Friday 25th April, 2014
Hello everyone. Sorry, this blog has been long neglected. My next thing to post was the next chapter of Puritan, but I was waiting until I could get some relevant audio tracks into the computer world, which involved borrowing a DAT machine and finding time between tours to record it and blah blah that's my excuse. But I've done it now, so I'll get to it soon. But to warm this blog back up, I'm going to give it over today to a guest spot. A lady called Analisa wrote an email to Frank and the Sleeping Souls, and I thought it was an interesting bit of writing so asked if she would mind me posting it here (since she didn't have a blog of her own). She didn't, so here it is!
17 April 2014
The Fandom Double-Standard
Evidence of avid sports fandom is all around us. Every winter, masses of college football fans whose team has made it to the Rose Bowl descend on Santa Monica and Venice Beach, easily identifiable by their team colors, clearly enjoying the mild Southern California weather during New Year's week. They are welcomed cheerfully by banners and chalked messages on signboards outside businesses around town. The very first day I ever spent in Europe, I emerged from an Amsterdam metro station to see the streets, restaurants, and hotel balconies crowded with the red-shirted fans of the Dutch Ajax football team and the green-shirted fans of Glasgow's Celtic Football Club, many loudly chanting as they passed through the city in anticipation of a UEFA Champions League qualifying match. At the time, I had no idea who these teams were, but the passion of their supporters certainly grabbed my attention. Friends of mine often spend entire days tailgating outside of college football games—sometimes never even going into the stadium—because they find fun and a sense of community in the ritual. Likewise, I know people who make annual "guys' weekends" out of going to Arizona to watch baseball spring training before the real season begins.
How many films have been made and consumed by the masses that celebrate the loyalty of sports fans through thick and thin? And how many people sign up for a waiting list years in advance so that they can get season tickets to see "their" team play as many times as possible, and follow their exploits daily via news and social media outlets? On game days, spectators wear body paint and wacky headwear, the crowd chants in unison, fans jump out of their seats when their side scores, and it's not uncommon to see grown men hugging each other joyfully when their team wins, or consoling each other after losses. This loyalty, on the whole, is admired by many cultures around the world—after all, the Olympics are never wanting for international visitors. Our society seems to celebrate this sense of devotion to one's team—whether national, collegiate, or professional—much more commonly than it deems it curious or excessive.
And there's nothing wrong with that. None of this is written to denigrate sports fans in any way, but to ask why this understanding of fandom ("fanaticism" has a negative connotation I prefer to avoid) doesn't always extend to the sphere of music fans—or more specifically, to those of us who choose to attend multiple consecutive shows by our favorite musical artists. It seems to me that, when a person past their teen years shows a similar level of enthusiasm for a certain performer as a serious sports fan shows for their team—that is, traveling long distances to see that artist perform repeatedly—the reaction is more often one of surprise, and sometimes even derision. Just a sampling: "She's, like, obsessed with them" or "You're going to Arizona to see Frank Turner? Are you a groupie?" I mean, when was the last time you heard a super-fan of Manchester United or the Green Bay Packers called a groupie or a stalker for going to multiple games of their favorite team? I'd be willing to bet that most diehard fans of professional sports teams have never met a single member of their favorite team in person, and probably never will. On the other hand, now that I've hit my thirties, the bands that I pay to go see repeatedly are generally ones in which at least one member is an acquaintance or friend of mine.
Having been on the receiving end of a few of these negatively tinged comments, I can't help but wonder if there is a gender element at play here. Do male fans get the same reaction when they follow all-male bands from gig to gig? Or is it just because Frank Turner is male, generally regarded as attractive, and I'm a single female? It's especially frustrating to be lumped in with the delusional "Frank, have my babies" Instagram commenters when I have zero desire to sleep with Frank Turner or any of the members of his band. I'm sorry to defy your Almost Famous imaginings, but I'm not a (wink wink) "band aide."
So why the negative judgments? While spending five nights out of town in pursuit of live music is admittedly a first-world luxury, which I don't take for granted, I'm not endangering my own finances by doing this. We stay in cheap motels and I've never missed more than one day of work as a result. (It's spring break at the moment, so that helps of course.) I'm not neglecting any husband or children, and I'm not drinking or drugging myself into a stupor every night. So who's to say that this is a "crazier" way of spending my leisure time than those diehard sports fans (including some of my own friends and family) that choose to travel long distances to witness "their" team play in the World Cup or the Super Bowl?
But this still leaves the question that I know some of you have: "So why does Frank Turner mean so much to you?" Where to start? Well, first of all, it's not just Frank—Ben, Nigel, Matt, and Tarrant are key parts of the equation here, and should be given their due as well. I love their songs (words and music), their welcoming attitudes, the passion they put into their playing, and even their onstage banter. As of tomorrow, I will have seen Frank play solo, or with the Sleeping Souls, 17 times in four years. Every time, these shows are among the highlights of my year—they always have great, handpicked opening acts, they play their hearts out, they make us laugh, and without fail, audience participation is through the roof. (Side note: I'm willing to admit that there may be a bit of subconscious bias here, too, because, they collectively represent London and Oxford, two of my very favorite places in the world.) When I am up front singing along during one of their shows, I feel a comparable sense of communion with those around me that I imagine devout sports fans feel when they're packed into a stadium watching a game as one. For me, few things in life beat those moments in "Four Simple Words" when Nigel's rapid-fire drum tattoo leads into Frank and the rest of the band joining in for, "Hi ho hi ho hi ho, we're heading out to the punk rock show!" Almost magically, the building potential energy converts the pit into an absolute explosion of human kinetic energy and, for the moment, nothing else matters. I'm not exaggerating when I say that a Frank Turner show is one of the few places where I can forget for a while about all the disquieting thoughts buzzing around inside my head and just get lost in the music and momentum.
However, there is still more to my answer to the question "Why them?" In addition to the amazing live performances, what I appreciate just as much about Frank and the Sleeping Souls is that they have always struck me as humble guys who treat their fans like equals. Frank has repeatedly stated from onstage that they don't want their shows to be about belonging to some secret club for the "cool people". In his own words, "We didn't just come here tonight to shout at each other and then just go home again… We're…individuals with different ideas and hopes and dreams and fears, and we all came here with our different baggage, but we left that baggage and those differences at the fucking door. And tonight…for just a few hours, we are friends and we are equals, and we have no barrier and no stage and, together, we are more than the sum of our parts." Case in point: He and the band members make a point to chat with people, sign autographs, and pose for countless photos after shows. Frank regularly responds to questions posed to him through his website, and personally replies to people who have emailed him through the address he shares publicly. I know that all this may eventually become impossible as their popularity grows—informal meet-and-greets are already a tricky undertaking in their native UK, and Frank spends hours weekly responding to fans' emails—but, for as long as it lasts, I appreciate the chance for a hug and a hello after gigs here. It's nice to be remembered.
As for the friends I call my "FT Family", they are an incredibly welcoming bunch of music lovers who have made me even more intent on seeing Frank perform as often as I can. Last fall, having never met me in person, they invited me to stay with them when I wanted to go to Frank and the Sleeping Souls' Las Vegas show, but didn't have anyone willing to travel with me from LA. The core members of this merry crew regularly travel from Salt Lake City to various other cities, making new friends everywhere they go. Without fail, my cheeks end up hurting from laughter whenever I'm with them—they can make anything from weeknight karaoke at a bowling alley to awkward encounters with the dinner "entertainment" at a Palm Springs steakhouse into absolutely cherished memories. I can say without a doubt that I would not have spent the time and money I did to try to get a last-minute ticket to this year's Coachella Festival if they were not going to be here to experience it with me. I'm not going to Coachella just to go to Coachella (as more people than ever seem to be doing these days), and I'm not even going to Coachella just to see Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. I made this effort so that I can see Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls (and some other bands) with these friends—because they get it.
Perhaps if I had been born in a different time and place, and had the means to do so, I would have followed around the Beatles, The Clash, or Nirvana. As it is, I had the unexpected good luck of seeing Frank Turner perform solo in 2010, and feel fortunate to be alive at the right time to continue to see him and his band perform live for what I hope turns out to be a long time. This man's words speak to me more than most of the famous poets I studied through four years of an English degree, and most of the writers I've read since then. There is a reason I have Frank's lyrics "I still believe in the need for guitars and drums and desperate poetry" tattooed on my skin.
This is my team. These are my people.
"…We're headed out to the punk rock show/Colleagues and friends condescend with a smile/But this is my culture, man/This is my home."
Thanks Analisa! As for me, I promise that I'll try and be back with another blog of my own soon. Bye!
Saturday 23rd January, 2016
It's been a long time since my last blog. Yeah, sure, I know. Sorry. Just leave it. OK? Something came up yesterday though that seemed worthy of talking about. Apparently it's 10 years since Milow's album The Bigger Picture was released, and album that I produced and played on. I thought it be... read
Saturday 20th September, 2014
Been concentrating on updating the site to include contact links for hiring me as a session drummer. But over the summer I did a couple of shows with my old pals in the Genesis tribute band Los Endos. Here's a couple of drum views of songs from those with... read
Wednesday 18th June, 2014
1989 - 1992: Once Around The Park My dad, still with his eye on solid academic achievement, insisted that I at least consider university. Out of respect I applied for places on a number of courses, but the interview process was somewhat unusual, since the hardening of my ambition to be somehow with... read
Monday 12th May, 2014
Sorry it's been so long since the last time I blogged here. I have been busy, that much is true, but it would be a lie to pretend that was entirely the reason. Many days I wonder the worth of adding to the ever-growing mountain of unsolicited writing out there, of my... read
Tuesday 29th October, 2013
I was intending my next blog to be another "Bloggin' The Shuffle", but something happened that took me elsewhere. A friend who is studying screenwriting asked me about musical structure. Most screenplays follow a three act format, roughly akin to sonata form in music, and her thought was to compare other forms... read
Thursday 10th October, 2013
Been a while since the last blog. I guess I've been putting this one off because... well it's odd. For starters I'm aware that I would suggest to others not doing this - you let people take what they want from music you make, and your opinion doesn't matter so much it's... read
Friday 6th September, 2013
I said over there on the albums page that my next blog would be my own self-assessment of my solo work, but I think I'm going to postpone that. It's something I struggle with in a way - I want to talk about it, but I would encourage anyone else away that... read
Sunday 11th August, 2013
1985 - 1989: Sentimental Mercenary In A Free Fire Zone After a summer of unpacking boxes and trying to make the new house a home I started at Abingdon School in September 1985. With the determination for morbidity that only a teenager can muster, I hated it and was depressed in a I... read
Thursday 25th July, 2013
Just got a little while in the middle of the night before we leave for Heathrow to start another tour. Although they never stop. It's one continuous tour. But I was having some thoughts about work and working and who does what. I've been both sides of the touring fence multiple times being... read
Thursday 11th July, 2013
As many of you here may know apart from being a drummer I was once a lighting designer, the guy who makes the lights do their thing at a rock show (there's many other kinds of LD of course, but rock was what I did). So with that in my background have... read
Tuesday 4th June, 2013
1982 - 1985: Above The Riverbed The World's Run Dry More gigs, better gigs. After the party we started to get a bit more serious with the school band, or as serious as you can be when you're 12 years old. We called ourselves Nightshade and had a stable lineup of Adrian guitar,... read
Sunday 26th May, 2013
Some things are curious to me. Things which appear to be a lack of analysis, opinions not properly thought through. Then again that sometimes is just me and my Spock-ness, not appreciating the random foible of desire. I read about the band that I play in on the internet. There, I've admitted In... read
Monday 29th April, 2013
Hello from Hamburg! Ich Bein Eine Hamburger. Or something. Got an hour after breakfast on the bus before we have to travel to record a German TV show called Ina's Nacht, so what better way to make GOOD USE of my time than another quick session of bloggin' the shuffle. This off... read
Monday 22nd April, 2013
1971 - 1982: It's Cold Outside, But It Gets So Hot In Here Oh shit. That's mum and dad. Keep your head, don't giggle, just keep tidying up the bottles and cans into the bin bag in the garage. I think they're angry, but I'm finding it curiously hard to read these who... read
Monday 8th April, 2013
So here's another in what I anticipate to be a series. Jeez, what a lot of series we have running - Puritan (to be continues when I get access to my old photos and a scanner, so I can make it a bit more visually interesting), Blogging The Shuffle (which will when... read
Sunday 24th March, 2013
I'm writing this from Shanghai in China, my first visit to this country. I'm not going to give you my impressions. I'm not Michael Palin, nor indeed Bill Bryson (although I can recommend all of Mr. Bryson's travel books as some of the most amusing writing I've ever had the pleasure embarrassingly... read
Thursday 14th March, 2013
This is the original reason that it occurred to me to start blogging. I'd find myself on the tourbus with my iPod on having memories and thoughts triggered as shuffle offered up various tidbits that I wouldn't have put on of my own accord. So I'm going to give that a at... read
Sunday 10th March, 2013
Introduction October 12th 2010, Albuquerque, NM, USA I'm 39 and 11 days old, which is clearly much too old to be any kind of musician on the road with a rock band. I'm playing with English musician Frank Turner as a member of his backing band. The distinction is necessary, since things are to... read
Saturday 9th March, 2013
So, the thing is, when I was on tour a couple of years back I wrote a 'book'. It's definitely a 'book' and not a book though. It's an autobiography with the initial intention of a certain angle on the subject, although as it went along the focus drifted a bit. I... read
Monday 4th March, 2013
We started a tour in Northampton, MA on 2nd March and, being as it was not far from his hometown of Springfield, I had the pleasure of hanging out with my friend Mark Mulcahy. His name is not familiar to many, but anyone out there who knows him or his work probably... read
Saturday 2nd March, 2013
I don't really talk about myself much. Not just on the internet, but in life. I have an English paranoia about being seen to complain, or about troubling anyone else ("a friend troubled is a problem doubled", as someone once said to me). But I don't think that it's healthy. Don't me... read
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