Lets Be Frank

The two-day tour has left me tired and trembling but was worth every waking moment.  Does it make me a groupie?  Probably?  Do I care?  Hell no.

The first thing is that this entire trip has been about the music of Frank Turner, the idea behind the trip embodied by the epoch of his music.  As a songwriter, he has a natural knack of isolating an all too real human feeling which almost everyone has experienced at some point in their lives.  As a performer he is a furious ball of energy, with a natural charm which can make a fan of anyone, including the doubting Thomas’s.

Gang Signs And Fruit….Obviously

The first time I went to see him play in Poznan was a solo show.  I had the opportunity to chat with him(somewhat nervously I might add) and was immediately taken aback by how genuine he seemed to be.  When the lights went on and the show started, attended by about 80 people at most, you could feel without doubt that you were an incredibly lucky bugger to be experiencing something spectacular, made even more so by the intimate setting.  That night a bond was struck by strangers as slowly but surely the room was filled with voices singing along, and eventually dancing and finally invading the stage.  He had completed his ultimate magic trick, he took this room of distant strangers and made them into a single organism.  It was awesome.  So spectacular that I took it on myself to push a beer in his hands the moment he finished.  Despite the fact he had an early morning flight, he spent the next few hours meeting and greeting and posing for pictures and signing CD’s.  As well as getting mind-numbingly drunk.  Whilst the room full of strangers spent their time getting to know one another, smiling to themselves and to their new-found acquaintances.  Those bonds which were formed that night now stand as a badge of honour.

Being Frank

The next time he returned to Poznan, he came with his band the Sleeping Souls.  Again we traveled to Poznan, again I pushed my liver to its limits, however this time we had previously made friends to catch up with.  The magic trick was made even more impressive by the wall of sound which set the night on fire.  One of the most amazing experiences of my life was seeing him apprehensively perform ‘Glory Hallelujah’ in staunchly Catholic Poland.  As he launched into the first rendition of the chorus ‘there is no God, so clap your hands together…’  you couldn’t help but notice the panic in his eyes, which was clearly replaced by sheer joy as the room sang along with him and exploded into life.  The after party was great fun, as we mingled and babbled, and smiled at strangers until the alcohol become too strong.

This time around I was a little more nervous than his previous gigs.  The trip to Poznan was routine, it was Warsaw which bothered me.  In Poznan, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls got a rousing reception as they are already somewhat established there.  It was great to catch up with old friends and make a few new ones.

Meskalina at its loudest
Meskalina at its loudest

The atmosphere was electric.  Benek, the club owner and rock and roll legend was wankered and dancing on the bar.  The band stuck around till late drinking.  It was everything which Poznan always is.  If anything the normality of such carnage is what should be alarming and not the fact that I woke up still completely drunk, with huge black holes in my memory.

What troubled me about Warsaw was that I had invited a number of friends to join us, and I really didn’t know how they would take to him.  When people ask ‘what kind of music does he play?’ the first thought is always ‘folk punk’.  Unfortunately the picture it creates for many is not persuasive.  It’s as if in their mind’s eye they see a bloke with a Mohican and a knee-length beard playing a mandolin.  The natural next step is to then wax lyrical about his lyrical abilities or his electric stage presence and people still look at you like you are nuts.  Last night I learnt a valuable lesson.

Warsaw Debut

Last night was Frank’s Warsaw debut.  Despite the fact a number of us had attended both gigs, there was still a large number of people who didn’t know what to expect.  It was interesting seeing him playing a cold crowd again.  As little by little he sapped their free will way and hypnotised them into dancing.  The genius of the inclusive nature of his gigs is that once you have played ‘air harmonica’ their is very little more you can do to embarrass yourself.  By the end of the show he had the vast majority of the audience singing and dancing; he won, his wizardry won the day.

If I had any doubts about how my friends enjoyed the show they were quickly abated when I witnessed each one have a picture taken with him, or a cd signed.  For the majority it wasn’t just the music, or the energy, or even the stage presence, it was the fact that they felt as if they had experienced something special.  Is it wizardry?  Is it black magic?  It’s hard to say,  I shall let the last words on this matter be Frank’s.

“Once more to the boards

One more curtain call

Give the crowd everything they’re asking for and more

Always make them laugh

Try to make them cry

Always take the stage like it’s the last night of your life.”

Frank Turner – Balthazar, Impresario.

Do You Like Goats Butts?

I am now on the train heading back to Warsaw feeling sick as a dog.  It is something of a normal feeling on this leg of the journey.  The idea of another bohemian evening makes me want to weep like a little girl.

Goats Butts

Poznan has changed in my absence.  Nowadays it somewhat resembles a building site as it gears up to be one of the host cities next summer.  Still we were delighted have lunch in a little place called Canapca, which is very much like a funky inner city version of Subway except that in Canapca the food is actually edible.  And honestly yesterday I ate a Kur-chuck Norris which is almost certainly the coolest lunch any man can possibly eat.(Kurczak pronounced Kur-chack is the Polish word for chicken.)

We were pleased to note that our favourite restaurant in Poznan is still open.  It’s a small Jewish restaurant called Cymes.  It is a wonderful window into a culture which used to be part of the fabric of Poland, aswell as a treat for the stomach.

The fact is that many bars and restaurants have changed, now its noticeable that a trend is emerging.  A few years ago sushi bars were multiplying like bunny rabbits on Viagra.  Now it seems that Poland has found its own niche.  And that style is what can only be described as a mongrel which embraces both a passion for inebriation and for chasers of the gastronomic variety.  I have christened it Fast-vodka.  Literally bars where people can walk in for a shot of vodka and some pickled herring.  It’s almost a tapas bar for an alcoholic, in other words its simply fucking awesome.

Meskalina was as Meskalina always is.  Full of people having fun.  Benek in the style of any great leader, led the festivities from the front.  He never ceases to amaze me.  As he downed shots and danced the night away on his bar I felt as if I was in the presence of a rock and roll god.  In the meantime Frank Turner and the sleeping souls conducted the party with great aplomb.  The enthusiasm and the energy had everyone in the room singing and dancing and completely succeeded in transforming every person in the audience to one living bouncing singing organism.  And breaking my body in the process.

And I am still picking up the pieces.  Round two starts later this evening, and I for one can’t wait.

Doing The Poznan

I am currently speeding through the countryside on an intercity train(incredibly with a digital air conditioning console and plug sockets)on my way to visit Poznan for the fourth time in my life.  For the first time in seven years travelling from Warsaw has been a stress and stench free experience.  It’s almost like Poland is starting to show the early signs of joining the 21st century.

The reason for my trip is a Frank Turner gig in Meskalina, home of the legendary Benek and the near certainty of a night of epic happiness and severe liver poisoning.  And then the party will move to Warsaw where we will do the exact same thing again.

As a hedonist who firmly believes that the liver is truly evil and that it must be punished at every opportunity, I can honestly say that Poznan is something of a spiritual holiday home.

The most notable fact is that in Warsaw people live to work, whereas in Poznan people work to live.  If I was to compare it to a British city I would probably say Manchester as amongst other things it comes alive at night and has a pretty decent football team.  If I was to compare the people to a nationality I would say Irish.  Laid back is something of an understatement.

Doing the Poznan requires more than celebrating a goal during a football match.  It requires celebrating life for no other reason than because it’s happening now.  And that my friends is something to admire.