Inclusiveness- the theme of the evening on Thursday, May 26th at The Intersection in Grand Rapids, MI. The venue was bursting with positive energy, laughter (maybe a couple tears…but that might have just been me) and true punk rock ideology courtesy of The Homeless Gospel Choir, Two Cow Garage and Frank Turner.
Derek Zanetti, under the moniker The Homeless Gospel Choir was up first with a politically charged set of protest songs, with subject matter spanning everything from religion and mental health, to an old grade school teacher who told him that if he was lucky, he could grow up to be a garbage man (she also apparently had ‘chicken nugget teeth’, which is the first time I’ve ever heard that phrase, but goddamn it if that isn’t a creative insult). Derek has the ability to tackle these topics, and his stage show in general, with charisma, a biting sense of humour and sarcasm, which won the audience over immediately. Even with some technical difficulties, he continued the show like a pro, joining us in the middle of the floor, just him and his guitar, to finish a song while the audience formed a circle around him. With extremely smart lyrics and an incredibly entertaining stage presence, The Homeless Gospel Choir is not one to be missed. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who would have been content to have his set go on just a bit longer. Make sure you also stop by his merch table after the show to say hello and pick yourself up a copy of his CDs, vinyls or his book, “Existentialism the Musical”.
Next to the stage was Two Cow Garage, coming out of Columbus, OH and with a set full of tricks. I can safely say I’ve never seen an alt-rock band take on four part harmonies, and not only did Two Cow Garage do it last night, but they slayed it. There is no denying the talent that is in this band, or that they truly love performing- their enthusiasm was contagious and they are musically so on point that to miss their set on this tour would be criminal. Standing at barrier in front of Todd Farrell Jr., we were continually impressed with his incredible skills on the guitar, which were showcased often during their set. Each member of the band really was able to shine; despite Micah Schnabel being hailed as the lead singer, he stands not at center stage, but at the left. We originally found this to be quite different from the typical traditional set up, but it makes perfect sense in retrospect; not one person makes up the band, and they are equal to the sum of their parts, often sharing lead vocal duties from song to song between Micah, Todd and Shane Sweeney. Also included last night was a cover of a song by Mustard Plug, a ska-punk band local to Grand Rapids, which was a nice way to incorporate the crowd.
** This is the point where I have to tell you, if you’re intending to see this tour as it continues through the United States, don’t be the person who only shows up for Frank Turner as the headliner; not only is it incredibly not punk rock (the punk community is one that supports each other!) you’ll be denying yourself seeing an incredible group of musicians that were hand selected by Turner himself. Frank wouldn’t steer you wrong, and neither will I when I say: Get to the venue early. It is beyond worth it.**
Finally, the moment we were waiting for; the man himself, Frank Turner. Despite being a fan for a number of years, this was the first time that I was able to catch a show in person and even though I thought I knew what to expect, those expectations went very quickly out the window. Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls exceeded every expectation I could have ever had in one shot. The man certainly knows how to put on a show, and he has an innate ability to bring together people from all walks of life, regardless of age, gender, socio-economic background…whatever barriers might exist between people are immediately forgotten due to the inclusive nature of the show. The only time there may have been any division was when the crowd was divided in half to be put on either “Team Ben” (Ben Lloyd) or “Team Tarrant” (Tarrant Anderson), and we were swept up in the competitiveness of which side of the room would be the louder, and thus, better side (being on Team Tarrant, it was us. Sorry not sorry, Team Ben). This was only one of the ways in which audience participation was encouraged; throughout the course of the evening, we made good use of our ‘jazz hands’ skills, and were given many, many opportunities to practice our dancing and vocal prowess. Frank Turner thrives on the energy that the audience gives him, and he returns it tenfold. This show went so far beyond a musical act performing for an audience; for the entire time that Frank and the Sleeping Souls set foot on stage, we were at once unified and were collectively in this together. The Grand Rapids audience was also treated to a debut of “Sister Rosetta Tharpe” which he finished only two days prior to the show and is slated to be on his upcoming concept-style album which will feature songs about influential women in history. Frank came back to the stage for a three song encore including “Love Ire and Song”, “Get Better” and “Four Simple Words”, but not before leading everyone in “Happy Birthday” for his tour manager Tre, who was celebrating last night. She expressly forbade Frank from bringing her onstage, but I’m certain we were loud enough that she could hear us from the backstage area!
Reflecting back on the show now, I can honestly say that this was one of the most fun shows I’ve ever been to. The room was filled with positive energy from the very start of the night to the end, everyone gave it everything they had and for a brief moment in time, we were able to escape reality and truly, freely celebrate life together.
If that isn’t punk rock, then I don’t know what is.