happens to be the venue in which I saw Frank Turner (and Chuck Ragan) for the first time so it was going to be special seeing him there again 7 years later. But before that, we had the two main supports to see and first up was Beans On Toast. Jay has been a close friend of Frank’s for a long time so for that reason alone it was no surprise to see him on the bill for Lost Evenings. But there is a more valid reason than that, Sensible Sundays originally took place at Nambucca, a pub in Holloway north London, where Jay lived, worked and played music – there was noone more perfect to play at the reimagined Sensible Sunday. Taking to the stage to much applause – after Koo Koo Kangaroo, American comedy duo come hosts for Lost Evenings, did their [weird] thing – Beans did a fine job of getting the crowd pumped up. He did the somewhat risky thing, particularly for a support act, of playing mostly new songs but it worked in his favour as they went down a storm. As well as playing songs, Beans shared stories of the Nambucca days including how he was on holiday in India when he got the call to say that the pub, and his home, was on fire. It was amazing to hear first hand. A particular highlight of Beans On Toast’s set was one of the new songs, a political number that was anti-May / pro-Corbyn – a view that was clearly agreed with by much of the crowd.

Beans On Toast was certainly a tough act to follow but the next artist gave it a damn good shot. Scott Hutchison is best known for being in Frightened Rabbit, an indie folk band from Scotland. Frightened Rabbit are actually a band that I’ve seen live before, several years ago supporting Biffy Clyro, but I can’t really remember them – at least I didn’t recall hating them though, eh? Scott obviously didn’t expect many people in the crowd to have heard of him or his band as he joked about it as soon as he mentioned the band name. However, I can safely say that I was surrounded by many people who did know the band as I heard them excitedly singing along. It was these enthusiastic fans that made me enjoy Scott’s performance all the more, especially as I didn’t know any of the songs myself. The melodic folky nature of the music was something that appealed to me as it reminded me of bands such as Band Of Horses, The Decemberists and Fleet Foxes – all of whom are bands that I love. Maybe Scott didn’t get quite the same enthusiasm from the whole crowd as Beans On Toast did but he did earn himself a new fan in me and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that night.

Koo Koo Kangaroo returned to the stage to attempt to get the crowd to play a heads or tails game that involved sitting down – taking a leaf out of Frank Turner’s book I think. Thankfully the game didn’t last long – no offence to the comedy duo but we definitely just wanted Mr Turner by this point of the evening. At last Frank took to the stage, looking quite small as a solo figure upon the Roundhouse stage especially as most are used to seeing him backed by The Sleeping Souls. In fact, he said that playing the Roundhouse that night was his largest solo show to date after Reading/Leeds festival. It didn’t take long for Frank to prove just why he was able to stand on the large stage alone, demanding and receiving attention from the crowd in equal measures. 

Like Beans On Toast, Frank chose to kick off his Sensible Sunday set with a new track – or at least a not-on-any-album-yet track. The Sand In The Gears was debuted at a US show in January and the live video of it has thousands of views, so it wasn’t entirely new for most of the Roundhouse audience but it was certainly new for the weekend in Camden. The lineCan't I just spend the next four years at a punk show?’ resonated pretty nicely with myself and Colin. If you haven’t heard the song – go listen now! After that we were treated to a variety of tracks from Frank’s whole back catalogue, including a lot of ‘B-sides’ such as Tattoos, Hold Your Tongue and a cover of The Weakerthans’ Plea From A Cat Named Virtute (note to self: must listen to The Weakerthans some more). The variety within the setlist was great – I imagine it would have been even more special had I been to the previous two nights as well – and we were also treated to a number of different versions of classic songs, stripped back for acoustic guitar.

If you attended Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls’ autumn 2015 tour then you may recall hearing the heart-wrenching rendition of Demons that was dedicated to Nick Alexander, who died in the Paris bombings days earlier. Nick was a friend of Frank’s and it was touching to hear him speak of Nick again and, of course, speak about the Nick Alexander Memorial Trust. The standout track for me, however, was one that came a few songs later, Heartless Bastard Mother****** a song I’ve never heard live before and don’t expect to again. It did a decent job of transporting me back to the first time I listen to Frank Turner some 10 years ago. We were quite lucky that it got missed off of the Sleep Is For The Week / Campfire Punk Rock setlist the night before really.

Generally I wouldn’t say that this set list contained too many of my favourite Frank Turner songs but it was great to hear some songs that I’d either forgotten about or never heard live before. I’ve been lucky enough to see Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls live 15 times now, including a couple of solo shows too, which means that I’m always gonna compare a Frank live show to those I’ve been to previously. This gig was special as the overarching Last Minutes And Lost Evenings was a wonderful thing but it wasn’t one of my favourite Frank Turner gigs. I’ve actually come to question whether 15 times is enough and if I should quit now while I’m ahead. But then Frank Turner will announce a new tour and I’ll probably be buying tickets as soon as they go on sale.

I can’t explain it, I just love Frank Turner.

This gig review was written by Emma Prew.

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