Reviewing the entirety of Lost Evenings is too big a task for me. I am but one man. From making new friends in the pub to Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls reigning supreme over the Roundhouse, it was a smorgasbord of incredible moments and beautiful music. Plus, a shitload of beer. I got a lot of words bouncing around this head but getting them all onto paper won’t be easy.
Arriving into Camden on Friday afternoon felt a bit like coming home. Not because I have ever lived there – a drunken day at Camden Rocks aside I barely know the place – but because it quickly became apparent that Frank Turner fans had invaded. The number of Turner related t-shirts was incredible and walking into The Monarch it’s clear that any non-Frank loving regulars have been scared off.
I catch the end of Joe McCorriston but not enough to form a valid opinion before seeing Chloe Glover, who has one hell of a voice. Acoustic guitars are going to be the order of the weekend, and she’s an excellent way to kick that off.
After the quick walk to The Roundhouse via Morrison’s, I park myself in front of Moses on the Nick Alexander Stage and damn is their enthusiasm infectious. Their indie-tinged rock might not be to everyone’s taste, but when the band on stage have that much fun, you can’t help but get swept along. Bloody Knees are next, and they look and sound like they’ve been plucked out of early 90’s Seattle. It’s a gloriously fuzzy set of alt-rock goodness, and any fan of that scene will eat it up.
Over on the big stage, AJJ fills the main support slot, and by this point, the beer has flowed. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t influence my opinion but I had a jolly good time with their American folk punk. As will be the case all weekend, however, it’s the closer that steals the show. Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls are delivering a straight up setlist tonight, and while that might make it the least exciting of all the shows, it doesn’t make it any less fun.
There’s still some surprises as well. ‘Fisher King Blues’ and ‘Faithful Son’ both get airings and the songs you’ve heard a million times before sound incredible. ‘Four Simple Words’ dances the crowd out into the night and it’s clear that this is going to be a good weekend.
Saturday dawns bright, and the benefits of being at a festival where you have a hotel room with a bed and a shower become clear. It’s nice to return to The Monarch feeling fresh and alive rather than burnt out and hungover.
Rob Lynch is up first and is a lovely way to start the day. The crowd takes a bit to warm up but when they do the sing-alongs are a plenty and the good times start to roll. Sam Duckworth is next and packs the place out. It’s hot and it’s sweaty, but there’s a reason so many people have turned up, and he gives them what they came for.
It’s post-Duckworth that my weekend takes an interesting turn as I meet up with what will become the Solo Armada for the first time. Made up of people attending the festival by themselves, a large group naturally came together over the weekend, and life-long bonds were forged. They turned what would have been a great weekend into an incredible one.
That night kicks off with deux furieuses a rumbly two piece who wake up anyone not paying attention. They stand out on a weekend which in the whole is focused towards the softer side of the punk rock musical spectrum but are all the better for it. Following that is Seth Lakeman who is a ridiculously talented man. Once again the beer has flown a bit too liberally, but you can’t help but appreciate that kind of talent.
Tonight is the night many people were looking forward to the most. Sleep Is For The Week is set to be played in full, and Frank doesn’t disappoint as he not only dives into that album but other tracks released around the same time. It means we get a whole host of rarely played classics. From ‘Back In The Day’ to ‘Nashville Tennessee’. He even throws ‘Thatcher Fucked The Kids’ in there, a song he hasn’t played for ten years and which he had previously insisted he never would.
This was the night for the hardcore fans. The ones who had been there since the beginning and wanted a reminder of those songs that they loved and for us, it was perfect.
Sunday was billed as Sensible Sunday, but as someone who spent the day sitting in The Monarch, it was far from it. There was music going on somewhere, but I never made it as the Solo Armada shared a lot of stories I won’t be telling here.
It means that once again we totter over to the venue slightly worse for wear. It’s a good thing then that the perfect person is there to greet us. I don’t think it’s possible to watch Beans On Toast and not have fun. He’s sweet and romantic but also acerbic and witty. Few people do this kind of thing better, and I could watch him all day.
Up next is Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit fame. Despite their Scottish origins I can’t claim to be a Rabbit fan, but like everyone I see over this weekend, Hutchison is splendid. It might seem repetitive at this point, but this is a festival where everyone appears to bring it. There is a wonderful feeling of community in the air, and it’s so easy to be caught up in.
It extends to the headline set which is Sleeping Soulless. Much like Saturday, this is a throwback to the days where it was just Frank and his guitar, and it’s brilliant. Opening with ‘The Sand in the Gears’ it joins ‘1933’ as being the new songs played and which both hint towards the themes of Frank’s next album.
A reworked version of ‘Live Fast Die Old’ is a highlight as is an emotional ‘Song for Josh.’ Once again he dives deep into his back catalogue bringing up B-sides like ‘Wherefore Art Thou, Gene Simmons?’ and long-unheard tracks like ‘Heartless Bastard Motherfucker.’ It’s night three and Frank has gone three for three.
The Monarch was noticeably quieter on Monday. Legs are aching, and the hangovers are building up. There’s one night left, though and as the day goes on the mood brightens. There is a pub quiz to raise money for Safe Gigs For Women a group (along with Girls Against) that I’ve meant to say something about for a while. I wish to fuck these groups didn’t have to exist, but the fact is they do so help them out. Plus, don’t be a dick. Go to a show and be nice to people and have fun. If you are making someone’s night worse, then stop.
Tonight’s Roundhouse performance kicks off with Will Varley, but sadly we miss it. Frank had been in touch offering the Solo Armada a present, and in a lovely gesture, he presents us with a signed drum skin from him and the band. It’s another moment that highlights the strength of this community and how it extends to those on the stage too. I’ve seen Varley before, though, and he’s brilliant so check him out.
I catch the end of Ducking Punches and most of Ben Marwood, both of whom do this stuff bloody well. There’s an art to standing on stage by yourself with a guitar, and most of it comes down to storytelling. You need to capture the audience because the mood can be lost so easily. There were a lot of musicians who had this skill over the course of the weekend, but these are two of the best.
The final Frank performance sees the Sleeping Souls return for a greatest hits set and damn do they bring the hits. An opening salvo of ‘Get Better’, ‘Glorious You’, Josephine’, ‘The Next Storm’ and it just goes on and on. Tired legs are suddenly waking up, and even some technical problems in the middle don’t serve to weaken the enthusiasm.
As the last set of the weekend, this feels like a celebration. It’s the celebration of what will hopefully be the first of many Lost Evenings going off without a hitch. And as I stand arm in arm with people who were strangers just a few days before but who now feel like lifelong friends belting out ‘Love, Ire & Song’, you can bet that I’m making plans to come back.