i’m sure we can be friends
Show roundup for last week: Frank Turner x 2, and yet another Social Distortion show. (Note: Not much of a roundup.)
frank turner | 2011-05-02 | jbtv studios, chicago
There are things I talk about when I talk about shows. Sometimes I say I cried, and sometimes it’s even true. Not often, though. Usually I manage to rein that shit in. Usually I mean, “it got a little dusty in there.” I sniff, and I wipe at my eyes, and I get myself under control.
Sometimes I talk about getting chills or being moved, transported somewhere else. My memory is very reliable but my senses are less so. I will remember the things I made a point to notice (what does that tattoo say? which guitar is that?) but almost nothing of what I don’t (where did this bruise come from? why am I drenched in beer? what happened to my shoe?). Maybe that makes sense, maybe not.
I saw Frank Turner twice last week, and all of those things happened at his second show. It was strange, because normally a show builds up that kind of momentum, and by the end I might as well be high. This one happened backwards. I was immediately in it. Frank is entertaining and engaging and energetic and hilarious, and he sings about music and wanderlust and heartbreak and alcohol and the redemptive power of rock & roll, all things I like to think I know a little bit about, and so his songs resonate pretty deeply with me. It started off great and got greater, chills crawling up and down my spine from the first song (“I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous”), and there weren’t a lot of tears during “I Still Believe,” but there were enough. I did try to rein it in, but I failed.
And then he introduced “Worse Things Happen At Sea” — a song I love — with something about how it’s about his very deep desire to kill his ex-girlfriend. The teenage boys in the crowd yelled FUCK YEAH. That’s when he lost me. The show was still good, but my feet were on the ground from then on; he didn’t get me back. His story (which I’ve heard before) about being at a protest in England and running into his super annoying ex-girlfriend didn’t help any; badmouthing your exes on a public stage… well. You stay classy, Frank Turner.
But back to the other thing. Yes, I’m well aware that dudes have been writing songs about killing the women who done them wrong since dudes have been writing songs. I enjoy a great many of those songs. But those songs are fucked up. A lot of dudes actually do kill their girlfriends, ex- or otherwise. Statistically, it happened while you were reading this post. And so, if a dude is going to stand on a stage and sing one of these songs and wants me to stay with him, then I require some hint that the dude knows it’s fucked up. Say, “this is fucked up.” Say, “hey, kids, don’t try this at home.” Make a face. Something. Anything.
And so, it wasn’t the rapturous rock & roll moment it could have been. He lost me early, before the fifth song, and I’m a little mournful of what might have been. It was still a very good show, and I had a very good time, but it could have been infinitely better.
Moving on! Saturday, my roommate and I drove up to Milwaukee to see Social Distortion. You already know how I feel about Social Distortion. This time, for whatever reason, my roommate decided he wanted to sit down, and so he paid for these VIP seats up in the balcony. They were comfy seats, and there was an open bar and a waitress. The drinks were free. I did not have to stand in line at all, let alone for four hours. No one elbowed me in the kidneys or kicked me in the head.
I hated every second of it.
Okay, that’s harsh. It was fine; it honestly was. A Social D show is a Social D show, and this was my fifth one this year. I know how they go. But the experience really underscored something that I sort of knew already but hadn’t really put into words: I don’t go to concerts for the music. It’s something else, and I don’t get that something else in an isolated balcony booth. I can put on a DVD and sing out loud in my basement if I just want to be comfy and hear some music.
The first opener was a band called Sharks, who weren’t bad but didn’t really grab me. Next up was Chuck Ragan, who had the first opening slot on the winter tour, and so I was glad that he has moved up in the world. His set is now much longer, and his fisherman vibe still does it for me, even from the balcony. He’s got a new album coming out that I’m really looking forward to; he’s clearly been working on a few of the songs from it, because they sounded more developed than they did last time.
As for Social Distortion. Well, what do I even say? The sound wasn’t great. Mike’s tie didn’t last through the main set this time, but that coat’s still looking good for the 30 seconds he keeps it on. I think he’s trying to steal Chuck’s fiddle player: Jon Gaunt was playing on “Down Here (With the Rest of Us)” on the winter tour; now he is also playing on “Reach for the Sky.” With one exception, the setlist was exactly the same as it was in Reno and in Fresno (they played “Down on the World Again” instead of “Through These Eyes”). Dave, the latest drummer, seems to be settling in pretty nicely, making some of the parts his own. Brent and Jonny were fun to watch, as usual; Brent always seems to be having so much fun out there.
But mostly, I don’t know, Mike just turned 49, and his sneer is intact and maybe he doesn’t jump as high as he used to, but somehow he is rocking even harder. As for me, one day I will make it through a live performance of “Ball & Chain” without falling apart, but I don’t imagine it’s going to be any time soon.