Review by: Trevor Turner
Before Osheaga I made a point of listening to some of the under card acts that I had never heard of in hopes of being blown away by something new. So I loaded up the Ipod and got on the bike and as I peddled around town there was one voice that kept coming up in the shuffle... that voice was Frank Turner.
Forgetting, for a second, my natural affinity to the surname, I needed to know for sure if it was merely an anomaly or a true hidden gem. So I shut off the shuffle and waded through his back catalog only to find myself floored by not only his vocal style but his song writing, his story telling, his politics, his band, and his uncanny ability to totally captivate an audience.
Splitting from his post-hardcore band "Million Dead" in 2005 this 29 year old troubadour opted to go solo. After three studio albums and an equal number of EPs, Frank soon found his unique blend of folk/punk was winning over people everywhere, his name mentioned in the same breath as the great Billy Bragg, and as Frank's star grew he began selling out big venues across Europe and he started becoming a mainstay at festivals all over the world.
A week before Osheaga I never heard the name, didn't know a tune, but before he took the Tree Stage at 8pm on Sunday night I was already a huge fan, and I wasn't alone. Although the crowd was the smallest I'd seen all weekend it was full of enthusiasm. People were practically crawling on the stage and a number of Frank Turner T-shirts were spotted in the crowd. How did the guy escape my radar for all these years? We got up close and waited for the first notes. Frank came out, beer in hand and declared he hated playing festivals on Sunday, "Everyone's tired and all the good drugs are gone!" He then informed us he had written a song in the shower that day and immediately launched into a great new tune called “Eulogy” which quickly morphed into an a couple of his better known songs like “I Knew Prufrock before he was Famous” and “Try This at Home” which, of course, got everyone in the crowd jumping and singing in unison.
The only benefit of the short Osheaga set times is that everyone plays the hits and this was true for Frank as well. One rocking sing-a-long after another, broken up only by some bleary eyed tirades about how his "record label is trying to kill him" his disdain for modern anarchists and some great guest harmonica by Tree Stage headliner Tim Berry on "Dan's Song".
Despite his road weariness and slightly drunk demeanor Frank was unstoppable. With throbbing neck veins and saliva covered microphone he thundered through the rest of the set with the momentum of a freight train. The crowd was completely engaged, hanging off and singing out his every word. Whether it was the stark and beautiful ballad “Substitute" or the heartbreaking yet optimistic "Long Live the Queen" the crowd was completely on board. And by the time he had gotten through songs like "The Road", new tune "I Shall Believe" and "Love Ire and Song, everyone was exhausted, laryngitic but so so very happy.
His encore was the age-defying anthem and crowd favorite "Photosynthesis" and for one last chance we all got to sing together, dance and scream out any and all frustration we have with this world. After he left the stage and the chants for a second encore died down, I turned and looked at my friends, that I had convinced to come with me an hour earlier, and the ear to ear smiles on their faces was all the confirmation I needed that now, they too, were huge Frank Turner fans as well.
Frank Turner will be performing next weekend, Aug 14-15, at the Ottawa Folk Festival. Do yourself a huge favor and come down to Britannia park and check him out, you’ll be glad you did.