Bad Copy

Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls
Show Review

Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls, Lucero, The Menzingers, & Homeless Gospel Choir in Chicago, IL

"You sound like you're from London!"

Photo: Kendra Sheetz

My phone buzzed. It was a text from Kendra that read, “I just found out the Frank show starts in an hour.” I checked the time; it was 5PM. There was no way in fucking hell this stupid fucking show started that early. Everything I had seen said doors were at 7PM. I was livid. I was already on a bus to Lincoln Hall to see Thursday play a matinee of Full Collapse front to back, with hopes of being able to fit both shows in. I already missed the Full Collapse show the night before. I got off the bus at the train station with a choice to make. South bound took me to a show I never thought I’d be able to see. North was a show I was more or less obligated to go to. With a heavy sigh, I accepted the fact I wouldn’t be seeing Full Collapse and headed North. (Editor’s Note: Kevin has been so kind to leave out the part of the message where I dropped a few F-bombs and executed a temper tantrum similar to that of a small child about the possibility of having to cover the show alone).

I walked into the Aragon Ballroom a song or two into The Homeless Gospel Choir‘s set. They were the only band I was familiar with on the bill, and was expecting nothing really but a full band. Wrong. It was just a man named Derek Zanetti and his acoustic guitar. The room was about half full, and he had every single person there laughing with his stage banter and songs. He introduced every song with, “This is a protest song.” Purposeful and thought provoking, the songs addressed depression, mental health, the state of reality surrounding us, and punk music in general. Homeless Gospel Choir was absolutely the highlight of the night. Which means we can only go downhill from there.

I’ve never made it a secret that I think The Menzingers are boring as fuck. It wasn’t always this way. Up to and including On the Impossible Past the band consistently released great records. But then they went and remade the same record two more times and blegh, fucking lame. Well, the lights went out and Bill Pullman’s speech from Independence Day played in some ham-fisted attempt at a political statement. And there they were playing their boring songs from their boring records with their boring stage presence. The only one who really moves at all is Tom the guitar player, who was bouncing around like a caffeine pill addict. I told Kendra if they played one song pre-On the Impossible Past, I would give them a good write up. But they didn’t. They barely even played anything off OTIP, sticking only to “Obituaries” and “Good Things.” I didn’t think it was possible to be underwhelmed when you have zero expectations, but here we are.

Originally, I was originally most excited to see Lucero. But then, I heard they were playing their new record, Among the Ghosts, in its entirety. That’s fine I guess, but the damn thing doesn’t come out until August 3rd. So they basically played a 45 minute set of songs that no one fucking knew. The entire crowd stood still. Singer Ben Nichols even mentioned a few times, “This is probably a bad idea.” I mean, as far as I could tell, the record sounds like a Lucero record. But honestly, it was pretty brutal watching them play with absolutely zero connection to any of the noise they were making onstage. Most people go to these kind of larger shows because they are familiar with the band/artist.  They know the songs and they can sing along to them; they have a connection to the material that’s familiar. Think back to when you went to a show with a band about to release a record and they play a new one off of it. Think about how the momentum and energy just stopped while they played that track. Now multiply that out for an entire set. Although, I will say the song for Ben’s daughter Izzy was cute as hell.

This brings us to Frank Turner. While the crew was setting up, one guy came out and set down two empty boxes on either side of Frank’s microphone. I groaned eternally. At some point Frank Turner went from poignant English folk artist to arena dad rock, and that’s not okay. Sure enough, the lights went out and the Sleeping Souls came out followed by Frank Turner who immediately jumped up on one of those empty boxes to the cheers of the now packed venue – an artificial perch for a cheap pop from the crowd. That about sums up the Frank Turner experience these days. Much like when he brought out the fully grown guitar tech who’s “16th birthday” it was and told him he had a cake waiting at the sound booth and all he needed to do was crowd surf there and back to get it while the Sleeping Souls played a song that sounded like it could be the centerpiece of a direct to DVD Disney sequel soundtrack.

Look, I know this a pretty negative review. “Why did you even go to the show if you are just going to talk shit on all the bands, you fucking idiot?” Because for some god forsaken reason I still have hope and at one point in my life I loved these bands. Maybe, just maybe, seeing them live would reinvigorate my interest and make me realize just how big of an asshole I really am. But then ol’ Frank changed the name of the original city in a song to ‘Chicago’ just to make the crowd erupt. And let’s be honest, that’s lame as fuck.

I gave Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls an hour of my time, but slipped out minutes before the “Frank Turner solo” portion of the show. He still had almost another hour to go and I was determined to make it to at least one of the Thursday shows down the street. I might have missed Full Collapse, but I would be god damned if I missed them play War All the Time. I needed a high school emo palate cleanse.

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