Frank Turner @ Cardiff University

2009-10-29 | |

Folk Punk has always been something of a borderline genre. Parents can enjoy certain parts of it, based on their old love of Gram Parsons or Nick Drake; and kids can enjoy the edgy lyrics and the pure vitriol that is pumped into each song. Frank Turner was once at the forefront of folk-punk, but, lately, he's fallen into the trap of playing up to his genre.

Beans on Toast, the amazing one-man busker-cum-politico act from London opened for the half-full room with his overtly political set. It was all about the economy and the end of the world-as-we-know-it, but with his usual emotionally-uncharged, 40-a-day voice. It runs through the room like Molasses being poured through a blender; a sound you could love, and, the longer it goes on the more you're drawn in. All in all, though, he's the epitome of British folk-punk; it's three chords, one melody, and a political message. Well-played.

Fake Problems hail from Florida. It's a long way to bring their music, but, over the course of hopping the pond, they don't seem to have hopped any fences that haven't been hopped before. I struggled to enjoy this act; I think it was because everything they played sounded remarkably like every other indie act already out there. It wasn't as if it was terrible because of that, it's just, if you're opening for a fairly original artiste, at least try to be fairly original yourselves.

The main event; Frank Turner was greeted by cheers that in my years of seeing him perform, I have never heard. It's a total change of pace. I first saw him perform at a tiny Weekender called Collision Course, and he won me over; from then, I've seen him every time he's performed in Clwb Ifor Bach without fail. And every time I've been impressed beyond. Tonight, for the first time, I wasn't as moved.

Objectively, my review would be along the lines of: "Frank Turner is an amazing artist in this day and age where everyone wants to sing about life and love, with songs with catchy hooks. Everyone wants an artist who whips up the crowd. And everyone wants a bit of Middle-England performing to them in a semi-ironic fashion. He's grown up, he's come out of his shell, and he's playing to bigger venues; he is the capitalist musician's wet dream - ten out of ten".

But, this is my site, and I'm not paid to do any of this by any sponsor or patron, so, I can be as subjective and bastard-ish as I like. So, here goes:

Frank Turner is an amazing artist in this day and age, or, at least he was. He used to be all about the dream; all about the floors and the punk ethic, and everything that made him seem gritty and like a true riding-the-rails folk hero a la Johnny Cash. Instead, he's now one of those guys who plays to audiences who only know the singles rather than the albums; he's one of those guys whose front row was full of folks who loved the new singles, but didn't know anything much prior to the new album.

That's my main gripe. Yes, good for him for reaching such stardom. Good for him for moving up the ladder. Good for him. But, at least his fans could be half decent and if they truly 'loved' him as much as the older fans amongst us who have been coming for years; those who have been coming since he started playing acoustically; those who have been following since the Million Dead or Kneejerk days...

That's what ruined the night. I've gone to his gigs before, and the room has been a non-stop sing-a-long with everyone enjoying; with everyone on the same page. In this gig, there were periods of silence, and periods of blank faces. When 'Smiling at Strangers on Trains' was being played, the front row must have thought he was covering some punk band, and not playing his own, old, Million Dead material. I would internet-sigh if I wasn't just moaning out of my own pretentiousness.

I'll quit my moaning, and get to the score so you may all have your lives back:

Objectively - 8/10
Subjectively - 5/10

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