The crowd was bustling; voices loud over the music that rang through the hall during pre-show. I listened to strangers knee deep in conversations as my eyes remained glued on the stage. Many paraded around in their Frank Turner merchandise, waiting as anxiously as I was for the show to begin. The barricade was filled up and a few sporadic behind them as the lights finally dimmed from red to white and the show began. There was a cheer and I perked up as Will Varley appeared from the depths of backstage.
The set started off strong as Will's acoustic rang through the ballroom, capturing most of the crowds attention. Some were still engulfed in conversation while others, including myself, kept their eyes on Will. With his folk sound, it was easy to sway along to tunes I'd never heard before, enjoying the more mellowed out feel of the room. As the first song came to a steady end, the British musician began to warm the crowd up with a bit of impressive humor which continued throughout his set. That strong opening lead onto a strong performance as well, but it was no preparation for what was about to come.
The room came alive again, people stirring up more conversations and others continuing ones they'd somehow managed to keep throughout Will's set. I stayed in my same position as more people joined the crowd, now eager for the act to come. I knew about these guys and having seen them before, I certainly knew what they had to offer. The minutes seemed to pass like hours as I waited for The Arkells to appear on stage, but once they did, the wait had been worth it. I watched eagerly as they appeared member by member beginning with Nick Dika (bass), followed by Mike DiAngelis (guitar), Tim Oxford (drums), Max Kerman (vocals/guitar), and Anthony Carone (keyboard). Opening with a bang as they began to play a single off their newest album, 'Morning Report', I watched in awe as Max ran around stage with his boundless energy before jumping into the crowd to singalong. That limitless energy seemed to surge through every bit of the band until the end of the set. Teasing the crowd with some witty banter and instrumental covers in between their songs, the Arkells remained insanely passionate until the very end. You could certainly see they gave the crowd all they had. The moment the last lines of 'Leather Jacket' vibrated through the amps, the crowd roared in applause for the Canadian rock band. And thus began the moment everyone had been waiting for.
The tension inside grew as everyone eagerly awaited the arrival of Frank Turner accompanied by The Sleeping Souls. Conversations resumed after silence had filled the room for the Arkells and now, more crowded towards the stage to see the person they came here for. The time seemed to pass even slower this time as the crowd waited for the crew to clear the stage for Frank. The moments in anticipation of his set were unlike any other. They could be cut right down the middle with a knife and served for dessert. After scampering off to buy some merch, I anxiously paced around the venue, waiting for the moment to come and once the lights finally dimmed, the room roared unlike it had at any other point in the night. As Frank Turner scampered out followed by his band of Sleeping Souls [Ben Llyod (guitar), Matt Nasir (keyboard), Nigel Powell (drums), and Tarrant Anderson (bass)], everyone let out their screams in a wave of relief that they were finally were met with whom they'd been waiting for. The set started off with a smack to all of our unsuspecting faces; lights, music, and excitement everywhere. Nothing could've prepared us all for this moment.
The whole crowd yelled lyrics in unison to the catchy tunes as Frank vivacious attitude flared on stage. I watched as he ran back and forth and back and forth across the stage performing songs from 'Positive Songs for Negative People' and most of his discography, keeping all of the crowd encapsulated in this performance. You could see the passion in Frank's features as he sang out with the crowd - almost in a way that made him seem as if he was a fan himself. A strange oxymoron, but something admirable to see from an artist on stage. His lively mannerisms were contiguous to even those not familiar with his music as I glanced around the room and saw nearly everyone drawn in by the performance. While the show came closer to an end, you could feel everyone grasping for not only air, but for those moments to remain. Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls had blown all our minds and we could only hope then and there that we would get to experience it for just a bit longer. I walked out of that venue and into the rain, with my chin up high as my world had just been rocked by Frank Turner.
Photos and reporting by Sara Mohr