Who: Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, Murder by Death, Arkells, and Will Varley
What: 2017 Tour
When: January 19, 2017
Where: The Fillmore – Silver Spring, MD
Show Notes (Full Photo Set Below)
January 19, 2017–I can’t believe this show was almost two weeks ago. I had every intention of making a post about it in a more timely manner. However, like many residents of this country in general and this city in particular, the past week and change seems to have slipped away into a swirling vortex of never-ending political commentary surrounding developments that continue to sink towards deeper and deeper depths.
Anyway…back to the gig at hand. Before I go into my usual show notes and photos, I want to share a relatively new Frank Turner song that he recorded at the show in Silver Spring. I was in the photo pit during his performance of it, but even while I was in “work mode,” the lyrics really stuck with me—it was a powerful song to hear in D.C. (well…Silver Spring, close enough) on the eve of the inauguration. It’s a good song for those of us who are usually inclined to drown out the world with our headphones and amplifiers—but we also know that what is currently happening in this country is not normal, and we can’t just watch it happen. Luckily, as this song reminds us, music and resistance can go hand in hand.
“Let’s be the sand in the gears for the next four years…”
Now, our regularly scheduled programming. The bill included four bands, as seen below.
Frank Turner is one of those artists that has been on my radar for a while, but I’d never found a local tour date that worked for me until this show came around. It was definitely worth the wait. Turner and his band, the Sleeping Souls, put on a varied set spanning from acoustic numbers to rowdier songs that inspired crowd-surfing quests in search of whiskey shots and high-fives at the back bar. I watched from the side of the room after my three songs in the photo pit were up, and I could see that Turner has an audience that truly appreciates the music and the people who are making it. Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls’ latest release of new material is 2015’s Positive Songs for Negative People (iTunes / Spotify / Artist Site). I thought it would be right up my alley judging by the title, and I was right. If acoustic-driven rock with heavy folk and punk influences is your thing–and even if you don’t think it is–give it a listen. Turner’s music is both accessible and energizing–and his live set is one of those shows where you would probably have to be ill or asleep to not enjoy it at least a little bit.
Murder by Death was the third band of the night, and I was excited to see a cellist (Sarah Ballet) set up on stage–a fun instrument for photos! Contrary to what their name might lead you to believe, Murder by Death is a vaguely alt-country group with a lead singer (Adam Turla) who has a deep Cash-like quality to the lower part of his range paired with a strong upper range that he manipulates easily to give different textures to the songs. His vocals and the cello instrumentation led to some great dynamic shifts within songs and the set as a whole, giving it all an appealingly dark and dramatic vibe. Their latest release is 2015’s Big Dark Love (iTunes / Spotify / Artist Site).
Arkells played second, and my camera’s autofocus definitely got a workout during their set. Lead singer Max Kerman is like the Energizer Bunny onstage…running around, playing off of the other band members, and jumping into the crowd on occasion. Their alt/pop-rock tunes were catchy, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd more enthusiastic for a midlining band at a club show–a testament to the Arkells’ immediate appeal south of the border (they hail from Canada.) I got a Walk the Moon-ish vibe from them–a good thing in my book. Check out their album Morning Report (iTunes / Spotify / Artist Site), released this past year.
Will Varley, hailing from England, opened the show with an acoustic set. I found his songwriting and stage banter to be very engaging–anyone who can get me to really pay attention to lyrics on the first listen has mastered the most difficult part of live performance, in my opinion. Be sure to check out “Talking Cat Blues” (very funny) and “Is Anyone Out There?” (pertinent to the times) off of his 2015 album, Postcards from Ursa Minor (iTunes / Spotify / Artist Site), as well as his newest album Kingsdown Sundown (iTunes / Artist Site).
Enjoy the photos!