Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls visited the City of Brotherly Love playing show #2184 (he numbers them) for the sellout crowd of elated fans at the Fillmore Philadelphia. Also, on the ticket, local punkers The Menzingers, Memphis’ Lucero, and Pittsburgh-based, The Homeless Gospel Choir
Frank Turner is an English folk-punk singer/songwriter touring in support of his latest album Be More Kind, released on May 4 via Xtra Mile Records. As is usual for me, Turner’s records require an adjustment period of continuous listening before an opinion can be formed. His lyric centric style demands attention. Turner, a border line poet, demonstrates his ability to connect with fans on a personal level, meshing innuendo and metaphors into lyrics that encourage creative interpretation. He is a brave and honest songwriter seeming to embrace the process in an almost therapeutic manner, writing songs about love, hope, fear, friends, and emotions with no fear of exposing his own vulnerabilities. Looking at Turner’s discography one can clearly plot a course of his growth as an artist and as a person, beginning with Sleep Is for The Week, a somewhat dark album reflecting on personal struggles and ending with Be More Kind, which exposes a softer more focused side of Turner. Frank Turner is in a constant state of evolution, never resting, always moving forward with his honest and relatable lyrics dictating that he is one of us.
Turner and his band The Sleeping Souls, which include members Ben Lloyd, Matt Nasir, Nigel Powell, and Tarrant Anderson, have been a musical force since 2006, earning their fan base one at a time. They have toured relentlessly both as a headliner and in support of other artists, including Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, Arkells, and Green Day. Turner, a self-proclaimed touring junkie chronicles his love for the lifestyle in the song “The Road”, from the album Poetry of the Deed where he writes, “I’ve drunk with grifters in Vienna and with punks in old DC, and I’ve driven across deserts, driven by the irony that only being shackled to the road could ever I be free”. The band has, without question, lived up to these lyrics maintaining a dizzying touring schedule, sacrificing personal interests in favor of their fans. While I sometimes wonder why artists do this, it’s clear to see that Frank and his fans feed off each other, and that his shows are a personal experience for both.
I first saw Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls several years back when they opened for the Dropkick Murphys at House of Blues in Atlantic City. They have been on a steady rise since and I was excited to see what surprises were in store for the crowd in Philadelphia.
Frank and the Souls took the stage in a mix of theatrical fog and lighting effects that instantly energized the crowd. Starting the evening with the heavily political ballad, “1933”, that touches on the current nonsensical political issues through poignant lyrics, Turner belted out, “you can’t fix the world if all you have is a hammer”. Being a politically aware person, Turner did a commendable job of weaving the political with the non-political, sensing when the crowd needed a change of pace. While I connect with our current dysfunctional political environment, it’s turning into a constant drumbeat with no visible escape on the horizon. As such, artists need to be mindful and seek a balance which Turner does very well.
It’s clear that Frank and the Sleeping Souls enjoy what they do, delivering a high energy experience that needs to be experienced first hand. Watching the crowd interact and respond, one gets the feeling that their fans, young and old, arm in arm, singing, dancing, and crowd surfing are fully engaged with the band. I saw nothing but smiles. The music wandered from album to album through a set list of peaks, valleys, and varying intensity, and intentionally slowing down at times to give the crowd an opportunity to catch their breath.
Turner, who is known to dictate the action of the crowd from the stage, was in full form. One of the most memorable exchanges took place when Frank stopped the music to ask the audience if anyone had never crowd surfed. Several dozen hands went up, and with Turner’s direction, the venue transformed into a sea of newly born crowd surfers.
Frank Turner shows are always heavily animated, the audience responding to his specific brand of punk attitude. His music is all inclusive evident by the goose bump inducing lyrics of “I Still Believe” which includes the line, “Now who’d have thought that after all,
Something as simple as rock ‘n’ roll would save us all”. Frank Turner and the Sleeping souls played a total twenty-three songs and left the exultant crowd wanting more.
Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls
The Menzingers are a punk band from Scranton PA, originally formed in 2006. The band is currently touring in support of their latest album After the Party, which was released in Feb of 2017 via Epitaph Records. The Menzingers are made up of Greg Barnett, Tom May, Eric Keen, and Joe Godino.
The Menzingers have built a reputation as being a good and rowdy live band with high energy fast paced performance. The band is an integral part of the Philly music scene and as such, attracts a large crowd of engaged fans. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the Menzingers on a few occasions, so my expectations are always high.
Looking back from inside the barrier, I could see the sellout crowd beginning to stir. The lights dimmed and the Menzingers blitzed the stage with no warning, diving right into “Telling Lies”. Greg Barnett’s distinctive vocals and Tom May’s cutting guitar riffs set off the crowd. The chemistry between Barnett and May is evident in their performance, with neither really outdoing the other, rather their vocals and guitar styles perfectly complement each other.
The Menzingers are not known for their onstage banter, instead choosing to maintain a relentless, hard and fast paced performance of diverse punk anthems. Heavily influenced by bands like the Clash, their style is uncomplicated, efficient, and delivered with an attention to detail. The song lyrics are based on personal experiences combined with aggressive instrumentals. The award for most energy during a set has to go to Tom May who jumped, spun and ran around the stage for the entire set of songs including “House on Fire, “After the Party” and crowd favorite “I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore”, a song about personal growth.
The band played a total of twelve songs and drove the crowd to dance, sing and crowd surf with reckless abandon. The Menzingers are a very tight musical unit delivering trademark harmonies and driving guitar riffs as only they can do. There were no surprises, just what fans have come to expect; maximum effort and a great time.
Lucero is a punk-country band based in Memphis Tennessee and formed in 1998. They have earned the reputation of a hardworking, always on tour band. Lucero is an ATO Records recording artist whose new album Among The Ghost is scheduled for release on August 4th. Band members include Ben Nichols, Brian, John Stubblefield, Ron Berry, and Rick Steff.
Lucero is a unique band, blending country, punk, and blues. They produce a Memphis style sound with a touch of punk attitude. With the majority of big name country acts now pushing the boundaries into other genres, Lucero’s approach is rather sound. Lucero’s style was clearly in contrast to the other bands on this ticket, preferring a slow burn over hard and fast, but the approach created a relaxed and uplifting vibe.
Since forming in 1998, Lucero has released eleven studio albums, but most of the night’s setlist was dominated by their yet to be released new album. Anchored by Ben Nichols’ guitar and prominent vocals, Lucero has a gospel-like sound reminiscent of old school Americana, delivered in a rough around the edges style. Add some cowboy-punk jams and a few hard-edged rock tunes with a bottle of bourbon and a pack of smokes, and you’ve got Lucero.
The Lucero set was on par, but the new songs may have been better saved for after the album release to give their fans time to digest it.
Derek Zanetti, otherwise known as The Homeless Gospel Choir, opened the night. Zanetti is a folk-punk artist under the A-F label whose latest album, I Used to Be so Young, was released back in 2014. His music is rampant with political undertones making him a perfect fit for the evening’s show.
Review and photos by Patrick Gilrane