March 17, 2020
Your living room
After attempting to soldier on with the UK leg of an extensive world tour, Frank Turner and crew had to concede to the need for social distancing in the face of the cornavirus pandemic. Indeed, Turner’s thoughts turned to his crew as soon the scale of the problem became clear.
With tens of thousands of fans were now unable to attend his or any other live shows and his tour family now out of work for the foreseeable future, Turner turned to the mantra that has motivated musicians since time immemorial: ‘let’s put on a show!’
However, not being able to do that in the normal was kind of the point, so Turner turned to Facebook Live. He and his tour support Jess Guise (who, conveniently, is also his wife, making it much easier for them to organise this together in isolation!) invited fellow support act Micah Schnabel to perform their final show of this leg of the tour.
It was broadcast for free but ran in conjunction with a Go Fund Me fundraiser with all proceeds going to Frank Turner’s loyal tour family. They work on day rates and so were facing financial hardship with an indefinite touring hiatus.
Jess Guise started proceedings. In speech and in song she gave thanks to three man who’d had profound impacts on her life: her brother, her late father, and her new husband. However, she proved that she as more than capable on her own in simultaneously performing to a crowd of 3 (plus a sleeping cat) and circa 10,000.
She delivered a strong musical theatre style vocal and driving guitar work while showcasing songs from her band Guise’s latest EP, The Fun Part. Here’s a video of the title track, which is great…as long as you don’t have a problem with clowns.
Guise also deserves a shout out for her creative response to facing the virus – drink bucks fizz, it’s loaded with Vitamin C!
Next up was Micah Schnabel of Two Cow Garage from Ohio, temporarily holed up in the UK as a result of all of this. From the start he prominently repped the work of designer and creative Vanessa Jean Speckman by wearing one of her sweaters. She also joined him to perform a poem.
His songs thought-provoking songs took us to interesting places. ‘Pro-li…’ turned out to be pro-library rather than pro-life, and his description of President Trump was ‘little boy king.’
There was a contemporary update to Woody Guthrie’s Do Re Mi and, somehow, an even more stark reference to the financial reality facing many musicians now more than ever: “In my mind I’m a singer in a hardcore band, but the truth is I work in a bar.” The sometimes spoken word social commentary was insightful, real and hard-hitting but it kept rounding back to themes of hope and perseverance.
Then it was time for Frank Turner who was, quite frankly, frank about the realities of performing without all the crew who sort out the technicalities of sound and lighting, and reminding him to do vocal exercises before the show. Instead, he was about to go live to to 10,000+ with mono sound and some lamps from IKEA.
Sure, there were some tuning issues and pops, and Facebook cut the broadcast early, but perfection wasn’t the point. The point was to keep connecting, keep creating, keep sharing.
Turner was effusive about Schnabel – “that song The Interview might be the best things I’ve ever heard in my life” – and keen to promote CALM’s mental health helpline: 0800 58 58 58 (5 p.m. ’til midnight in the UK, 365 days a year).
On that note, emotion really showed (and how could it not) when Turner played Modern Leper, a Frightened Rabbits tune, in tribute to his friend and inspiration, Scott Hutchinson.
As lot of the songs took on extra meaning in the our new quarantined reality. Not least when Turner updated the words, as with “we lost face in the doctors, we lost faith in the state, we just ended up wasting all our time on the internet consumed by our fear and hate…the politicians and the poor they get sick just the same.”
Of course, The Next Storm already has core lyrics that are pretty fitting for our times. Anyone else feeling “I don’t want to spend the whole of my life inside” right now?
He barreled right into 21st Century Survival Blues, which was just as apt: “So meet me at home when the sirens go off/I don’t wanna be alone so don’t you get lost/I know a place where the two of us can hide/We can barricade the door and we’d be safe inside.”
He also broke out a rarity to honor Bar Staff, who are finding themselves at the front line of the current pandemic with their health and their precarious incomes on the line.
Which brings us back to the underlying reason for the show in the first place. The outcome? 2,500 people chipped in to raise over £42,000 for the touring family, more than double the goal!
You can still watch the show through Schnabel’s Facebook, and you can still donate to the fundraiser. You can also pick up rad text-based merch that will be familiar to Frank Turner fans from Speckman’s Etsy shop, and Guise’s EP is out now on XtraMile.
While you’re at the XtraMile store there are plenty of Frank Turner and other tempting treats to peruse. We’re about to fire up the credit card for some Rob Lynch, if you were wondering!
If you’re wondering what Frank Turner’s live show is like in more normal times, check out our comprehensive review of his recent No Man’s Land tour.