Frank Turner @ Pressgang Storytelling & Danforth Music Hall

There is nothing in the world like a Frank Turner gig.

On my way to the show after work last Friday, I realized I had the door time completely wrong. I assumed the show would start with the opener around 8 (doors at 7 or 7:30), and then Frank and the Sleeping Souls wouldn’t be on until 10 or so. I had purchased my ticket – desperately, on StubHub – four long months previous, and hadn’t bothered to give it a second look, until I was on the bus. I leisurely took the long way home to switch purses and get ready. It was a very beautiful sunny day – it felt like a sign of things to come for the much-awaited Toronto spring.

Suddenly, an alert came up on my phone. FRANK TURNER AT DANFORTH MUSIC HALL – 27 minutes until start. It was only 5:33! Before I had realized this miscalculation on my part, I had been texting my friend Laura about how excited I was to see him again, and how it was going to be an amazing night. I was going to just chill out – maybe somewhere in the middle of the crowd in the spacious venue, and I would slowly sip from a tallboy and just chill out.

I chilled out during Mo Kenney’s set. I chilled out during Northcote’s set – although a fair amount of head-bobbing happened at this point. It was impossible not to. Americana is my jam. They were beautiful souls.

Mo Kenney with Matt from Northcote

Mo Kenney with Matt from Northcote

It was only 8:40 when their set finished. I knew Frank wouldn’t be coming on until 9, so I buckled in, and tried to ensure I was in a good chill spot – somewhere I could camp out for the next hour. (Hour? Who was I kidding? I had read earlier that Frank might do upwards of 27 songs, which he did.)

It was at this point, 15 minutes before the start of FT & SS that these loud, drunk girls began to gather round, like lions, or… the Jets from Westside Story. These were some very excited, very done-up blonde ladies, who were clearly intent on moshing from the sound of the first chord. I have to admire their sense of anarchy and wild abandon.

Frank actually ended up playing 30 songs. (On the setlist I’m seeing online, it indicates that there was some sort of pre-show, but I wasn’t there for that, so I’m not counting it.)

Although I did start off feeling like I could sip on that tall can of Stella, and bob my head for the whole gig, I could only do that for so long. The gig was amazing start to finish, but I believe it was around the time Frank played Glory Hallelujah that I cracked and went a little crazy.

When Frank and the Sleeping Souls play Photosynthesis, they often (at least the two times I’ve seen them) ask the audience to crouch down, and sit on the floor at the lead up to the climax of the song, and then everyone jumps up at a certain point, following the lead of drummer Nigel, and generally breaks into madness at the chorus. However that reads in writing, it’s freaking awesome in reality, and it broke the reserve I had felt up until that point. Nothing like crouching on a floor that’s covered in beer and who knows what else, with a room full of fellow excited fans.

Another highlight, one or two songs later, was Get Better – a song I didn’t often listen to before this gig, but it now one of my favourites. You can’t go wrong screaming “We could get better, because we’re not dead yet”. In fact, the night before, Frank had more or less imparted this advice in the form of a story from the road. This was at a storytelling session at The Garrison in the west end.

Storytelling groups are my absolute new favourite thing to do in Toronto. Before last Thursday, I had only been to one, which was Dear Diary at Supermarket in Kensington. Dear Diary has a simple set-up. Go to bar, purchase drink, find seat, and watch 5-6 absolute strangers read a passage from their teenage diary. It’s amazing. I actually laughed so hard I cried when I went last June, and I can’t wait to go to another one when it hopefully starts up again in the summer.

Last Thursday however, I tried a new group, which is Pressgang Storytelling. Pressgang, headed up by Graham Isador, is very similar in set-up to Dear Diary, except that the stories can be from any time. The theme of Thursday night was “off the road”, which most of the storytellers stuck to. Some of the highlights for me were Faisal Butt who told an awesome story about a trip to play some shows in Edmonton as a middling comic. Marsha Shandur (who runs True Stories Told Live – another group) was AMAZING. I knew she was going to be great, but she lived up to that hype in every way.

Frank was the “headliner” of the show, and told roughly four stories, bookended by songs, which were either directly related to the story or similar in theme.

Great blurry shot here

Great blurry shot here

I wasn’t expecting to take home any words of wisdom from this show. I love hearing people’s stories – it’s the same reason I love stand-up comedy, and watching lengthy interviews on YouTube. As a 23 year old who knows exactly where she wants to be professionally – but that’s about all I know – I DRINK IN these opportunities to hear people speak, who might be able to tell me something about their journey to relative happiness, or at least help me decide what I should avoid.

Frank told a story that REALLY hit home for me. I won’t go into details, because that would be exhausting, and it would do no justice to the story which should be heard in person, in Frank’s own voice. But I’ll give you the gist of what it meant to me. He spoke about someone he met on a tour, who was an admirer of Frank and his punk rock compatriots. This guy asked Frank for his secret – he wanted to know how he too could live an awesome life, and travel around, and have the types of adventures that Frank Turner is wont to have. Frank gave him some simple advice. Stop wishing you could have an awesome life, and just start paying attention and saying “yes” to things as they happen. Later that night, Frank was about to go out with several of these fellow musicians, and that guy asked him if he could come along. Basically Frank looked at him, and said “This is what I’m talking about. Don’t ask if you can come. Just come.”

This hit home. I’m trying to figure out next moves, both on a professional and personal level, and I am constantly having to reminding myself that the constraints I think are holding me back, actually don’t exist. Pretending they exist holds you back. Ambitious people ignore this.

I can’t wait to go to another storytelling night, and I won’t have to wait too long. The next True Stories Told Live is March 29th.