Stealing the show is a term not commonly found these days. To be an opener and to really knock it out of the park is sometimes one of the coolest – and most disappointing- things that can happen at a concert. You can probably guess where I’m going with this without having to be Sherlock-fucking-Holmes, so I’ll get right to it. This past Saturday, Osheaga presented two little bands by the names of Arkells, and Frank Turner and the Sleeping souls, and here’s how it all went.
Hailing from lil’ ol’ Winchester, England (admit it, all of you just said that in a British accent in your heads, unless you’re actually British, in which case you now fucking hate me) is a one Doctor Frank Turner and his band, The Sleeping Souls. His brand of folk borders on that upbeat feel, almost to the point of a punk-rock vibe. Think Dropkick Murphys with Bruce Springsteen as front man, except that he was, in fact, raised in England. I’m sure there’s a much more logical choice of similarities, but I promise you these will make sense once you listen to Frank Turner. This was not my first Frank Turner performance, and I can promise you that it will not be my last. It was, however, possibly the shortest performance I’ve seen from him, which is in fact the only disappointing factor. The entire set was absolute smiles from front to back. After what I’m certain was the Jurassic Park theme song, the roaring ‘Hear Ye’s of “I Still Believe” cracked open the set. Immediately following was my personal favourite, “The Next Storm.” His tunes preach better times and love for rock and roll, and his stage antics do no less. I don’t often get this enthusiastic about a musician because I’m a grumpy cunt (that’s probably inaccurate, but I’m just trying to make a point), but I can proudly say that Frankie boy here is one of those true and natural born performers, a Springsteen in his own time, and not an act to be missed. Especially not later on in the evening.
Following and headlining (yeah, it’s a short one), were the Arkells from Hamilton, ON. (DISCLAIMER: Jason may have drunk a little “haterade,” and might sound a wee bit biased from here on out. Luckily, I don’t much care about what you think and you can just laugh this off.) The Hammer has been known for a great many incredible acts, but I have a hard time declaring the radio-friendly pop-rock slung by the Arkells to be in the same class. When I see a pair of dudes hammering away at power chords on a guitar, I’d kinda like to ACTUALLY HEAR SOME GUITAR IN THE MIX. Alright, fine, maybe it was due to sound issues, or maybe I’m just incredibly annoyed at the twelve-year-old-like antics of front man Max Kerman. Maybe I’m a little annoyed at the amount of times I had to hear him say Montreal without an L, or the repetitive attempts at crowd pops. Maybe I’m still just a grumpy cunt? Moving along…ever wonder what happened to boy bands? Of course you don’t, but unfortunately I found out for myself on Saturday; they turned into bands like Arkells. I completely get why people like it: it’s poppy, it’s catchy, and it appeals to an Osheaga-type crowd. But standing around in a circle to pretend like you’re at a camp fire to replicate some drawn-out story while you sloth through a few acoustic tunes just feels like you’re checking my prostate unnecessarily.
There were very few redeeming qualities about this set, one being the bartender who we befriended while we awaited the end of our suffering. Yannick, you were truly a superman in your own right. The other was a little segment during Arkells set that they dubbed “Springsteen Karaoke.” Apparently on the tour it was stated that Frank Turner has a PhD in rock and roll, thus he was dared to nail three consecutive clips of Boss songs without knowing what they were in advance. Regardless of whether or not this was planned, I was sold the second “Dancing in the Dark” hit and Frankie boy very obviously nailed it. Forget my tears when they then ripped into “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.” Jason was happy again for a moment. Still a grumpy cunt, but happy nonetheless. It’s not often that an opener really cleans house on a headliner, but if having that opener pop in on several portions of your set ISN’T an indication of this, then you’re not being honest to yourself.
Written by Jason Greenberg
Photography by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Kate Erickson