Live Review: Frank Turner with Justin Jones at Red Palace, Washington, DC – 29th April 2011

By on Wednesday, 4th May 2011 at 2:00 pm

Frank Turner had never had his own headlining tour in America. Until last week. Starting off in Toronto and making his way across America in 2 short weeks. In the coming days the man will be busy playing a couple more dates on the western half of our country before he heads back to the Continent. Before that though, he made a stop at DC’s Red Palace. The gig had sold out over a month in advance, which is unheard of for gigs at the teeny tiny venue. So as expected, the place was rammed halfway through the opener’s set.

The opening act was local – a singer/songwriter named Justin Jones who swears just as much as Frank and has a similar sound, except you can tell in his lyrics and the pain in his voice that he’s been around. (His official Web site says he overcame a heroin addiction and when he found the light, he became a songwriter. Nice story.) Interestingly, he bartended at 9:30 Club, the venue that just started their own record label, and Jones is their first signing. Nice one. As for his performance, I liked his singing, except when he reached that screaming/screeching level in his voice. He was joined on stage by upright bassist Tracy Epperson.

In between songs, he engaged the audience really well with personal stories and jokes. I like stage banter but I felt he was more a comedian and was being a little annoying in his attempts at silliness. Be serious, man. His material’s good: he had a song about his grandmother called ‘Fading Light’ that Frank Turner himself later that night said was amazing songs about his daughter (‘The Little Fox’ and ‘Keep a Shelter’) that were genuine, and even sinister ones like ‘The Gutter’ (based on the seedier side of DC life) and ’55 Days’. All in all, not bad for an opener to me, but the audience adored him.

Watching Frank Turner while stuck in a sea of his rabidly devoted followers is almost like being a pretender at a gang gathering. I like Frank’s music. A lot. He started with ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Became Famous’ (::faint::) and ‘I Still Believe’ really got the punters going with amazing gusto. But it’s really intimidating to be shoulder to shoulder with people you don’t know who are thundering back every word to their hero. At one point I could feel the breath of the bloke behind me on my head because he was shouting so loudly, which was kind of creepy. (I guess this isn’t really my kind of crowd.)

When Frank Turner sings, you listen. He is singing with such conviction and balls, you’re left breathless. He admitted at one point in the show that he thinks he’s the leader of a big congregation when he’s playing to his fans. You definitely get that feeling when you see him play: he wants to mean something to someone. And there are many someones it seems on this side of the pond that are spellbound by his words and music just as there are back home in Britain.

Speaking of Britain: I know I have been banging on about our stage at the Great Escape on 14 May. Well, I managed a quick chat with Frank before this show and he wanted me to get the word about his several appearances at the festival on Thursday 12 May. If you are attending the convention, don’t miss his talk with 6music’ Matt Everitt at the Pavilion Theatre at 2 PM. If you’re more into in-stores, then catch him play a free acoustic set at HMV Brighton at 4 PM. This all leads up to his big show that night at Brighton Coalition at 9:45 PM.

More photos from this gig after the cut.

Justin Jones Photos:

Frank Turner Photos:

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