Frank Turner | Andrew Jackson Jihad | Into It. Over It. Marquis Theater 10.7.11

It was suggested that we show up early for the Frank Turner show at the Marquis Theater on Friday night, given the strength of the line-up.  If the gathering of people snaking down Larimer St. as early as 7:30pm wasn’t evidence enough that this tour was receiving some much deserved attention, the handwritten sign warning SOLD OUT, DON’T EVEN ASK proved that Turner has come a long way in the year since his opening slot for Social Distortion last October.  It was just dumb luck that I discovered Turner‘s talent for songwriting via England Keep My Bones around the same time I was becoming very intrigued with a folk-punk duo who called themselves Andrew Jackson Jihad.  This stroke of luck led to me buy tickets as soon as I saw this bill, never even considering that it would sell out.

Evan Thomas Weiss opened the night as Into It. Over It.. The singer-songwriter from Chicago, IL performed (emo)tional songs about the road, a road he seems to have a love/hate relationship with — 0ne moment spewing a vehement hatred for all the discomfort it represents and in the next breath declaring his love for the good nights and the time away from his desk job.  A quick listen to his latest album, Proper, showcases something more Dashboard Confessional than Lucero, but his  solo set in front of a packed house exposed the talented songwriter hidden beneath the production.

Before the two bearded men took the stage, my knowledge of Andrew Jackson Jihad began and ended with Knife Man — an album I’ve been struggling with lately.  The tongue-in-cheek, cynical, ridiculous lyrics reminded me of why I got into silly punk back in the early 90’s, and provided me with enough one-liners to last a lifetime.  The first time I heard the album I had a rare sense of excitement that can only come from finding something special…but there was a catch, Sean Bonnette‘s voice.  All I could think of was what Conor Oberst would sound like after inhaling a balloon full of helium.  I didn’t know if I could get past this until these two bearded men took the stage. I didn’t know if I could get past this until I realized Bonnette‘s voice was a crucial part of this band.  These words HAD to be delivered with vexatious vocals.  It really is the only way.

Bonnette and his guitar were joined by Ben Gallaty and his stand-up bass, making up the whole band that is Andrew Jackson Jihad.  A five-minute bit around Gallaty being mistaken for Frank Turner (a bit that could have been an outtake from a Flight of the Conchords episode) opened the set before they finally got around to playing any music with Brave as a Noun. ‘if this is how you folks make art, its fucking depressing‘  Yes, these songs should be depressing.  They should be fucking depressing.  But these two have a way with delivery that makes you want to sing and dance and clap along with songs about failed loved, murdered family members, rapists, cannibals, hate, hell and drunk driving.  The fact that Bonnette uses such force to deliver these horrors at vocal ranges waaaaay beyond his capabilities makes it all seem fair.  It might be painful to listen to his voice, but it’s even more painful for him to use that voice.  These guys from Arizona managed to turn us all into masochists — loving every minute of the pain.

The set consisted of an impressive 17 songs from across their discography.  An (extremely bitter) treat for longtime fans, as well as for those of us who were hearing all of this for the first time.  Hope might be for presidents, and dreams might be for people who are sleeping, but I see a bright future for these guys…and I’m sure they will hate every minute of it!

This might be Frank Turner‘s first headlining tour of the United States, but this does not mean he lacks a devoted following.  Like Andrew Jackson Jihad, I am only familiar with his latest album and that made me a minority amongst the sold-out crowd.   The Englishman from Winchester did lean heavily on material from England Keep My Bones, but there was plenty from Poetry of the Dead and Love Ire & Song to keep the faithful singing along in between shots of whiskey.

When Turner was last in town and he played the Fillmore before Lucero and Social D, I believe he was alone with this guitar.  I think I caught a few songs of the set that was mostly forgotten after the headliners.  This time around he greatly benefited from having a full band, The Sleeping Souls.  Starting out strong with England opener Eulogy, they went directly into some older material with Try This At Home before I Still Believe proved that with the right accent and delivery ‘here ye, here ye, countrymen‘ can come across as something inspiring instead of cheesy. An actual pit formed around this time, causing people to slam into the mic stand and ruin the sound for One Foot Before The Other.  Luckily they got everything fixed for a perfect Peggy Sang the Blues.

Turner is a tall guy with short hair and a short goatee.  If you saw him walking down the street, you might mistake him for a businessman of some sort.  He might not be covered in tattoos or wearing a beat up leather (or denim) jacket, but when he is onstage, there is no doubt he is where he belongs.  There are many differences between the two bands, but I couldn’t help but think I was watching a British Lucero when it came to the pure energy and entertainment value of the performance.  There was something very anthemic and classic about what was happening on Friday night.  Turner mentioned performing for 50 people at some point in his past and there is no doubt he will be talking about his days at the Marquis when he is playing a much larger venue next time around.

Songs of drinking, war, history, religion, kings and queens, more drinking and all things British served as our guide through the night.  English Curse was introduced as ‘kinda like 8 Mile, only thousands of years ago‘ which got the crowd laughing, but it also marked a lull in the set he couldn’t quite surface from until Glory Hallelujah. ‘there is no God, so clap your hands together!‘  I had been waiting for this one and it might have exceeded my expectations of audience participation.

The set ended with an outpour of appreciation toward everyone — the band, the soundguy, the merch people, the fans, the plus-ones, the openers, and on and on.  Turner was joined onstage by all of his friends for a inspired Photosynthesis.  ‘I won’t sit down, I won’t shut up, but most of all I won’t grow up!‘  It was a credible threat, but alas, it did not prove true.  Turner was fighting some sort of cold and he had pushed his vocal chords as far as they could go.  With a quick ‘thank you‘ to those who were able to augment his fading voice with their own, he called it a night.

Andrew Jackson Jihad Setlist: (click Spotify icon for playlist)
Brave As A Noun
Love In The Time Of Human Papillomavirus
American Tune
Love Will Fuck Us Apart
Sense, Sensibility
Fucc The Devil
Jesus Saves
Bad Bad Things
People II: The Reckoning
Growing Up
People II 2: Still Peoplin’?
The Michael Jordan Of Drunk Driving
Hate, Rain On Me
Little Prince El Principito

Frank Turner Setlist: (click Spotify icon for playlist)
Try This At Home
I Still Believe
One Foot Before The Other
I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous
Peggy Sang The Blues
I Am Disappeared
Love Ire & Song
Polaroid Picture
English Curse
Dan’s Song
Sons Of Liberty
Glory Hallelujah
Long Live The Queen
The Road