For the Love of Punk Exclusive with Review by Ross Hostage and all media by Jeremiah Reddick
With how busy my life is these days, it’s difficult for me to plan around every show I want to see. Luckily, the scheduling gods showed favor and I was off work in time to catch one of my favorite artists, Frank Turner. Since I decided to take a chance on Love, Ire & Song a few years ago, I’ve been captivated with how he’s grown as a songwriter, lyricist and performer. As I entered Summit Music Hall to see him for the 2nd time, I knew I was in for a great night of music.
First to take the stage was Jenny Owen Youngs. It was cool to see that, despite playing most shows now with his backing band, The Sleeping Souls, Frank Turner still wants to showcase solo performers. Taking a position stage right, backlit by golden light similar to the color of her hair, Jenny Owen Youngs quickly drew in the early crowd. Granted, she was set up off-center because of Larry and His Flask’s drum kit but it worked out in her favor since it caused the crowd to move in closer to her position in order to take in her charm and great songs. She somewhat reminded me of Regina Spektor with an acoustic guitar, her voice moving effortlessly from delicate emotion to belting out bubbly melody. At one point, in between songs, she said that “the people of Denver are a superhuman race” and said that we’ll “be ready when the apocalypse comes”. This may be my favorite performer comment about Denver’s altitude yet! Overall, I highly recommend making sure that people get to the show early for the rest of the tour. I picked up a copy of Jenny Owen Young’s double LP and it hasn’t really left my turntable.
With a quick changeover, Larry and His Flask amassed on stage and launched into their set. The crowd was ready for them and the floor quickly turned into a whirling mass of dancers. Everyone was clapping along, taking on the celebratory feeling of a Dixieland funeral. I love how they keep the drummer center stage since he’s so intense to watch; a mixture of released fury, like when I could see him scream “C’MON MOTHERFUCKER!!!” at the singer during one song, and elation, like when he stood on top of his kick drum to survey the crowd with a giant grin on his face. The band is comprised of some of the finest live musicians I’ve ever seen, playing really complicated licks with ease and locking into haunting harmonies like they’ve been singing together since they were little kids. Somehow, the upright bassist (the guy with the largest instrument) seemed to move around the most and, at one point, handed off his bass to the singer so he could take a bitchin’ harmonica solo.
Larry and His Flask have a long history with Denver, having played multiple intimate and raucous shows at 3 Kings Tavern over the years, whom they mentioned in between songs. It’s obvious that the band has some love for this city and we love them right back. Amongst songs that the crowd knew, they played a new one called “Out of Print” that felt like demonic gypsy music a la Squirrel Nut Zippers. Look out for that one on a new record because it’s a scorcher! Despite being known for high-energy music, it still amazes me how much a beautiful ballad like “Slow It Down” affects me and they played a brilliantly emotional version of it that had the crowd swaying and holding loved ones close. Not ones to get lost in reverie, the band played an amazing, sweat-drenched final song that found the singer kneeling in the middle of the crowd. The entire floor dropped down with him and leapt into the air right on cue to close out their set in a flurry of movement.
When Frank Turner walked out on stage alone, the crowd instantly roared its approval and, as he played the intro to “If I Ever Stray”, The Sleeping Souls took their positions around him. As the crowd joined in to shout “so c’mon everybody, singin’ 1,2,3,4!”, the band kicked in and all was right with the world, for that one moment in time. Playing like they were still at Wembley Stadium (especially the bassist whose stage movements are sincere yet so wildly over the top), Frank and crew effortlessly captured the crowd, who were eager to soak up every word and chord. Given that he was sick the last time he was in Denver (which was still an amazing performance), it was easy to tell that Frank Turner was enjoying himself as he interacted with his bandmates and the adoring crowd.
A few songs in, they played “Glory Hallelujah”, brilliant in its execution as an anti-theism gospel song. The crowd, myself included, was more than happy to insert some handclaps in all the right places as we shouted to the “heavens”. Frank said that we did really well and warned us that there would be two other tests throughout the night to see if we qualified as “the best audience”. That came in the form of a “ba-ba-ba” singalong during “Wessex Boy” and our dancing was judged during “Four Simple Words”. I’m proud to say that Denver passed with flying colors.
Speaking of flying, another treat was when Frank Turner gave a shout-out to his buddy, and Ft. Collins’ own, Jon Snodgrass, before he played “The Ballad of Steve”, a song I doubt gets played in many other cities. Turner also debuted some new songs, although he promised us that he’d “still play all the hits”, at which point the keyboard player played the opening riff to “Jump” by Van Halen. Laughs were had by all. The new material sounded great and we were let in on the secret that a song called “Time Machine” came about when Frank realized that “Dolorean” rhymed with “historian”. Ah, the inner-workings of songwriting never cease to amaze me. Another new one, which he played solo, had a great lyric along the lines of “every boy that plays guitar play women like Gene Simmons”. Hope I got that down right, Frank, because the simile is fantastic!
The set closed with “I Still Believe”, one of the most anthemic songs about the unyielding power of rock and roll ever written. The band left the stage but Frank Turner soon returned to play a pretty rendition of “Colorado Girl” by Townes Van Zandt. Not to be left out, The Sleeping Souls rejoined Frank for one last hurrah as they played “Love, Ire & Song” followed by “Photosynthesis”; probably THE two songs that caused me to fall in love with Frank Turner’s music aside from “Substitue” and “God Save the Queen”, both of which gave me chills when played earlier in the evening. It was during the last song that I got hit in the face amidst the melee of dancers, causing a small cut above my eye and re-breaking my glasses for the second time. I didn’t care, however, because it’s just a small price to pay to scream out these amazing lyrics with my arms around some of my best friends.
The post-glow of Frank Turner shows are always bittersweet. While I know I just witnessed some of the best music I’ll ever see, I can’t help but be bummed knowing that it’ll probably be awhile until I get to see him play those songs again. Good thing I have my records. Excuse me while I drop the needle once more…
Video Interview and Show Recap: