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.
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.
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.
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.
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.