Frank Turner NZ Be More Kind Poster

Live Review: Frank Turner at San Fran, Wellington (2x shows)

Frank Turner (solo) – Show 2284

Matinee show

San Fran, Wellington

Thursday 29 November 2018

It was April 2015 when Frank Turner last played Wellington. He’s since released two albums, Positive Songs For Negative People (2015), and Be More Kind (2018). That show he played at Meow was #1666, and today was #2284 and #2285, which just goes to show how often he plays.

When first announced, this date was billed as a solo show. I was disappointed, but still planned on going. Then plans changed: The Sleeping Souls were also coming to play with Frank – yay! Tickets promptly sold out, so Turner opted to play a second set for those who missed out – a solo matinee set. Double yay – two Frank Turner gigs in one day.

I’d taken half the day off work to make sure that I could get here in time for the 5pm start. I obviously don’t go to matinee shows much, because I couldn’t get over how bright the venue was in the day. Aren’t bar venues supposed to be dark and dingy? Not that it mattered, because I was about to see one of my favourite artists play.

Frank Turner San Fran Wellington

This was my fourth time seeing Turner play, and it felt different. Dressed casually, and armed with an acoustic guitar, he rewarded his fans by playing a both hits and deep cuts, spanning his solo career. As you can imagine, he drew largely from his most recent album, but he covered the essentials, as well as some unexpected numbers.

I’ve been having a hard time recently, and this set was just the remedy I needed. Hearing Turner open with the gentle encouragement of “Don’t Worry” washed away all the turbulent crap filling my head and eased me into the moment.

And soon I was dancing and singing along to his rousing tunes. His recent albums bore themes of positivity and kindness, which did wonders to bring the mood up in the venue. Turner always encourages participation at his shows, coaching us to sing along with him.

That said, a solo acoustic show is the perfect setting in which to play slower tunes, such as “Song For Eva Mae” and “Journey Of The Magi”. But those moments didn’t last long, with Turner infectiously turning the intensity up throughout the set. I would have loved to her “There She Is” again, having fallen in love with the song when I saw him play it in Vancouver last year, but he did play 18 songs… as a warm up… so I shan’t complain.

Turner was as charming as always, dropping funny anecdotes about sitting next to a doomsday prepper on a flight, and screaming at the band Slayer in a petrol station at 3am one morning. Intimate shows like this are a great setting for artists to open up and share the stories behind the songs [another similar one that jumps to mind was when I saw Into It. Over It. in Melbourne].

Frank Turner San Fran Wellington

His voice was sounding fairly hoarse by the end of the set. I know he recently cancelled an instore show in Dusseldorf last week to give his voice a break, which leaves me wondering how he is going to hold up later tonight.

It was a fantastic show, and I’m glad that I chose to attend this set as well as the main one, but something was lacking. Certain songs just needed that extra oomph that only a band could offer. I’m looking forward to the real deal later on.

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls – Show 2285

w/ The Hard Aches and Emily Barker

I walked home to my nearby apartment to grab something to eat, draft up my review and upload the data to setlist.fm, before promptly returning for the second show.

Emily Barker played country/folk with a tinge of danger – similar to Emma Ruth Rundle at times. I was surprised that Turner didn’t come out to reprise his part on Barker’s song “Fields of June” – like he’d done with Jon Snodgrass when playing Buddies material last time they were in town – but I guess that he needed to rest his voice as much as he could. It sounded weird hearing country/Americana styled music from someone with an Australian accent, but Barker pulled it off with no worries.

Emily Barker San Fran Wellington

Emily Barker

I preferred Barker’s countrymates The Hard Aches, a punk duo who boasted an impressive sound for just two people. Royal Blood make way, because The Hard Aches are going to give you a run for your money! Their sound was energetic and fun, with great vocal harmonies. They sounded familiar, without me being able to put my finger exactly on who they reminded me of. Some of their music was snotty punk with strong Aussie accents, but a lot of songs featured deceptively mature songwriting.

The Hard Aches San Fran Wellington

The Hard Aches

You know how I mentioned before that Turner’s first set was great, but lacked something? Well, this time that void was well and truly filled. The Sleeping Souls are a well oiled machine – as you can well imagine after having played literally thousands of shows together. Their collective experience shows because they’re hella tight, and great showmen.

Obviously they were always going to draw heavily from the last record on the Be More Kind Tour, but the entire first half of the set was from the last three albums. I guess they haven’t played in New Zealand since releasing the past two records, so they needed to cover some of that material.

But it’s the older material (first four records) that the crowd really lapped up, singing along to wholeheartedly. Turner openly admitted that he was struggling with his voice by this stage, so welcomed the help from the “Wellington Gospel Choir”.

Turner took on a secondary solo spell for the night, playing calmer numbers “The Lifeboat” (a deviation from the planned set because it was requested and easy to sing) and “Glorious You”. But from there on in it was all go, with crowd favourite sing-alongs and mosh pits. Each song seemed sequentially better than the last.

The first three songs during the encore had also featured earlier in the night during the solo set, but felt fully fleshed out and full of vigor this time. Everyone was whipped into a dance frenzy for “Four Simple Words”

Frank Turner preaches a lot about his idealised punk-rock world, where people care for each other and can tolerate differential viewpoints without resorting to them-and-us politics. Where we can link arms with strangers and sing and dance together despite our differences. And although I’m sure he says virtually the same thing at every show, I think that he genuinely believes in his message of community. During the final song “Polaroid Picture” he substituted a line about London venue The Astoria closing down for Wellington’s own Bodega. This showed his awareness for our local music scene, and that he truly places importance on live music and how it can bring people together. A subtle difference that I really appreciated when I picked up on it.

Tonight I got to see one of my favourite musicians play a whopping 43 songs. And it was awesome. I got to see the intimate, poetic side to him, as well as the road-weathered master showman. And I feel incredibly blessed for it. If you get the chance to see Frank and the Sleeping Souls play, seize the opportunity!

 

Frank Turner San Fran Wellington set list

Turner switched “Long Live The Queen” for “The Lifeboat”

Words and photos by Joseph James

strungout pears nz tour

Live Review: Strung Out playing Exile in Oblivion

Strung Out playing Exile in Oblivion plus hits

w/ Night Gaunts and PEARS

San Fran, Wellington

Friday 1 April 2016

Strung Out San Fran Wellington (1)

Strung Out. Jake Kiley (L), Jason Cruz (R)

Albany act Night Gaunts started the night off with their upbeat high-pitched ska. They bounced around and got the small crowd grooving along to dub styled offbeat strumming, complemented by saxophone. I’m not sure why I was surprised, but they were far more polished than I expected. Their chirpy happy-go-lucky sound didn’t quite match the tone on the other two bands of the night, but they played well nonetheless.

PEARS have been through a lot on this tour, so we were lucky to even have them. Their bassist had dropped out of the tour mere days before the tour, leaving them scrambling to find players to fill in. Hayden from Night Gaunts obliged for most of their set, with super-smiley Strung Out  bassist Chris Aiken taking over for the last few songs.

Vocalist Zach Quinn had recently bust his fist PUNCHING THE STAGE on the Australian leg of the tour, resulting in pricey hospital bills and leaving him in a wrist brace/cast that you can see in the picture below. I recently broke a few bones in my wrist and I can tell you straight away that there is no way I would have been attempting half the stuff Quinn was doing on stage. He threw himself about with abandon, like violent interpretive dance. He jumped down into the audience and walked around – you know, just because – before climbing back onstage and writhing around on the floor.

PEARS San Fran (8)

PEARS vocalist Zach Quinn, with Jarrett Nathan behind him on drums.

When bands have members like this it always makes for a captivating show. It was so unpredictable. I don’t think the band members themselves even know quite what to expect.Guitarist Brian Pretus played front man, and rather than just rattling off obligatory nonsense to fill time between songs, he actually was worth paying attention to. He told stories, cracked jokes, and had the crowd chanting.

The date actually coincided with the release of the second PEARS album, Green Star, which meant that the band were in good spirits. I guess that this, combined with the show being the last of the tour, meant that the band really wanted to give their all. This was great to watch, with the performance being super high energy and frantic. As chaotic and wild as it seemed, there was still evidence of talent beneath the whirlwind. Quinn and Pretus shared some great vocal harmonies when they weren’t launching about the stage. Pretus displayed great abilities and drummer Jarrett Nathan kept them on their toes with his lightning beats. It looked like loads of punters were already loyal fans of the band and there were singalongs aplenty, especially when PEARS covered The Ramones’ “Judy is a Punk”.

Strung Out San Fran Wellington (3)

Jake Kiley (L), Chris Aiken (R)

As always, when bands play an entire album you know what to expect [examples: Nas performing Illmatic, Jimmy Eat World playing Futures], but also hope to hear handful of hits from other albums as well. Strung Out have been playing a selection of their albums start to finish over this Australasian tour. Last night was Twisted by Design in Auckland, and tonight they played Exile in Oblivion.

After a sound check the band kept us in suspense by playing a handful of old jazz numbers through the public address system, knowing that we were expecting one such song to be the intro to”Analog”, to first track of Exile. When said track finally played everyone cheered, knowing that this signaled the start of a brilliant set to complete an already-great night.

They’re tight, and play rippingly fast. And you can tell that they’re on top of their game. Exile came out 11 years ago, and they were able to play it through without a hitch. And on top of that, they’ve been playing many of their other albums in their entirety at other stops on their tour, showing that they are exceptionally rehearsed. They ripped through Exile, and followed up with half a dozen tracks from the rest of their catalogue.

Sweat dripped and the audience swarmed as fans rocked out and sang along to favourite tunes from one of their most beloved bands. Strung Out reciprocated, clearly appreciative that their fans enable them to play music for a living. Singer Jason Cruz told about how the band got a bit tired and jaded when they were first touring Exile on Warped Tour in 2005, until a crew member had told them to suck it up and take a reality check. This made an impact on them, and it is clear that they make the most of their opportunities and give back to the fans who support them to get where they are now.

This was the last night of the tour, and you could tell the PEARS and Strung Out had built a special camaraderie over the course of their time together. Throughout both sets, band members and crew from side of stage would throw bananas and potato chips at the band playing. During the last song – a cover of “Soulmate” by late No Use For a Name singer Tony Sly – members of PEARS and the crew started stealing away pieces of the drum kit one by one, making drummer Jordan Burns work extra hard as he tried to improvise with less equipment at his disposal. Somehow, by the end of the song the drum kit was scattered around the stage, with Strung Out singer Cruz stuck underneath a pile of the drums.

Strung Out San Fran Wellington (2)

Chris Aiken on bass


Although  we have had punk bands like GBH and The Buzzcocks come recently, it is a rare treat to have more modern international punk acts make their way to Wellington. Thanks to Chicks That Scream for organising shows like these. For me personally, gigs like this one are often key highlights of my year.

Special mention to Jordan Burns’ mother, who passed away three years ago. This show was dedicated to her.

Joseph James

Frank Turner Sleeping Souls Meow Wellington New Zealand tour poster

Live Review: Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls at Meow, Wellington

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

w/ Jon Snodgrass
Meow, Wellington
Saturday 18 April 2015

Let it never be said that Frank Turner doesn’t please his fans.

His output is prolific: a constant stream of new EP’s, splits, B-side collections and live DVD’s to appease his fans between studio albums. All on top of a hectic touring schedule.

Just last week he played all of England Keep My Bones at a show in Melbourne. To say I had looked forward to this gig would be an understatement.

Meow was an interesting choice of venue. I’m used to seeing small folk acts play here, not bands with this kind of following. Being sold out, the place was crammed, making it far more ‘intimate’ than I’m used too. Not that I’m complaining – how often do you get to witness a special small gig like this, put on by someone who has headlined Wembley?


Jon Snodgrass (Drag The River) started the night off singing some of his solo material. His voice was warm and comforting, reminiscent of Southern styled country music. He was soon joined onstage by Frank Turner wearing a Converge hoodie and armed with a harmonica.

The two of them played a bunch of songs from their Buddies split EP, a rough recording penned in only four hours during a stint together on the Revival Tour in America. The songs were far from perfect – clearly not well rehearsed – but the stories behind each song were entertaining and the relaxed approach from the duo set the mood for a fun night ahead. One of the highlights was the song “Happy New Year”. They bullied their stage tech into taking over on harmonica for that song, despite protests that he didn’t know how.

For his own set, Turner and his band, The Sleeping Souls, were all dressed in white button up shirts. The Sleeping Souls were the perfect choice of band. All four of them  were clearly into it, jumping and dancing about onstage, although mid-set they lived up to their name and had a sleepy sit-down while Turner played some material solo. Bassist Tarrant Anderson held his bass high on his chest and waltzed round with it, while Ben Lloyd boogied and ripped on guitar and mandolin. The placed was so densely packed that I couldn’t see the drums or keys from where I was standing, but I could certainly hear them.

This tour was supposed to promote the new album, but the new album hadn’t yet been released. Not to be deterred by this, Turner previewed a handful of tracks from said forthcoming album. The first song had a country feel. “Get Better” is a straight up thumper. Every song was great, leaving me eager to listen to get my mitts on the new album once it comes out.

The show was full of rousing sing-alongs, or more accurately, shout-alongs. The musicians were at home on-stage, happy to interact with the crowd and exchange banter. There were threats to cover Crowded House and Shihad. Drummer Nigel Powell played the tourist card and asked how many people in the crowd worked for Weta Digital. Turner told a funny story about how he was inspired to write a song in Melbourne about an ex-girlfriend who smelt like a koala.

Towards the end Turner noted how there was no point in doing the typical encore ritual, mainly because there was no room for the band to leave the stage. The “one more song!” chant was supported by the drums, and the *boom, boom, clap* evolved into a short cover of Queens’ “We Will Rock You”.

The encore included some of the hits from the early albums, ending with “Four Simple Words”. Turner conducted the band theatrically, before crowd-surfing during the last verse.

Frank Turner selfie

Cheesy selfie with Frank after the show. Not often that I stand next to someone taller than me!

This was Turners show #1666, and the last of the current tour. He recounts how one thousand shows ago he played an Iron Maiden cover. This remains testament to Turner’s longevity as a musician, due to his inclusive, humble approach to playing music. All the musos hung back after the show to meet the fans and sign merch, despite a 4am flight home the following day.

At the end of a tour bands are either too exhausted and at the end of their tether, or go all out and end with a bang. This was a case of the latter.

Because there’s no such thing as rock stars, just people who play music. Some of them are just like us and some of them are dicks.  

Frank Turner – “Try This At Home”

Turner is the anti-rock star. He knows how to master the stage and had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. But he’s just a regular guy. He swears and shouts and crowd surfs, and invites the audience to do the same. Many of his lyrics are thought provoking and tender, written from the point of a man who once idealised punk ethos and has since matured, but refuses to forget his past. Turner acknowledges the teenage anarchists and old fogeys alike, and invites them both to dance and sing along.

 

Joseph James