Frank Turner at Ally Pally
Above: Photo taken from Frank Turner’s Instagram account
When Ben first text me to let me know that Frank Turner’s tour tickets were on sale, I was passed out on the bottom bunk of the bed Kati and I were sharing in an overly air conditioned hostel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I can’t remember exactly how the conversation went but it was probably a little something like this:
Ben: FRANK TICKETS 26TH NOV
Ben: Shall I get some?
Ben: How many?
Ben: I’ll get one for you, me, and one for your sis, kay?
Because when your favourite artist plays the biggest venue in London, you go, and you take your friends.
Our friend Nirah decided to join us (I think Ben and I constantly singing and quoting Frank Turner must have worked its way into her subconscious), and of course Abi came along which meant I could celebrate her birthday with her, so when the day finally rolled around after months and months of anticipation, planning and speculation, Abi, Ben, Nirah and I piled onto the platform at Stepney Green in various states of hysterical excitement and tactical inebriation.
Alexandra Palace is a huge, gorgeous venue at the top of a hill in North London, accessed by a shuttle bus (Frank Turner tweeted a picture of this bus, he was even more excited than we were), with a capacity of over seven thousand people. There’s a food market in the huge atrium of the palace selling everything from vegan burgers to gourmet pasta dishes, and we made a quick stop to grab some pizza before heading into the arena and pressing our way forwards until we were almost at the front, buzzing with excitement as we ate and drank and waited for the first support act.
Will Varley was fantastic, Skinny Lister was terrifying (they play ‘punk-folk shanties’ and crowd surf with a double bass) and really, really good, but as ever the support acts were mostly an opportunity to finish our drinks, get some dancing in, and try and fight our way through the crowds to the bathroom. (Ben and Nirah/ Abi and I tag teamed the bathroom trips but I’m still so surprised that we managed to fight our way through crowds of tightly packed people and find each other. My method was to grab Abi’s hand and move at great speed, squeezing in between all the small gaps before anybody could realise what was happening. This works for me, but Abi, who happens to be taller than a small child, was left apologising a lot while also trying to keep an eye out for Ben waving his arm in the air, and steer me in the right direction. It was practically an Olympic event, and we pretty much aced it.)
I know I’ve written a lot about Frank Turner gigs (I’ve been to see him six times this year, which is not at all stalkerish, right?) but I honestly will never get tired of the moment that the house lights go down and the stage lights come up and you hear the first few notes of the first song and everyone is screaming in excitement and suddenly your favourite musician ever is on the stage right in front of you, and you’re glad that you don’t have much space to dance because if you did you’d be dancing like a maniac but as it is all you can do is jump up and down and cheer and sing and forget about everything else.
Above: Photo taken from the AllyPally Instagram account
Frank’s setlist was honestly so similar to ‘Ben’s ideal Frank playlist’, it pretty much couldn’t have been better, and he was obviously getting such a kick out of playing such a big venue with his band. He played Photosynthesis, a personal favourite of mine and Abi’s, and halfway through the song he stopped playing, paused dramatically, and screamed ‘you know what to do!’. I immediately turned to grab Abi, Ben and Nirah (tricky ‘cos I only have two hands), and we did our best to crouch down on the floor, in amongst all the other bodies trying to balance themselves. I ended up perched awkwardly on Nirah’s knees, unable to move because somebody was leant against my back, while Ben and Abi were practically sat on the floor. At this point in the game, Frank normally takes some time to make a bit of a speech about the gig, his audience, and the whole point of never sitting down and never growing up, but we were all crouched down and twisted so painfully that all I could hear was Nirah muttering ‘hurry up Frank’ through her gritted teeth, while I gripped onto the wrists and hands of whoever I could reach until Frank finally, slowly, began to play the first few bars of the verse and whispers of ‘not yet, not yet!’ could be heard all over the arena. Finally, everybody in the arena jumped to their feet, and we sang (screamed and shouted) ‘we won’t sit down! we won’t shut up, and most of all we will not grow up!’ as Nirah and I dragged Ben and Abi to their feet and tried to stay on our own.
Near the middle of the set, Frank paid tribute to his friend Nick Alexander, the merch guy for Eagles of Death Metal, who was killed in the Paris terror attacks. He played an acoustic version of Demons, and halfway through the song (which is a fitting tribute to Nick, and well worth a listen), Ben tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around to see that the crowd behind us was full of lighters and phone lights being lifted into the air. It was pretty emotional, I have to say, and Ben Morse captured this amazing photo of the spontaneous show of solidarity from the crowd at Ally Pally.
Above: Photo taken from Ben Morse’s Instagram account
The rest of the set was crazy good – I was pretty keen on none of my friends being trampled but we managed to hang on to each other, and Frank gigs are pretty okay for that kind of thing. At one point he actually stopped playing to shout at a couple of guys who were fighting right in front of the barrier and remind them ‘Rule number one! Don’t be a dickhead!’
The final song (and my favourite live song, I want to Dance) was probably the best I’ve ever heard it, Abs and I jumped straight into the mosh pit, Frank crowd surfed, we sang, we danced, we jumped around and at the end we somehow all managed to find each other and get outta the venue and onto the bus.
Above: Photo taken from Ben Morse’s Instagram account. Can you spot Ben and Abi? They’re just behind Frank’s head!
I had so much fun celebrating my favourite person’s birthday doing my favourite thing ever – I feel like I’ve written a really long and dramatic blog post to describe this gig, but it was really, really good.
I’m so excited it’s December, I hope you have plenty to look forward to this month. I think I’m learning that I can’t do all the things all the time, but that’s okay. Life is good you guys!
(Love you Bobs – here’s to the best year yet!)