Frank Turner

support Jaakko & Jay
author PP date 09/12/09 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

I used to hate acoustic solo acts. The wealth of different solo artists I encountered all offered the same, boring formula of one dude singing softly over a gentle acoustic guitar. The songs were uninteresting and lacked the richness a full band could offer. But then I saw Frank Turner supporting The Gaslight Anthem. His brand of 'acoustic punk', hilarious social commentary delivered with genuine passion and punk rock aggression - sometimes even at punk speeds - blew me away because it was fresh and different. It made me want to hear more. And more. And more, until the set was over and I HAD to get a hold of his new record. I guess it did have to take a dude with a hardcore background (Million Dead) to win me over, huh? But before we go any further, lets talk about the band that blew me away this time, namely the Finnish acoustic duo Jaakko & Jay.

Jaakko & Jay

To people outside of Finland (except maybe Sweden and Russia), the stereotypical Finn has a fucking weird sense of humour and generally acts a bit strange compared to a "normal" individual. Jaakko & Jay take the stereotype even further, to the point that even as a Finn myself I'm screaming "THEY ARE SO VERY VERY FINNISH AND SO VERY VERY WEIRD" inside my head throughout the show. Now, before anyone could even form an opinion on the guys, Jaakko, the frenetic acoustic guitarist of the duo, just wanders off into the crowd. He doesn't walk off the stage. He doesn't run off the stage, or jump off it. He wanders off the stage, in the most literal "I'm lost in a forest" sense of the word. This while singing "la la la" by himself. What the fuck, right, and then you notice that Jay, the drummer, is bashing the shit out of the drums frenetically to the point that he looks like he's about to die from exhaustion any moment. "When Jaakko breaks a string", which he did in the beginning, "I'm not going to die", he says, and looks like a crazy person while saying it. The drums, by the way, consist of ONLY the hi-hat and the snare drum. The bass drum is actually just a mic aimed at the floor, but it works and adds to the completely unusual and strange atmosphere this band cooks up in the space of just 40 minutes. When Jaakko finishes fixing his string, the band launches into an incredibly intense and chaotic version of Frank Turner.

Tempo is sky-high, the vocals are rough, and you see Jaakko engaged in erratic movement that makes him look and feel slightly lunatic. The latter is reinforced by crazy Finnish humour and jokes, plus the seemingly random points in time where the drummer just wanders off from his seat into the crowd. Now this continues throughout the set until you start realizing how weird it is to feel so attracted to music that's so off tuned, so chaotic in its nature. Why Jaakko & Jay's songs are good makes little sense on paper, but something about the guys makes them look and feel so sympathetic and authentic: the interaction between the two guys is flawless both during and in between the songs, where the show nears a stand up comedy show - a freestyle one - that has the audience in constant laughter. Basically, the band's eccentric image reinforces an acoustic feeling, while their songs, lyrics and stage persona are punk-as-fuck. They're simultaneously the perfect and the worst Frank Turner support; best because they are so much alike in terms of message and genre, and worst because their hyperactive live show leaves a lot for Frank Turner to live up for. Suffice to say, they're one of the strangest - and one of the best - live bands I've seen in a long while.

Frank Turner

In the beginning, it seemed like Frank Turner was indeed going to live up to both the standard set by Jaakko & Jay as well as to the expectations of those of us who saw him with The Gaslight Anthem earlier this year. He was intense from the start, showing just the sort of fiery passion during his best songs that made him so famous in the punk circles. But then the slow songs arrived, and you could sense that something was immediately different about his set, the number one annoyance being the band that now surrounds him because of the new album, "Poetry Of The Deed". Almost all of the songs featuring the band, for example "Isabel" and "The Road", are slow, and while they sure enough work fine on the album, in a live environment, two things happen: firstly, the band removes all focus away from Frank's lyrics, which are such an important part about why he is so successful, and secondly, the fiery passion that drives the fast songs like "Try This At Home" just isn't there. And when you remove the two elements that make Frank Turner special, then all of a sudden he's not that special anymore.

Some may disagree with the above, but having seen Frank both with and without the band, the difference is tangible. Whenever the band moved to the side and Frank stood there alone with his acoustic guitar, he was just SO much better because you could dive head first into his humorous yet sharp social commentary. The evidence is right at hand, because while songs like "The Real Damage" (I started the night with all my friends....) resulted in big sing alongs, the full band tracks did not. "I Knew Prufrock", and "Dan's Song" were awesome and well received as well. During the latter, a volunteer girl joined Frank on stage to play a harmonica solo even though she had never played harmonica before to loosen up the atmosphere a bit. Finally, "Photosynthesis" ended the show with the biggest sing along of the night lead by Jaakko & Jay during the last part of the song. I wonder how many of us were singing "I won't sit down, and I won't shut up, and most of all I will not grow up" straight from the heart? A good show overall, but spotlight tonight was stolen by J&J.

7

Setlist:

1. Live Fast, Die Young

2. Reasons Not To Be An Idiot

3. Long Live The Queen

4. Substitute

5. Try This At Home

6. Dan's Song

7. The Real Damage

8. Poetry Of The Deed

9. Isabel

10. Love Ire & Song

11. Sons Of Liberty

12. I Knew Prufrock

13. The Road

14. The Ballad Of Me And My Friends

15. Photosynthesis

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