I was recently invited back to appear on Level Talk with John Harrison to talk about the fascist demonstrations in Warsaw. As someone who lived through ‘International Stay at Home Day’ in Warsaw, and who personally experienced abuse from fascists in Warsaw, I found it impossible to refuse.
Recently I have been crossing borders like Arnold Schwarzenegger crossed enemies back in the 1980’s. With the #Brexit referendum on the horizon it is somewhat frightening how many of us are facing a very real risk of losing the ability to cross Europe as and when we require. Thousands of international couples may well have their lives indubitably altered for the sake of justifying a slow-burning economic meltdown. It seems to escape the sphere of public debate that many couples and even families will face great difficulties regarding merely staying together should the people of Britain choose to #Brexit. I fear that there is a realistic chance that we will be the silent victims of the madness to come.
I traveled to Poland with just my dog by car for the first time. Twelve hours on the open road with zero conversation, an iPod blasting away, with music old and new, does somehow offer one a great deal of time to think. The conclusions that appeared to me on the journey have formed the basis of a new project, which 10,000 words in, is looking like it could well become a novella at the very least. The premise is thus: What if we are entirely and absolutely incorrect regarding the way we humans tend to measure our lives?
In Warsaw I bore witness to the growth of our music project. Our album #WeAreSorry is in numerous shops. The band have been on national television and radio and have recorded dozens of interviews to promote the record. It made me a little sad to realise how much I am missing out due to mere geography. #Yu also played a concert on a boat, which was very much like a concert on land, except it was on water, which is some degree wetter. There was singing and dancing and bad sweaters. It was like the worst rave of the eighties all over again.
I was lucky enough to spend a week in the big apple, which isn’t that big, and definitely isn’t an apple, but is, in fact, a phenomenal city. I have no idea whether New York really is the city that never sleeps as for at least part of our trip, we slept. To be fair our sleep was well deserved as we walked in excess of 140 kilometers around Manhattan as we explored it like we were aliens, legal aliens. New York was everything Hollywood doesn’t warn you about. The various districts had different edges that made each unique, the people were universally friendly and charming and all in all we had a wonderful time. It genuinely felt like all it took to become the King of New York was one hundred dollars in your pocket and a single evening.
Oh I nearly forgot. I am writing this post from #Warsaw because we have a new video to promote our song entitled ‘God Doesn’t Love You’. Despite the religious title it has somewhat strangely caused a great deal of consternation regarding the sexuality of Hitler. If that sounds odd you should probably watch it right now:
If you like the video or the song or both or neither please SHARE this video and help spread the message of this song.
P.S. Soon #Yu really will be able to play with yourself as #GodDoesntLoveYou is going to be released as a standalone video game. I will share the details when I have them.
I haven’t posted anything for a month for two reasons. The first is that I have been busy editing novel number two. The second is that real life has been getting in the way.
Between various trips, visitors and damn right boring responsibilities I have had very little time to think. After living that way for a number of weeks I have found that I am drowning in a sea of passive indifference. It’s as if I finally understand what it is to feel normal.
In the past month I have discovered that Harold and Maude is a fantastic film, Danish people eat spunk and that I can’t decide if I am indecisive or not.
As Poland steels itself for EURO 2012 I must take my hat off to the homeless bums of Warsaw. In the past few weeks many of them have managed to get their hands on a pair of crutches in time for the tournament. Sadly the bums have shown a greater aptitude for innovation than the organisers. If only they could have planned the whole tournament…..
That’s all for now I shall leave you with Poland’s official song for EURO 2012 Koko Koko Euro Spoko (Yes, really…)
Some of the greatest, most pointless debates known to man have taken place within a group of semi-drunk heathens. Almost always the subject is as banal as the afterlife, the meaning of life, the meaning of apple or the end of the world. It’s much easier to attribute blame and lay it at someone’s doorstep after several beers and a few whiskeys, usually because alcohol lowers the barriers which we surround ourselves with. From time to time drunken debates can go wrong, they can become too personal and heated, thankfully we can then blame alcohol rather than ourselves.
The first mistake people often make, is to misunderstand the point of such discussions. The purpose of such deliberations is not to try to bully and harangue the other person into agreeing with you. There is no winner or loser. The reason to enter such debates is to exchange ideas. From the process alone you can often learn something as long as you are receptive to others opinions. In times long past philosophers would use debates as a public forum to test their own ideas, and when necessary to refine them. And it’s for this reason alone that I love these verbal jousting matches.
Recently I was dragged into a discussion about Warsaw. I said in passing that ‘Warsaw as a city, has no personality.’ Rightfully so I was challenged by friends and my better half to spell out exactly what I meant. In hindsight I can say that I failed. For whatever reason I was unable to clearly explain exactly what I meant. It didn’t, nor does it anger me. It only frustrates me. And it is that frustration which keeps the topic floating in the back of my mind.
The question itself is two-fold. The first regards whether a city can actually have a personality. In my mind’s eye I see a man surrounded by people at a party. As he tells stories and leads the conversation like a conductor before an orchestra you can see something radiating off of him. He is like the Queen Bee. He is magnetic. That thing which ensures people return to converse with him is his personality. On Monday when these people go to work they are going to tell anecdotes to their colleagues about their meeting with this man. These people have been affected, some stronger than others. Perhaps even inspired. These people at the party have been changed. Even if it is a temporary change. The thing which has done this is personality.
A city with personality inspires awe. People write books, make films and sing songs in its name. The people there are proud to be there. People are drawn to it, after one visit they want to live there. The believe in its power to improve their lives. It changes them. People tell stories about the wonderful things they experienced there. There is even more pressure if you are a capital city. That charismatic person at the party becomes a famous celebrity. They cannot just be typical or normal. You expect personality from this person and your disappointment is infinitely higher if they fail.
What did I learn? That a sense of pride can be found in the most unlikely of places. That I only enjoy leaving and never arriving. And that Warsaw is the only European capital built with its back to the river. Is it shy? I don’t know. Maybe that’s why I am not mesmerised by its charm. Or maybe, just maybe it’s because I am a Mass Debater.
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.”