After All, It Was Rock n Roll

Posted on: June 21, 2024
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By Mary Beth Widhalm

Show review for: Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls with Amigo The Devil, Bridge City Sinners, Micah Schnabel & Vanessa Jean Speckman

When I ordered a Lone Star at the Emo’s bar on Friday, June 14th, I was surprised to see the bartender pour it into a cup. “We aren’t allowed to give you cans tonight,” the bartender told me. “Y’all are apparently going to get rowdy and we can’t trust you not to throw them.” Despite the eclectic lineup with bands who identify as acoustic, bluegrass or folk, or even pop, every artist on stage that night has a punk rock heart. So yeah, she’s right, we might get a little rowdy.

Micah Schnabel and Vanessa Jean Speckman are no strangers to Austin, but this is a very different kind of tour for them, following giant tour buses in their minivan and playing to crowds of thousands who are likely waiting to see the headliners. But Schnabel (Two Cow Garage) and Speckman (Call Me Rita) are fantastic artists and beautiful humans who make genuine friendships everywhere they go. Their close friendship with Frank Turner (who can often be spotted wearing one of Speckman’s signature tees) and their incredible stage presence make them an ideal opener for this stacked lineup. With simply a guitar and their voices (and the occasional melodica solo) they brought a wave of energy that spilled over the crowd to the very back of the giant warehouse space that is Emo’s. Their set list combined Schnabel’s solo songs and several songs from Call Me Rita, including the single “Measure Twice, Cut Once,” which had those who arrived early energized and eager for the rest of the show. 

Bridge City Sinners are likely not used to taking the stage at 7:30 pm with the sun still blasting through the doors as the endless line of people flowed in, but the audience wouldn’t have guessed it from their instant energy. From their crust punk folk rock outfits to the bluegrass instruments, to the raucous vocals of Libby Lux and Michael Sinner, their set was full of dancing like no one is watching. “If you wanna dance, come to the center,” Lux said. “If you don’t want to dance, get the f*ck out of the center!” The pit opened up more to booty shaking than to body slamming. Even the slow songs like “Song of the Siren” pulsed with a diabolical undercurrent, dedicated to “the romantics… and the serial killers.” Lux has a charming stage presence and friendly banter, telling stories and jokes between the songs. She reminded us what every fan instinctively knows but sometimes needs to hear: “the more you give me, the more I’ll give you.” 

While the tall, industrial walls were still reverberating with the Sinners’ energy, Amigo the Devil took the stage like a favorite weighted blanket. Known to friends as Danny Kiranos, his voice is a friend pulling you into a warm embrace, his band rises and falls with the surge of the stories he sings. You breathe more deeply and maybe begin to sway as emotions you didn’t even know you were feeling well up behind your eyes. That is not to say it lacked energy; the music throbbed with intensity. Foot-stomping tunes like “Murder at the Bingo Hall” are full of introspection and wit, and blend seamlessly with haunting ballads and stories that feel like family history. His voice is a fine polish but teems with raw and vulnerable energy. By the end of the set, the audience felt a little closer, like we were all connecting on a deeper level because Amigo the Devil showed us how to get there.

Watching Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls perform is like synchronized swimming in a mosh pit, or the Blue Angels doing a Beatles cover; they are chaotically tight, extremely professional, they are loud and deliberate, and they are still having so. much. fun. While Frank Turner isn’t exactly a household name in America like he is in the U.K., he should be. His songs are dynamic calls to action (dance! love! believe!), relatable, and full of heart. Plus the tunes are catchy as hell. He has been performing since he was an angry punk rock teenager (this show was number 2700-something) and has spent decades honing the craft of live performance into an art that surpasses his skills of songwriting and musicianship.

Turner’s new song, “Ceasefire,” is about his relationship with his teenage self but feels globally important at this time: “In the ruins that still stand / Between you and me, both of us want peace / Ceasefire.” It may seem trite to compare inner child work to global politics, but when the goal is peace we must also find it within ourselves. Plus, there is something really magical about jumping up and down under a crazy light show with a few thousand other people all yell-singing “cease fire!”

We may not have changed the world that night, but we participated in some magic. “Who’d have thought,” Frank asks in his song “I Still Believe,” to which hundreds sang along together that night, “that after all, something as simple as rock and roll could save us all?” 

Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls 

with Amigo The Devil, Bridge City Sinners, Micah Schnabel & Vanessa Jean Speckman

Friday, June 14th, 6:30pm

Emo’s Austin, 2015 E Riverside Dr