The first of the four or five times that yours truly had the opportunity to chat with Frank Turner for a story here at Dying Scene was almost exactly five years ago. It was prior to his set at the 2014 installment of the Boston Calling Music Festival, and we found a “quiet” spot on the Brutalist concrete and brick steps on the Congress Street side of Boston City Hall to talk about what was, at the time, his 1567 show rise to “overnight” success. Toward the end of our conversation, Turner made a sincere comment about not taking any of his success for granted, because in five years’ time, “nobody is going to give a shit and I’ll be back playing in a pub again.” Flash forward to the Friday before last when Turner took a few minutes out of his scheduled pre-show preparation at a sold-out House of Blues in Boston to talk about some pretty monumental goings-on in his ever-expanding professional career.
Last Friday’s show was more than just a “regular” Frank Turner show, whatever that means at this point. It was more than “just” show #2341 and counting, all though that’s certainly noteworthy in its own right. But it also marked the second proper night of 2019’s installment of what Turner has dubbed Lost Evenings. If you’re not familiar, here’s a quick synopsis: started back in 2017, Lost Evenings is an annual multi-night festival curated by Turner and his team. While the idea of an artist playing multiple nights is certainly not foreign – here in Boston, our own Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Street Dogs and Dropkick Murphys do so on a yearly basis, and a quick check of my notes confirms a four-day run for The Hold Steady and a three-night run for Lucero coming up before the year’s end – Lost Evenings is not your traditional multi-night string of shows that happen to be in the same location. Sure there were the four main shows at the 2500-capacity House Of Blues on Lansdowne Street, each of which sold out months in advance. But there was also a fundraiser event at nearby tattoo shop, Stingray Body Art. There was a weeklong series of open mic events at neighboring Lansdowne Street bars, curated by Derek Zanetti (aka The Homeless Gospel Choir) which found any number of local and national artists popping in for a few impromptu jams. There were a series of panel discussions on everything from mental health awareness to how to build a career in the music industry to a book talk to active bystander training to, or course, a Frank Turner AMA session.
The first two Lost Evenings festivals took place at the Roundhouse Theatre in London. “We did the first one in Camden, in London, and the on the first one, we literally had no idea what we were doing,” explains Turner. “We were completely flying by the seat of our pants. I wasn’t completely sure what it was or how it worked or, indeed, how to put on a festival. We did it, and it was a Hail Mary pass, but it went incredibly well. We did the second one in Camden just to kind of learn the lessons from the first one, and to try to consolidate what we were doing.”
With two successful runs on their home turf under their collective belts, 2019 brought with it the opportunity to bring the show on the road. If you’ve been paying attention either to Turner’s career or, at least, the early portion of this article it should come as no surprise that the natural first stop would take place across the pond in Boston, Massachusetts. “By design, (Lost Evenings is) a portable concept. In the very beginning, I always had a vision of bringing it around the world . The idea was always to move it, and to be honest, it was always going to be Boston, because that’s been the biggest city in the US in terms of my career and all the rest of it.”
While the individual show lineups for Lost Evenings’ I and II were impressive in their own right, taking the third installment to the States opened up Turner to a wider array of possible openers. “It’s a slightly odd thing trying to get an American band to come all the way to the UK to do a festival show. It can get pretty complicated.”To do so, as he explains it, Turner basically puts together a dream line-up of acts that he’d hope to have join him in some fashion. “I should leave the credit for the organizational logistics to my team. I tend to just come up with ideas that make more people’s lives more difficult!” he jokes. Difficult though it might be, this year, by all accounts, most of those dreams came true. “I’m insanely proud of the lineup this year,” says Turner. “If I had to pick my four favorite acts in the world, it might well come down to Loudon Wainwright, John K. Samson, The Hold Steady and Against Me! And here we are!”
As we spoke on Friday afternoon, the giddiness in Turner’s voice as he recalled the previous night’s festivities that included not only Wainwright but Micah Schnabel and Jenny Owen Youngs and Hayley Thompson King, amongst others, was not only palpable but contagious. “We had Loudon Wainwright on stage, which is a thing that I never thought I’d be able to say out loud. Not only that, he’s one of my favorite songwriters of all time, and he completely burned the building down he was so good,” Turner exclaims. “I went to sleep content last night, and woke up this morning and remembered that The FUCKING Hold Steady and Cory Branan are playing today! And The Architects! And then when I go to bed tonight, I’m going to wake up tomorrow and think about John K. Motherfucking Samson and War On Women. And AJJ are playing tomorrow! Again, I threw names at my booking agent, but other people did the work to actually pull this together, and I’m extremely…I’m as happy as a pig in shit, and I’m kind of blown away that I get to sit in the middle of all of this!”
The City of Boston itself took note of how meaningful the Lost Evenings experience is, which may not come as a surprise given the ties that current Mayor Marty Walsh has with the local punk rock community. “Dude, I’m from suburban England, do you know what I mean? And I’m in Boston, which as far as my childhood self is concerned was a borderline fictional place. And here we are! The fucking mayor made yesterday Be More Kind Day in Boston. So much of my life is frankly ridiculous to me, in the best possible way. It’s like “wow…that happened?”
As stated above, to Turner, the ability to use his public position as a platform for some causes that are near and dear to his – and the community’s – part is vital. “So much of my career – so much of any musician’s career – involves standing on a stage shouting “please buy my new CD! Pay attention to me!” And that’s fine! That’s part of the fucking deal! But if you can find time within your busy day of shouting about yourself to shout about things that are objectively more important, than I think that’s a no-brainer, you know what I mean? You’ve got to do it.”
Yours truly got to the venue on Friday a little later than intended, but still arrived in plenty of time to watch The Architects kick off the main stage at House Of Blues. It was a meaningful opener for Turner, as both his band and the Kansas City rockers appeared as support for Flogging Molly on Turner’s first stop in Boston proper a handful of years ago. From there, the evening consisted of bouncing back and forth between the main stage and the “Nick Alexander Stage.” Named for the young man killed while working for Eagles of Death Metal during the terror attack at Bataclan in Paris several years back, the Nick Alexander stage was located at the complete opposite end of the venue, in a space normally reserved as the House Of Blues’ restaurant. This resulted in a series of energetic performances on the intimate stage, set no more than six inches off the ground. The immensely talented Kayleigh Goldsworthy was first up for me. After a few years of seeing her as a master-of-all-trades accompanying the likes of Dave Hause and Frank Iero, it was nice to see Goldsworthy solo playing her own powerful music.
It’s worth including that the main stage’s action was emceed all night, and all weekend, by Koo Koo Kangaroo. Turner’s labelmates and frequent tour partners led the crowd in a variety of different activities throughout the course of the night, from games to singalongs to Twinkie-eating contest between two members of The Architects (with the grand prize coming as a box of Target-brand fruit snacks). Next up in the big room was Cory Branan. I’ve been a fan of Branan for a long time and seen him close to a dozen times, but when he makes his way to the northeast, it’s almost exclusively as a solo act, never as leader of a band, but the latter is exactly how he appeared on this night. Trading in the acoustic that normally accompanies him on solo shows for a Telecaster, Branan led his three piece through a high-energy half-hour set that highlighted his guitar playing virtuosity while providing some different textures and tempos than he normally attempts solo.
Branan was followed by The Hold Steady. Like Turner said above, The Hold Steady have been on my very, very short list of favorite bands and songwriters for as long as I can remember. For a variety of reasons, they’re also a band that I’d never had the ability to shoot from the photo pit before. I’d also never seen them as a full-on six-piece band, the way they’ve been appearing since the inimitable Franz Nicolay rejoined the band a couple of years ago. Frontman Craig Finn led the three guitar attack (joined by Tad Kubler and Steve Selvidge, the latter of whom played with the above-mentioned Branan on his performance on Letterman well over a decade ago) with the rock-solid-as-ever rhythm section of Galen Polivka and Bobby Drake, who, unfortunately, didn’t actually appear in pictures. Trust me, he was there. Anyway, this was a pretty meaningful set for me – haven’t really gotten misty-eyed in a photo pit in a while – but I’ll let the pictures say the rest.
From there, it was back out to the front for the last Nick Alexander Stage set of the night, featuring none other than The Penske File. The Canadian trio burned through a blistering half-hour set that occurred, sadly, less than forty-eight hours before having their van and all of their gear stolen while in Montreal for Pouzza Fest. You can still kick in to their GoFundMe here, and really, you won’t find a trio of nicer, more deserving dudes to help out.
Last but obviously not least, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls took the main stage in the big room. This particular show was Poetry Of The Deed night, in honor of the pending tenth anniversary of Turner’s often-overlooked third studio album of the same name. Coincidentally, POTD was released on my thirtieth birthday, and so it doesn’t take an advanced mathematics degree to realize that means I’m turning forty in a few months, and so that’s got me feeling some type of way. Anyway, for an album that maybe doesn’t get the same kind of attention as Love, Ire and Song or certainly than the quartet of albums that have followed it, Poetry Of The Deed night was incredibly well-received, with trademark singalong after singalong after harmonica-playalong peppering the evening.
On more than one occasion, Turner seemed genuinely humbled by the scene playing out not just on this particular night, but over the course of the weekend in general. As he told me before the gig, “when I was a kid, the biggest fucking shows I ever went to were 2000-cap shows. I’m not trying to sound like a scene kid for saying that, but I’d never been to an arena show before I headlined one. You know? The thing is, I reached the point in my career a long time ago where somebody said “hey, do you want to play an arena show now? Because, you can.” And instead of tying myself up in punk rock purist knots about it, I decided to just laugh and say “fuck it, man, why not!” This shit is ridiculous, but yes, okay!”
Plans for Lost Evenings IV were also announced during the course of this night’s set. In case you missed it, next year’s festivities will take place in Berlin, Germany. Oh, and they’re also, already sold out. But fret not, Turner faithful’ 2021 will mark the tenth anniversary of his breakthrough album England, Keep My Bones, and so you can guess what might serve as the centerpiece for Lost Evenings V!
Check out our full photo gallery from the evening’s festivities below.