Having already broken out in his native England, Frank Turner is a rising star in the US punk community as of late. As if his signing to Epitaph for all his releases stateside wasn’t enough of a sign that the British singer-songwriter has been gaining his footing in the states, successful tour spots with The Offspring and Social D on top of a number of headlining runs all across the country have exposed Frank to thousands of new fans. Last night at the Troubadour, located in the west-side of Los Angeles, a sold out crowd sang their hearts out to a venerable folk-punk smorgasbord. Even California punk legends such as NOFX’s Fat Mike and Bad Religion guitarist/Epitaph Records head honcho Brett Gurewitz could be seen roaming the grounds among the fans.
The night began with Lansing, Michigan’s Cheap Girls. The only act of the night that didn’t feature acoustic guitars, Cheap Girls took control of the gathering crowd with their upbeat Texas is the Reason by way of The Replacements brand of crunchy, no-frills rock and roll. Given the context of the rest of the night, they were a wonderful appetizer to the main course of Andrew Jackson Jihad and Frank Turner. The only downside was that given the crowd’s unfamiliarity with their material and the incredibly low placement of singer and bassist’s Ian Graham’s vocals in the overall mix killed the potential audience participation factor during their performance.
Despite Frank Turner’s name being on top of the marquee that night, it was clear that a sizable amount of those in attendance were there for Andrew Jackson Jihad. Having seen the quirky Arizonan duo earlier in the year at the tiny Echo Curio some ten miles from where they were playing that night, I knew what to expect, but when the band came out armed with a setlist, which they still managed to screw up the order to but no one would have noticed if they didn’t point it out of numerous occasions, and ran through a barnstormer of a set, playing in forty minutes what is usually enough material for almost two of their shows, I was blown away. Playing an even mix from last year’s Can’t Maintain and their debut People That Can Eat People Are the Luckiest In the World, the crowd was singing along to every word, at times louder than what the venue’s PA was pumping out. They even hung on every note of the obligatory “this is a new song” numbers sprinkled through their set, erupting into uproarious applause every time the band stopped for a breather. By the time that Andrew Jackson Jihad called it a night, even those that had never heard of the band before were clamoring for an encore (which they did not give).
In a review that I wrote for Frank Turner’s 2007 breakthrough album Love, Ire & Song, I called Frank the most instantly likable man in music. If that statement wasn’t obvious enough from his music, his live show cinches it. Case closed. There is no competition. His set began with a new tune, which he titled “Eulogy”, which got the crowd standing at attention, exploding into “I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous” right afterward, being matched word for word by the sold out audience. That high lasted all night, especially for a certain attendee that should be familiar to people here at SputnikMusic that not only had the joy of seeing such a great show for his first concert, but was also brought up onstage to a sea of applause to play the harmonica solo in “Dan’s Song”. Frank’s set touched on every part of his post-Million Dead career, although it was strongly rooted by tracks from Love, Ire and Song, even playing the album’s rarely heard closer “Jet Lag”. At many times throughout the set, he told the audience that he wanted a two way exchange between him and the audience, not a performance of one man projecting his ego to a crowd. The crowd overwhelmingly agreed, creating a personal atmosphere that made the West-LA venue seem like the most intimate house show; a glimpse of the unity and community that makes up the best of the punk scene.