I have been very lucky this year in that it was my third time seeing him live in 2014. Three times in three wildly different scenarios; the first, in February, was at the O2 Arena in London - Frank's biggest headline show to date. I was in a seated area, which was a new experience for me, however seeing 20,000 people all singing along at the same time was quite incredible and something special to be a part of. The second show, in July, was at Sonisphere Festival - Folk punk at a prominently metal festival. I don't really know how it went down because I was too busy being drunk and singing along. Which brings us to last week in Cambridge...
It is 112 miles from Hastings to Cambridge but that was literally the closest gig he was playing on the current tour. Well, I thought it was, but having just Googled it, St Albans is actually only 95 miles. Shit. Anyway, I had never been to Cambridge before so I was keen to check out the city. My best friend and fellow Frank Turner enthusiast whom normally comes with me to his gigs couldn't get the time off work so I would be flying solo for this one. I bought my ticket as soon as they went on sale however Silly Old Martin did not think to book a hotel at the same time. No, Silly Old martin left it until the night before the gig to book his hotel, which meant that Silly Old Martin got well and truly bent over and had to pay through the nose for a shitty, whatever they had left, hotel room. Oh well, it's only money, right?
I got the train up in the morning so that I would get to Cambridge with plenty of time to spare in order to do some exploring. When I got to London I had to get a tube from London Bridge to King's Cross for the Cambridge train and with fifteen minutes before departure I picked up some lunch at the station and found a nice window seat on the train. As I was settling in to eat my over priced sandwich a familiar face walked passed on the platform... ONLY FRANK FUCKING TURNER! Yep, I was getting the same train to Cambridge as the man I was going there to see. I text my girlfriend the news and she was less than impressed "It's probably just someone who looks like him" she replied. To which I was all "I think I'd know Frank Turner when I see him!". I then text the best friend and she was all "GET ME HIS AUTOGRAPH" which was funny, because until that point it hadn't actually crossed my mind to approach him.
There is a famous quote by Gustave Flaubert that goes "Never touch your idols: the guilding will stick to your fingers". I heard it a long, long time ago and it has always stuck with me. I don't want to meet my heroes, I don't need that. He was probably hungover and tired and did not need me hounding and pestering him for an autograph just to make myself feel better. Chances are he would have been perfectly happy to sign something for me, have a little chat and whatever, but that isn't the point. The celebrity culture that we live in makes people believe that just because someone makes music or is on TV that they're somehow public property and obligated to satisfy the demands of Joe Public. Fuck that. He is a human being, just like me, and as the man himself said "There's no such thing as rock stars, there's just people who play music". I don't need to find out that he's a dick just like everybody else.
When I got off the train in Cambridge, I was about 10 feet behind Frank walking to the exit and I realised, for the first time... Dude's pretty fucking tall!
Later that day, as I was doing a tour of Cambridge's finest watering holes I got chatting to some fella, he was around my age and looked like someone who might dig Frank Turner's music. I asked if he was going to the gig that night but he scoffed at the idea. He told me that five or six years ago he was in a band that played the same circuit that Frank played at the time, he'd met him a few times and didn't like him. I asked why that was and as the question was coming out of my mouth, in my mind I was praying "Please don't say it's because he's a total dick, please don't say it's because he's a total dick"... "He's too nice" was the dude's reply, "everyone else loved him and he was super nice to everyone, but I didn't like that. He was too nice. There must have been something he wasn't showing people." ... In my head I'm thinking "PHEW!", It turned out that this guy I'm talking to was just a miserable bastard who dislikes people for being friendly.
Even if Frank Turner IS the nicest dude in the world, I don't care, I'm glad I didn't pester him on the train that day.
The gig itself was fucking rad. A much smaller show than 20,000 at the O2, it was around 300 people in an old theatre. You can't beat the atmosphere of shows like this, it really is the perfect size for a Frank Turner show. He played all of my favourite songs, well most of them, and also a few new ones from a currently untitled album due out next year. I sang along as loud as I could, sweated out all of the alcohol that I had consumed during the day and came out looking like I'd been for a walk in the rain. Fucking perfect.
EDIT: I e-mailed this post to Frank (because apparently harassing him on a train is out of the question but via e-mail is fine) and he replied(!!!). He said that I should have gone over and said hi and that he wasn't sure who the guy was that I spoke to in the pub but that he was a miserable old fucker!