Beautiful Days Festival
August 17th 2012
Frank Turner has had a busy year since we last visited him.
The singer songwriter has gone from underground secret to mainstream success, a success which was capped by his Olympics opening ceremony appearance on the Danny Boyle spectacular.
It was a moment which defined both the singer and the event.
As soon as Turner started singing the whole whole ceremony came into a sharp focus with his honesty and integrity shining through his plaintive folk flavoured song.It was a moment that made the viewer sit up. Sadly it’s very rare to see anyone play music with much genuine passion on mainstream TV these days. Music in the the mainstream has been reduced to a rubble of fake histrionics or crocodile tear blabbing because the singer has just been voted out of some TV talent competition.
Because of this modern mainstream music has been reduced to a laughing stock and you only need to sell 9000 albums to get to number one and everyone wonders why! The Frank moment of Danny Boyle’s Olympic extravaganza was an abrupt resetting of the agenda, the singer’s clear eyed vision and sharp intelligence cut through and set up that great evening perfectly.
It was just the latest pinnacle on a hard working career grafting it out on the circuit that has suddenly hit a first gear.
Three years ago he played the Beautiful Days main stage just on the cusp of his underground success. Tonight he headlines, with a packed and youthful crowd singing along and adoring his every word. By chance the affable songwriter represents a whole new generation of music idealism taking the baton from the old guard of the Levellers or the punk rock generation and running with it into a new era with his charismatic and passionate stage presence that looms large as he romps through a series of songs that have made him really popular without the usual attendant hype.
From his hardcore roots in Million Dead the band he joined after growing up in Winchester, Turner is very much of a modern generation of musicians who took their cues from the hardworking ethic and intensity of hardcore and transposed it into different musical disciplines.
Some of the best modern musicians have taken their cues from Minor Threat or Sweden’s Refused instead of the more traditional roots and this has out a innate inner toughness and lack of compromise to many of them no matter what style of music they have migrated to.
In 2005 Million Dead split up after an intense final tour and Turner moved towards a folk influenced style, maybe getting in touch with his English roots after years of being immersed in very American culture of hardcore. Interestingly the parallels between punk, hardcore and folk are many.
A lot of musicians of his generation, who in their teenage years were captivated by the fierce integrity and scorched earth musical idealism of American Hardcore have also taken this journey. Justin from the Vaccines and many others have taken the same route, starting with the fierce and fast songs and then replacing them with melody and song writing subtleties but keeping the passion and intense integrity of hardcore. The hardcore culture that remains part of Turner’ backdrop quite literally as the straight edge/hardcore X symbol which remains on Turner’s own stage backdrop tonight.
There has been criticism from some snipers of Frank Turner’s background due to him once winning a scholarship in his youth to attend the same private school as Prince William. It’s the famous British class snobbery in reverse, as if his schooling affects his musical ability or his capability of making comments on political, personal or social situations. This is not a fair criticism and fairly short sighted and one that picks its targets carefully, not mentioning the likes of Joe Strummer or Shane Macgowan, as if it matters what school someone went to. In reality it seems even more remarkable to throw away the connections and background of the old school tie to work through the musical underground in the unforgiving hardcore genre whilst offering a poetic critique of the very system that could have made you a captain of industry or something.
Power to Frank Turner for following his musical muse and instinct. Tonight’s gig is a triumph of musical humanity and songs that touch the heart. His passion, honesty and songwriting nous sees a set of warm and melodic songs that have struck a chord with a generation and are yet another one in the eye for people who like to claim that modern bands have very little to say about cultural issues.
Not that Frank deals in slogans, those are heartfelt and poetic vignettes of modern life that touch on the confusion of the times. His honesty and wide eyed charm mean a lot to his audience and it’s a pretty intense and very young crowd that hang onto his every word at the front of a packed field.
Another triumph in a year of great triumphs, Frank Turner has become mainstream on his own terms and that is a victory for all of us.