After two years on his home turf, Camden, Frank Turner opted to hold the third edition of his Lost Evenings festival in the U.S. This pleased his large American following, but many Europeans also travelled to Boston last weekend for four days of music and more.
For the die-hards, this is THE occasion to see Frank live. His four headline shows have different themes and hardly any songs are repeated over the four nights. As a fan of the folkier material, I almost felt as if I could go home after the first night, which was solo acoustic. Many of my favourites, including obscure B sides and bonus tracks, were played that night. Special mention for the lights that evening: Strobes on mirror balls created a really lovely effect.
Night two was a celebration of the album ‘Poetry Of The Deed’, now ten years old. Rather than playing the album straight through, Frank and the Sleeping Souls changed the order and added other songs they used to play back then, including the folk ballad ‘Barbara Allen’ and a majestic Thunder Road’, which happened to be the first song I ever heard Frank sing. A Take That cover had to be contextualized for the Americans in the crowd. This show was the most unique one of the festival. An English fan, who was at his 100th show, got invited onstage to play harmonica.
On the Saturday the band concentrated on the set they have been touring the world with for the past two years. The Sleeping Souls are an integral part of what Frank does. There is nothing like a band who make it all seems effortless and who at the same time seem to be enjoying themselves thoroughly. The songs from the ‘Be More Kind’ album have gotten even better live, and again there were some surprises. The Million Dead song ‘Smiling At Strangers On Trains’ had been requested by a lady at a Q&A earlier in the day.
The crowdsurf at the end of the show went off without incident. Birmingham Alabama will never live down the fact that they dropped Frank recently, but this time everyone in the line of duty put their phones away. Which meant he was in one piece, just about, on Sunday for the greatest hits show. Frank has said that Lost Evenings is the most exhausting weekend of the year for him and it is easy to see why, as he is everywhere and involved in everything. Sunday’s show had all the crowdpleasers.
Highlights for me were the powerful versions of ‘Long Live The Queen’ and ‘One Foot Before The Other’, a solo rendition of ‘Josephine’ with a great crowd singalong part, and the appearance of a three piece horn section. The atmosphere was off the scale for the encores. Final song of the weekends was ‘Ballad Of Me And My Friends’, which a clearly exhausted Frank did not have to sing as the audience sang it for him.
Lost Evenings has a second stage, the Nick Alexander stage, named after a friend of Frank’s who worked in the music industry, who was killed at the Bataclan. His sister has set up a memorial trust and this charity was one several for whom funds were raised during the weekend.
After trying to see everything last year, I made the decision to focus on the main stage this year. Standout among the early supports there was War On Women, a feminist hardcore punk band from Baltimore: Wonderfully loud and with a very impressive frontwoman. I also liked Hayley Thompson King, who managed to sound like Courtney Love on some songs and like Linda Ronstadt on others.
Cory Branan is a singer/songwriter and one hell of a guitar player from Mississippi. Trapper Schoepp played pleasantly twangy folk with his band and Jenny Owen Youngs performed solo. I liked her songs and her voice but her banter was lost on me (I don’t watch TV). Skinny Lister play rebel-rousing folk and are not my cup of tea, but there is no denying that they get the party started.
The sub headers were basically a dream list of some of Frank Turner’s favourite artists, who to his delight said ‘yes’ to the invitation to play. Frank pointed out repeatedly how humbled he was that they were opening up for him and that he felt it should have been the other way around.
I am a fan of Loudon Wainwright III so I knew he would be excellent. Highly entertaining as always, Loudon presented songs of death and decay, songs about his family and he read from his book - an excerpt about his three Grammy nominations, with the happy end of him eventually winning one. An audience request for ‘Dead Skunk’ brought a nice singalong.
I have a copy of The Hold Steady’s ‘Boys And Girls In America’ and like that album, but they did not do it for me on this occasion. It is my theory that they are very much a men’s band. From where I stood I could see Frank watching them with such enthusiasm that he nearly threw himself off the balcony.
John K Samson, main man of Winnipeg band The Weakerthans, was a name I knew but I had never listened to him. Here was my discovery of the festival. A very unassuming stage presence, John seemed a lovely man and his songs were quiet and beautiful. It is hard to fully get lyrics upon first listen, but there were lines here and there that made me shake my head in amazement. What a wonderful way with words this man has. I was grateful for my spot close to the stage, because with this quieter music the amount of chat coming from the back was rather obvious. People who are compulsive talkers should not go to concerts....
It was also my first time seeing Against Me. I knew they are held in high regard (Bruce Springsteen is a fan) and I expected to like them, but could not get into them. A friend observed that many people “politely head-bobbed” and I did exactly that.
A pop up tattoo shop was one of the side events. In a side room in the House Of Blues (very nice, all carpets, curtains and atmospheric lighting) there were panels on a variety of topics: A workshop on what you can do when you see someone getting harassed at a gig, and a discussion about mental health in the music industry.
Frank was being interviewed by a professor from Berklee College Of Music about his new book, ‘Try This At Home’. I particularly liked Frank’s defense of the album as an art form, and that it should be no longer than 45 minutes as it needs to fit on one side of a C90 cassette. He went on to say that he does not know the last track of some of his most loved albums.
The most fun panel was the one on ‘Poetry Of The Deed’, which featured the Sleeping Souls reminiscing on the recording of that album and the subsequent tour. Many funny stories and a lot of slagging.
Derek Zanetti a.k.a. the Homeless Gospel Choir hosted a daily open mic event at Bill’s, next door to the venue. This was a fundraising event for the Joe Strummer Foundation. It was a chance for audience members to perform. Sleeping Souls drummer Nigel performed solo, many of the main acts appeared , and at the start of the festival Frank himself took the first slot. In total almost $20,000 was raised for the various charities.
Full marks to the main venue, House Of Blues, for excellent sound and good sightlines from everywhere. The only thing that I found lacking in comparison to last year, was a vibe in the surrounding area. The House Of Blues is directly opposite Fenway Park and there were baseball matches on three of the four days. The area did not have the pubs where fans could gather that there are in Camden.
This may be different next year as Lost Evenings is moving to Berlin! On a fan forum I saw a post from a man who had never been abroad nor on a plane, who is applying for a passport.
Lost Evenings IV will be held from 21 to 24 May 2020 and has sold out within hours of going on sale.