Until last Sunday night I had never been to a club and I was completely and utterly indifferent about that fact. However, on February 12th I happened to be on Facebook at the right time to see a post on Frank Turner’s Official Facebook Page [http://on.fb.me/1FzNOt4] announcing that he would be playing with the Sleeping Souls at Ritual, a nightclub in Ottawa. I almost couldn’t believe it. I bought a ticket the minute they went on sale, which was exactly a minute before my Friday morning class began. As some of you may know my education is one of the most important things in my life but I was determined to get that ticket no matter what. I’m not going to say that music is my substitute for education but it has surely taught me a lot about living that I never could have gathered from Shakespeare or Aristotle.
The first time I ever heard of Frank Turner I was searching for some new music on iTunes, I had just be given a gift card for the store (yes, I buy all of my music), and his song “English Curse” was a suggested pick for me. I listened to it, bought it, and thus my musical world was expanded. Occasionally, the song would pop up in my shuffle list and I quickly found myself mouthing the lyrics. I even tossed around the idea of singing it at the first music night hosted by my fellow HUMS CHUMS but in the end I decided against it.
“English Curse” was actually the song I put on repeat after going out on my first real date in first year, perhaps that was foreshadowing for how short my acquaintance with the young man would be. Suffice it to say that we had very different priorities; our views on politics and history differed too much for us ever to be compatible. However, I never explored more of Turner’s music until December of 2013 because that was when I began writing about music. It is no secret that I love to write and the arts have always fascinated me. Unfortunately, I have a less than stellar track record with regards to trying to create my own music – after six months of piano lessons and around the same amount of time spent with an acoustic guitar I decided to leave instruments to those who feel more inclined to use them. I sang for several years in various school related choirs and even auditioned for my high school musical once but deep down I knew that my future did not include me being on stage. Regardless, I have remained fascinated by music and the artists that create it, the ones who paint so well with words and chords that it’s as if I can see their very souls when they perform. Which brings me back to December 2013 when I was writing my first original pitch piece for the Charlatan, Carleton’s independent student paper. Since then I have written for Chicago Innerview which covers the annual Lollapalooza music festival and penned a few more music centric pieces on this blog.
For the Charlatan story I was writing about a band that I had first heard play around a month before my high school graduation in 2013. At that point in time they were known as RM & the Honest Heart Collective and honestly, going in I did not know what to expect. Regardless, I was pleasantly surprised at the raw emotion I heard in the band’s music. I remember thinking that there was something special about them and after procuring my own signed copy of their CD I ended up forming an attachment to their sound. After several months I found the courage to ask for the contact information of the band at a Christmas party. I had approached my Arts Editor for the Charlatan at the time and she had approved my pitch to conduct an interview on their entry into the music scene. So I spent part of New Year’s Eve that year in my room, listening to their CD on repeat and contemplating how to communicate their essence through my article.
I was nervous, no, beyond nervous, I was anxious to the point that I had knots in my stomach when I was writing that piece. I felt as if I was going to make a mistake and damage the band that had in a very short time become extremely important to me. At least their music had, I have yet to exchange more than a few words in person with the anyone in the band. The only exception to that fact would be the email interview I conducted with Ryan MacDonald, one of the now titled The Honest Heart Collective‘s (HHC) band members.
**Yes, the band has changed its name in order to focus more on their creative expression as a collective rather than as a man and his band. Their first full-length record will be available for purchase on April 21 and no, I do not earn any money from promoting them. I just think they’re awesome and that more people should hear them. For their FB page click here: http://on.fb.me/1MzOUqV
This is the point when Frank Turner reentered my life. I had asked Ryan about his musical idols/inspirations and Turner’s name came up. As I read over Ryan’s response I realized that I recognized the name Frank Turner so I went to my iPod, searched it, and sure enough up popped “English Curse”. I turned it on and let myself listen to the melody. Yes, I could see the resemblance between HHC’s and Turner’s music – both of them create music from their own blood, sweat, tears, and triumph. They are honest, some might say too honest with their music, but I say there is no such thing as too much honesty in art.
Turner’s music became a touchstone in my life throughout the next two years and when I needed support I usually turned to him or HHC to help me deal with my emotions. It’s amazing how powerful music can be and how greatly it can figure in one’s life.
All of that brings me back to last Sunday night when I visited the club. Again I was nervous but this time it was just because I had a) never been to the location before and b) I was going alone. While I enjoyed the freedom of being able to stand where I wanted, even finding my way into the thick of the crowd, the location of the club is not exactly the best place to be after dark. Upon reflection though I feel as if that may be decently stereotypical of clubs in general.
The opening act, Cory Levesque, set a good tone for the night. He was open and humble in the same token. It was apparently one of his first live gigs and I can say that I would definitely see him perform again. There was a homegrown vibe to him that immediately helped me feel at ease despite being in a crowd surrounded by at least hundred people that I did not know at all. However, I must confess that throughout his show my mind was on what would follow, a performance unlike any other I had ever seen I was sure.
I’m not exactly a concert aficionado, but I have seen Cher and the Village People live so I’m not ignorant about what makes a good show either. However, there was an electricity running through my veins at the thought of seeing Frank Turner perform that I had never felt before. When he appeared he did not disappoint, with a roaring beginning that included one of his many anthems to wanderlust The Road, I felt myself relax. It’s rare that I ever truly relax. I live in a state of perpetual yet productive stress for a decent duration of the year but in that club basement I felt serene. I felt at home. One of the reasons I love Turner’s music is how much I can relate to his lyrics and seeing him, full of energy and life, singing those same lyrics that have helped me centre myself so often – it was a real moment of connection for me. While I know that there is a difference between a performer and his or her art I am of the opinion that real art comes from the heart and that it’s almost impossible to create great art without locking a part of oneself into the art produced.
I may not have shaken Frank Turner’s hand that night, posed for a selfie with him, or even made eye contact but I met him. In that club all of us suspended reality by allowing his music to take us on journey of loss, heartbreak, and personal growth. We allowed our shared love of music to bond all of us together. It was a beautiful experience. Turner was a dynamic performer who poured his soul into every syllable he sang and every chord he played. He was by far the most dynamic and electrifying performer I have ever seen in all of my nineteen years of existence. I would see him again in a heartbeat.
After the show when I was back home again I slipped on my headphones and grabbed a pen to record the events of the night in my journal. Out of habit I clicked on one of Turner’s albums to provide myself a soundtrack for writing and Reasons Not to Be an Idiot came on. As I let the sound wash over me I heard the song exactly as it had been played just hours beforehand, it was practically perfection. When I play his songs now I can see the sparkle in his eyes and the emotions that played over his face, I can feel the ground bend a little as if I was still on that dance floor with people jumping as if they were trying to reach heaven above, and I remember that I am not alone.
So, last Sunday I, Sam Lehman, walked into a club which is something that I never expected myself to do but I went because of music. I may not play an instrument, I may not sing anymore, but I know what sincerity is and I will never give up a chance to hear real music. The world is staged and faked enough as it is so it’s rare to have a chance to indulge in real human emotions; I’m glad I went out last Sunday. I am honoured to have seen Frank Turner perform and I hope to see him again in the future. Until then I will put my iTunes on shuffle and listen to him and to The Honest Heart Collective. I will continue listening to music that makes me feel understood because aren’t we all searching for someone to bare our souls to? I fear the day that music stops provoking emotion because that is the day that part of our humanity will be lost forever. However, with artists like Turner and HHC around I believe that that day will be kept at bay for awhile longer.
***And yes, that image at the top is a photo of my personal business card, I told you music was important to me.