This concert was held in support of the Music Venue Trust and Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm), so it would be harsh to be too critical. But the gig, a very laddish affair, left a bad taste in the mouth. Headliner Frank Turner blogged later that women in the crowd had contacted him to say they “had bad experiences with harassment from guys in the crowd”. As Turner makes clear, this is unacceptable. To anyone harassing women, “fuck off and never come to any of my shows again,” Turner says.
“If it happens to anyone again, please try and alert me, or one of my band or crew, or the bouncers. These fuckers need shaming. There is no possible excuse, including alcohol.” Turner asks his fans to follow @girlsagainst and Safe Gigs For Women (www.sgfw.org.uk and @safegigs4women). As well as condemning sexist behaviour after the show, Turner feels he needs to address politics during the gig, as it includes the whole of ‘England Keep Bones’, which some critics have accused of being a nationalist album. After its release in 2011, Turner got involved in bitter controversy about his political beliefs. “Nationalism is bullshit,” Turner says at tonight’s Brixton gig after playing ‘Rivers’, on which one member of otherwise absent backing band The Sleeping Souls plays the specially tuned guitar.
Most of the set is essentially unaccompanied, just Turner and his acoustic guitar. “I had to google the lyrics,” he says before ‘English Curse’, and he struggles to remember them all. He sails through ‘One Foot Before The Other’, ‘If Ever I Stray’ and ‘Wessex Boy’, but he admits he had to practice ‘Nights Become Days’ and its intricate guitar.
Turner strums strongly during bonus tracks ‘Song For Eva Mae’, ‘Balthazar, Impresario’ (“we are entertainers”) and ‘Wanderlust’, which “doesn’t end properly”, he admits. “It’s always pissed me off.” ‘Redemption’ and ‘Glory Hallelujah’ end the album set, followed by golden oldie ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’. But Turner doesn’t believe in encores so, after a quick swig, he runs through 2008’s ‘Photosynthesis’, which the crowd responds to with a cult-like mosh, and ‘The Road’ from 2009, an even bigger mosh. He ends with ‘Recovery’ from 2013, sparking a massive mosh, and last year’s hymn-like ‘Get Better’, triggering a sort of pogo.
Turner first appears on stage during ‘Trouble On Oxford Street’ by support folk punksters Skinny Lister, who get the crowd worked up with a rumbustious post-Pogues mix of sea shanties, hoedowns, accordion and a crowd-surfing double bass player. Lorna Thomas sings well, teases the boys in the band about makeup, leads clap-alongs and says they’re still arguing about the name of the album they’ve just finished. Skinny Lister are brave enough to play new songs to the crowd, but not daring enough to do anything other than play all the folk punk tricks in the book – London references, drinking songs, even a “too-rah-aye”.
The opening act are The Wholls, who pour out the dry ice and strike great poses learned from The Clash, especially by bassist Joe Stevenson. Their indie-influenced rock ‘n’ roll, with some psych elements and heavy riffing, is a platform for Bedford roadman lyricicsm. But Tordy Cocchiarella on vocals and guitar plays around with different stylings, sometimes half speaking, half rapping as on ‘Jimmy’ and ‘Angry Faces’, on which guitarist Santino Cocchiarella and Stevenson join in with the vocals before a punk-influenced middle eight plays into ’60s psychedelic guitar playing.
‘Scarecrow’ gets a big cheer as it’s “about people who are unlucky in love.” More ’60s psych-rock guitar marks the start of the fifth song, which is one of the ones critics compare with Arctic Monkeys, before The Wholls do their hits, ‘X21’ and ‘Roll Out’, starring Cocchiarella as east England’s own Alex Turner. The Wholls end their set by huddling for a selfie with the Electric in the background. They seem like a nice bunch lads, unlike the ones in the pit harassing the women and girls.
This Frank Turner article was written by Ian Bourne, a GIGsoup contributor. Photos by Ian Bourne. Edited by Zoe Anderson.