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Frome’s Cheese & Grain was a curious choice for a one-off Frank Turner festival warm up gig but boy did it work.

Hampshire born Frank makes no secret of the fact he adores the West Country and this gig was a prelude to his slots at Beautiful Days festival in Devon and Strummer of Love in Somerset. And his love is utterly reciprocated here tonight in what amounts to a massive permanent marquee; the ideal place to catch Mr Turner. In an interview in this month’s South West 247 Magazine (see HERE), Frank revealed the reasons he thinks his sets work well at festivals and this buzzing venue is probably as close as you can get to a festival vibe. Similar to the Strummerville gig we caught Frank at in London last year (read review HERE).

Opening up proceedings is Bristol’s Oxygen Thief, who sits firmly in the same camp as Frank in terms of angsty, punk-tinged folk. We’ve seen Barry Dolan (aka Oxygen Thief) play a few times now and this was his finest performance to-date. Armed with nothing but a well-worn guitar and suitably impassioned voice, he blasts through a highly-charged set of frantic belters, including an Andrew WK cover. Inspired. A prefect opener for the night.

Frank Turner’s playing with his band The Sleeping Souls here and it’s unclear as to why. While his drummer and guitarist are pretty sound and clearly add something to Frank’s guitar and vocals, the keys seem surplus to requirements and the bassist’s bizarre antics detract from the main draw, spinning his bass and tugging away at it with a massive gurn on, like it was made of welded iron. Bizarre.

Opening with ‘If I Ever Stray’, Frank has the crowd in the palm of his hand from the off. This leads nicely into ‘The Road’, which induces a mass singalong. Despite the crowd being a motley bunch of olduns, younguns, chavs and hippies, everyone seems to know the words. The rest of the set includes a lot of old favourites, such as ‘Reasons Not To Be An Idiot’, with the opening gambit: “You’re not as messed up as you think you are, your self absorbtion makes you messier” , ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous’ and the brilliant ‘Substitute’ – a tale of lost love and finding solace in music; a tale everyone can relate to.

It also showcases some new songs, one of which ‘Tell Tale Signs’ gets it’s first ever airing here in Frome. This track single handedly affirms our love of Frank’s candid openess with which he expresses himself, through his lyrics. A song about self harm and young love, the kind which gets deep under your skin and sticks around for the rest of your life, laying buried deep inside but never disappearing completely. Frank has the enviable power to articulate what everyone feels, in a way which banishes any loneliness and isolation – like a giant musical comfort blanket, wrapping your heart and soul in the softest of feathers. Frank is one of us.

He plays around with the arrangement of some of his classic songs, taking the heartbreaking ballad ‘Long Live The Queen’ and adding in a dose of rock’n’roll, speeding it up to a frantic level – which only hits the spot when the band backs off and Frank belts out his heartfelt insight: ‘We live to dance another day, it’s just now we have to dance, for one more of us…’ One of the pre-encore highlights came in the form of ‘Wessex Boy’, a contemplative song about growing up down the road in Wessex (Hampshire), despite the lyrics being somewhat less compelling than much of the set – it’s the sentiment which wins out here. Something we can all relate to.

The much-awaited encore comprises Frank’s finest work – ‘Love, Ire & Song’ and ‘Photosynthesis’. Anthems for us all and ones which we relish in singing along to. All together now: ‘I won’t sit down, and I won’t shut up, but most of all yeah I won’t grow up.’ Brilliant as ever.

Words: Laura Williams
Photo: Laura Palmer