Frank Turner is not putting up with this crap.
On Sunday night at San Francisco’s Warfield Theater, the British punk-folk troubadour kicked off an energetic 90-minute set with a new song, “The Sand in the Gears,” that’s a clear call to action to resist He Who Shall Not Be Named. It begins by acknowledging, from an aging punk’s perspective (he’s 35), the temptation to run and hide from America’s political nightmare:
Can’t I just spend the next four years at a punk show?
I want to spend the next four years in the front row
Because if the world outside is going to shit
Then you will find me in the center of the circle pit
I’m going to spend the next four years at a punk show
But the song evolves into a rallying cry…
I thought that we were winning the war against the homophobes and the racists
You can’t be serious man, we can’t be this fucked
Well I’m sorry, old friends, I guess it’s time to suck it up
Don’t go giving up now, here’s what we do:
We can’t just spend the next four years in a safe space
I’m going to spend the next four years getting outraged
So every single day let’s find a brand new way
To let the motherfuckers know that we can’t be swept away
I’m going to spend the next four years on the barricades
A change is going to come, and there’s nothing to be done
A change is going to come, come, come:
The only thing to choose is to decide which way you’re going to jump
So don’t give into the hatred; don’t give into the fear
Pour yourself a shot of anger to go with your beer
Let’s be the sand in the gears for the next four years
It was a hit in San Francisco. I’ll be curious to see how it fares in Mobile, Alabama. Then again, if you’re a Frank Turner fan, you’re probably going to be pretty amenable to strong messages of participation and inclusion, anger and heartbreak. Turner has been known to mix a dose of politics in with his astute love songs, raucous ballads about waning youth, and melodic enticements to his listeners to not live their lives as mere spectators—even at his shows.
I last spoke with Turner in 2012, about eight months after he released England Keep My Bones, an album themed around his homeland. Next up was the introspective Tape Deck Heart, followed by his sixth and latest studio album, 2015’s Positive Songs for Negative People. Turner told the Warfield crowd he’ll be recording a new album when this tour is over. (You can see his entire catalog here. It’s all good.)
On Sunday night, backed by his talented Sleeping Souls, Turner riled up the San Francisco audience by comparing its enthusiasm to that of his Los Angeles crowd the night before. He didn’t really have to do much convincing to get people jumping up and down (literally). This was his first US tour headlining larger venues, and the 2,300-capacity Warfield was pretty packed—on a weeknight no less. Just about everyone on the floor in front of the stage was singing along to all the lyrics.
I brought a friend to the show who was unfamiliar with Turner, and by the end of the night, he was a convert. Turner has that effect on people. So check him out if you can; he has a few remaining US shows before he heads home to Europe. Who knows, he might even get you out to the barricades.